“You are so kind. Thank you for caring about me.”
Someone recently said that to me. Now, I’m a pretty humble person I think, but I must admit, words of affirmation spoken to me are so refreshing! These words affirms something in me that 1, someone sees me for who I am, not what I do or what I have, 2, God is continuing a good work He started in me, and 3, my actions mean something to someone! I don’t generally consider myself as kind, but I must admit, it made me smile to know that it is God’s kindness shown through me.
Words of affirmation are so important to those we speak them to, and to those who hear us speak them to someone else.
Truth be told, these encouraging words were refreshing because it spoke to who I was, instead of what I was. It was not a compliment on my parenting, my abilities, or my activities. Don’t get me wrong: those are needed too! However, these words settled right into my heart. Unbeknownst to the speaker, I have asked the Lord to work on me in the areas of kindness and gentleness. I’m a type-A, matter-of-fact, task-oriented kinda girl. I’ve been operating under the excuse of that is just how God made me. That’s true, but He also gave me a spirit of kindness. After all kindness and gentleness are fruits of the spirit, and it was time for my fruit to diversify! This hasn’t been easy for me, but because of grace, I am able to grow in this area. The work I put in this area was a little secret between me and the Lord. Because He gives abundantly more than we can ask or imagine, my little secret was oozing out! I love that someone saw it! I started asking God to show me more little secrets in other people so I could speak some life-giving words to refresh others’ spirits.
I shared encouragements with many people since. Then I realized: I don’t regularly do this with my family! A change had to be made. On my kitchen cabinets are two shabby looking pieces of paper scotch-taped to my aging, chipped cabinets. It’s a sad site, but the words on the paper are not for decoration-they are a constant reminder to me. On one I have written “Be a joyful mother of children!” On another, I have written, “The Power of Life and Death is in the Tongue.” Why my kitchen cabinets? That’s where I spend the most time…at the counter, with those old, creaky white surfaces staring back at me. It’s where I am first thing in the morning and last thing at night. It’s where I grow the most frustrated. It’s to the side of me as I teach my kids, it’s in front of me as I prepare our meals. It’s right there when I get frustrated that I was interrupted for the thousandth time while trying to cook, clean, or educate. It serves as a constant reminder that we are capable of putting to death our old man ways of complaining, being selfish, becoming quickly angered, and put on clothes of compassion, kindness, and selflessness.
It was there in the kitchen this week that I could have nagged my husband about something I always ask him to do, but he always forgets. Knowing I had little eyes watching and knowing that I was in charge of powerful words, I looked at him and said, “You are such a good provider for our family.” My husband works so hard for our family, and I cherish him. Does he ever hear that out of my mouth? Nope. Often times, the words spoken are reminders of what he forgets to do. He thanked me later for those words. It did something to his spirit. I think it supplied him with joy to know that I didn’t just rely on him, but I saw his heart of provision, and I am grateful for it. Those words also spoke to my boys, who are always listening. It illuminated to them a side of daddy that they had not seen: a provider.
The words on the cabinet were there to remind me to speak life when my 4 year old struggled over printing the number 3 this week. For whatever reason, my boy just couldn’t connect his brain to his hand when it came to fleshing out those two little curves. Frustrated, he quit. I looked him in the eye and said, “You always have a smile on your face. I can see you’re frustrated. You can take a break, but I know you can do this! You are so smart. That night, he came to me with some very interesting looking threes scrawled on a piece of paper. “You did it!” I exclaimed. We still have work to do, but he said, with his typical smile, “I did it for you! I am smart!” My heart was on overload.
Those words were with me today during first grade phonics. How many rules in the English language are there anyways? I knew he was feeling overwhelmed by all the rules today…he was fidgeting, procrastinating…it was going to take all day to finish the lesson at this rate. My typical m.o. would be to remind him to focus. Because I frequently have to do this, it could almost resemble nagging. Instead, I sat beside him and praised him over the work he already did. “Wow! Look at your handwriting! It’s amazing! You remembered to put a double consonant on that word before adding the suffix! Great memory buddy!” He literally beamed. That’s all it took…he kept going, making sure that I wasn’t too far away for some extra praise if needed.
When we choose to speak words of life, we receive joy. We make an eternal investment. We partner with a mighty God who is speaking those same words to someone’s heart. We just put an audio track to what He is already sowing in that person’s spirit. There are many things in this life that silence us: fear, exhaustion, stress, selfishness, busyness, technology. But we’ve been given power to speak life! Why wouldn’t we want to use power! In a world where the power of death is being rampantly spoken, let us encourage one another to speak words of life! If you do not tell your husband and your kids who they really are, who will? When we speak these words to our children, we train them to believe who God says they really are and we treasure them by celebrating who they really are!