Probably no surprise … I like word games … and I dislike word games.
Scripture is full of plays on words to make a point and leave a vivid image in our minds. While these are not always obvious in translation, study of the original languages or careful reading of good commentaries brings these treasures to light. Entranced by the multiple levels of meaning and application, we roll poetic prose around our mouths in contemplative prayer to savour the meditative quality of figurative speech which invites spiritual concepts to make a home in our hearts and the hearts of those we serve.
A joyful dance with sounds and puns and rhymes. A boundless source of fun and pleasure to create a word of art and captivate the soul.
But ploys from those who prance about with piercing words and coarse reactions shunning the lead of grace undermine with lances round our backs. Cunning traps of speech set at our feet to gain an upper hand demand a gracious stance to measure how and when to use our words when our turn comes to speak; to tether now and then our tongues and break the need to answer spurs which goad us to become less like the son or daughter of the God whose word has set us free to serve in love.
As those who offer words on a daily basis, we attempt to choose the right one for the right situation in tune with the Spirit no matter what is played by conversation partners beyond our control. We want to represent Jesus, to re-present him to a world so filled with empty hurtful words its hard to hear the message of the subject line re: the love of God, present to us in Christ, always there.
Which words will make the most of each opportunity, and how will we count an effective play without dancing around what needs to be said?
Will we stop the petty not so pretty words to clearly paint a picture of his gospel hope which moves in love regardless of the games we face?
Saying that which makes us a safe place for burdens to be laid down.
‘Lord, we cannot see the troubles racked up in a person’s life or lack of valued vowels to form the words on tips of tongues in response to challenging letters retrieved along the way which cause them to say the things they say in scrabbled tones of hurt or sarcastic tones of negativity. Short snippy words may be all they currently know to acknowledge painful words spoken by an inattentive spouse, or name a hurtful childhood memory of abuse, or react to an insensitive employer cutting loose.’
Holding out blocks of time to hear and understand before we race to block another’s way.
‘Lord, we want to discover a whole new vocabulary consistent with grace together, not putting stock in the twisting of words to take the lead, but fixing straight and thoughtful talk asking for the very mind of Christ. No mocking. No stalking mute points. We know that a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1).
We confess that we are sometimes torn with how to play our words. An interchange going one direction receives triple points from people with years of experience playing political games, but place them another way and we bring relief to someone less adept at expected form struggling to fit in by accommodating idiomatic expression and breaking the rules of man made tradition. Wax eloquent with educated jargon to win one group’s approval with a double word score, or be a bit lax and resonate with another cross section altogether. Help us respond in love to those who speak up, to those who are silent, to those who back down, to those who are strident.’
As leaders, we may be tempted to play the first impressive word which comes to mind rather than wait for Christ to fill our mouths with compelling words of faith and trust, acceptance and grace, fearless words of counter cultural hope artfully drawn from the movement of the Spirit.
‘Lord, encourage us when words are withheld or held over our heads in attempts to place us in a desirable position meant to advance someone else’s agenda for an upcoming play. Help us to see and confess ego shadows so we will learn to dance sincerely, no more games, true to our call, true to your word.
And for the one whose toes have been stepped on with words which crush the will to continue in the dance of servant grace, speak your word of soothing love so even in the midst of warring games, a word of kindness will be heard above the broken music which abhors the picture of your gentle lead, a word of art we can hang for all to see Christ, the hope of glory in us. Amen.’