Jenn and I have spent our past two summer’s working summer conferences at the institution we minister at during the school year (for lack of a better description, it’s event hospitality on a college campus). This means two things: firstly, we spend a lot of time with a handful of student workers (working “in community” for 10-weeks) and, second, we don’t have much time for other summer activities (not a complaint, just a fact of the job). Having said that, you truly get to know people when you live and/or work with them, having to spend so much time together. Jenn and I have loved this time with our students and have zero complaints from these summers, but the negativity of one person could easily make future summers very difficult to get through. This was seen during our week of vacation…
Vacations, or times of isolation/relaxation, are completely necessary if you’re going to thrive as a person. So, this past summer we took a week long vacation with some of our closest friends (that we unfortunately don’t get to see very often). The week started well divvying up meals, bills and plans; however, halfway in, due to our sarcastic natures and jovial peskiness, we began getting annoyed with one another. After a moment of explosive (albeit, pregnant) rage, we had time to talk to each other about how these derisive ways of being can truly start to wear on one another. Having this conversation has led to a deeper sense of friendship among our vacationing comrades and allowed each of us to scrutinize the way we speak to others (even if we’re “only joking”).
Now this blog is starting to sound like a self-help essay on how to pull negativity out of your life… I digress. The core of what we discussed on vacation is that, as Christians, if we are to live out the gospel with the entirety of our lives, there is no room for cutting down others with “good-humored” mockery and sarcasm.
Now, as a father, I’m even more aware of how my words can be either hurtful or life giving; the way I speak to my son can dramatically affect the way he views God, himself, and those around him. This re-realization brings 1 Corinthians 13 into a clearer context, not just talking about love between a man and a woman (as you hear this read at almost every wedding), but connecting love into the being of our words. “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong, or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV, italics added). If I tell my son that the dreams God has given him are good and I fill him with the confidence in himself that he needs to go after those dreams, that is love, and it will have lasting effect on his own views of himself. If I tell my (proverbial) daughter that all she’s going to be when she grows up is a stripper, then all she will hear for the rest of her life is the resounding gong of those wounding words. If I continually degrade women, or verbally attack a certain race or ethnic group, then my son will only have a living example of how to be a bigot and a pig; but, if my words directed towards others are filled with love, then he will know that each person is made in the image of God and should be treated in loving ways.
I’ll end this contemplative entry with Paul’s own words to the Romans, hoping that, as we speak to one another, God’s love will be shown in both word and action: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:9-10 NIV)