This past week, a team from our church had the privilege of serving with Compassion International in Ecuador. Our mornings were spent doing light construction on a sponsor church, while our afternoons were spent working with the children of Las Brisas. Through soccer games, bubbles, jumping rope, crafts, and stories, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of these children had never had words spoken over them. Certainly they have had plenty of words spoken to them, but what about words over them?
Barely knowing the language, I asked our translator to tell me how to tell a child that they are God’s treasure. He scribbled these words in my journal that I would later have the opportunity to speak over several children, trusting that God would impress them on their hearts.
“Eres un Tesoro de Dios – You are God’s treasure.” Simple words spoken, not just to them, but over them.
Sadly, I too often speak to, and not over, those I treasure most. My words can easily be used sharply, critically, self-righteously, and carelessly. Like wet cement, my words have left a fair share of marks that, if not smoothed out, quickly harden. How true it is that “the tongue can bring death or life” (Proverbs 18:21)
I have also sinned by withholding words. Sometimes it’s not what we say, but rather what we don’t say: feelings of appreciation, approval, and encouragement left unspoken. Both the spoken and unspoken have the potential of doing damage far beyond measuring. So often, I can speak to and not over those I love most.
For most men, words don’t come easily. We’ve all heard or read the statistics; women use more words than men. Men would often times rather sit shoulder to shoulder, grunt, cheer, and occasionally offer a fist-bump. Not exactly meaningful or sophisticated, but we still call it communication.
But words don’t have to be weapons that wound. And they certainly don’t have to be pointless, either. As fathers who image our Father, we can use our words redemptively. Like instruments, they can be used for good, life, joy, wisdom, and encouragement. After all, words belong to God. They are not ours to use as we please or purpose. We speak because God speaks.
One of the things we learn at the very beginning of the Bible is that God speaks. He not only uses words, but He is the author of words. Unlike us, in our fallen and sinful state, when God speaks, He does so in a truly instructive and redemptive way. In Genesis chapter 1, the very first chapter and book of the Bible, we see the phrase “And God said” nine times.
God speaks into and over His creation. With purpose and power His words create out of nothing. His words are instruments of life, truth, grace, and beauty.
Light bursts forth from darkness.
Beauty springs up out of the chaos.
Order emerges from disorder.
God speaks words of life.
But in Genesis 3 we learn that God is not the only one who speaks. We see that there is a “war of words” going on in the Garden. Satan uses words too. But unlike God, his words bring death, pain, deception, separation, and ultimately the loss of Paradise.
As image-bearers of God, one of the ways we glorify Him is in our speech. We reflect his image by the use of our words. God speaks over us as our Father. He calls to us, and speaks over us as His children – adopted, treasured, lavished by His love, saints, citizens of heaven, and the list goes on. He speaks to us what He intends, but not without speaking over us our identity in Him.
One of the great gifts we can give our sons is the gift of our words. I encourage you to be a father who doesn’t just speak to your sons, but speaks over them. We never know the full impact, for good or bad, that our words will have. May the words that our Father speaks over us be words we speak to and over our sons – words of life, joy, approval, hope, wisdom, and encouragement.
Patrick Schwenk, The Dig for Kids