The Verbs of Lent: 4

Numbers 21:4-9The 4th Sunday of Lent – for Sunday, March 15, 2015

“The people became impatient on the road. The people spoke against God and Moses . . .” (Numbers 21:4-5)

The people spoke against God and Moses . . .

words_hurt_too
In the season of Lent, or in the mundane and mayhem of your regular life, what have you “spoke” that hurt another?

I didn’t have to read too many verses (though I did!) to seek a Lent-appropriate verb. This scene from Numbers was familiar, with the Children of Israel—free from the injustices of Egyptian slavery and sojourners in the wilderness—complaining to Moses. Like today’s kids (and adults) on a road trip with a destination that never seems to appear around the next curve or over the next hill, their protests included meals. The food’s bad! Not enough. Not the right kind. Not what you promised. Not what we’re used to eating.

It wasn’t only their stomachs that were growling!

I don’t have to read about the snakes God sent. I don’t have to read about how those wandering whiners were eventually contrite—after a multitude of nasty snakebites—and then spoke again to Moses. They would be good. They could be better.

Me? I got stuck on the verb spoke.

Actions, as they say, are louder than words.

Talk, as they say, is cheap.

And don’t forget, sticks and stones will break my bones but words will ______ (never or always) hurt me. (What do you truly believe?)

But don’t forget that the pen is mightier than the sword! (Or would the 21st century version be the keyboard is mightier than an RPG?)

In the season of Lent, or in the mundane and mayhem of your regular life, what have you “spoke” that hurt another?

It’s easy these days, where we verbalize verbs through texts, sexting, Facebook messages, Skype, face-timing, tweets, and other forms of social or anti-social media. And our less modern options for speaking continue: we can talk on the phone, communicate in person, bump into our neighbor while walking the dog, and do lunch with our friends.

When, with your words, have you thrown a metaphoric brick through another’s window?

When have you had that happen to you?

Spoken anguish arrives from gossip, insults, bullying, and from the truth told poorly or deceit told well. We read between the lines until the lines become nooses and we’re strangled by someone else’s insensitive intentions. For all of our tweeting and texting, we are no different than those “children” wandering that long ago desert. Complain we do. Lie we do. Bedevil with our words we do. Ancient or modern, humans are schemers, deceivers, and soul bandits . . .

Just by saying a few words. He spoke. She spoke.

What power.

Once (though sadly, more than once), I was tired and cranky and the two church members in my office complained about something trivial and I said words to . . . offend them. What were those words? I used a so-called “four letter word.” I didn’t swear at them or about them, but I spoke a word I knew would be hurtful to their ears. Bad Larry. Stupid Larry. Tired Larry. Powerful Larry. Later I apologized, in writing and in person. Really, I did. They never came back to church.

It was only a little ole word. I didn’t really mean it. Really?

Just by saying a few words. He spoke. She spoke.

What power.

Once (though thankfully, more than once), I was tired and cranky and the church member in my office complained about something trivial and I said words to . . . uplift him. What were those words? Now I don’t recall. But at that moment, he was standing in a metaphoric puddle of water. His failures at work or the stresses of a mortgage or whatever else terrified him were like jagged, torn electrical cables on the verge of slithering into that puddle and frying him. How life seems like that sometime. Whatever I spoke, I said with empathy and gave him, thanks be to God, a glimmer of hope.

It was only a little ole word or two. And yet I meant it with all of my flawed, compassionate heart. He left my office, not healed but healing. He held his head high and his shoulders weren’t slumped. The next time I saw him he smiled and had a firm handshake and maybe . . .

I spoke words that truly helped.

Spoke.

In the season of Lent, in the verbs of our faith, we all carry such incredible power with what we say to another.

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2 Comments

  1. The Greeks had a notion that with some kinds of language that we humans are simply conduits. We have the onus of being the best conduits we can , but in the summing up can take neither credit nor blame. Yes, I know,oversimplification etc but I am increasingly sensitive to word effects that are out of proportion,e.g. the reaction of the first folk , the ones who were overwhelmed and seemingly maddened by non standard discourse. I suggest that they needed “permission” to try the manna at another campfire, but could not do so without losing their sense of spiritual superiority to you. The word that gave them release came through and you were too tired to stop it . It was never yours anyway. Sometimes you use the words you are given and sometimes the words you are given use you. But damn. it stings.

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