Lately, I’ve been hyper sensitive to words. Not how they affect me or make me feel, but their power and weight.
When I had Oshiolema, my Pastor taught me one of the most important things we can do as a parent is to employ the phrase “battling.” It’s subtle and simple but the mind shift behind it is beautiful.
See, I found myself in those early years throwing around phrases to define my kid. I was desperate to put a label on him to ease my frustration with striving and instead settle for acceptance. “He’s just not a good sleeper.” “He’s just an overly emotional kid.” “He just doesn’t listen.” And so on…and so on.
There’s something so tempting about motherhood to think the truths we know in our heart simply don’t apply because our feelings say otherwise. I’ve known for what feels like 25 of my 28 years that there is death and life in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21.) I’ve known that if I would just say to the mountain, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ without doubt in my heart, believing that what He says will come to pass, it will be done for me (Mark 11:23.) For some reason, despite knowing these things as truth, I just felt like I had a right to label my son. For my own peace of mind, for my own comfort and protection.
By saying he wasn’t a good sleeper, I was speaking to the frustration in me at the reality of everyone else’s kid sleeping through the night and napping for hours on end. Instead of continuing to pray for richer sleep for the both of us, I decided to stamp a title on it instead. He was a bad sleeper. I chose to speak death.
By saying he was just emotional, I wanted to take the pressure off. When he cried and cried instead of being content and playing independently, I side-stepped the confusing shame by declaring it wasn’t my fault. It was out of my control. He was just overly emotional. Instead of praying for contentment, peace and comfort over him, I chose to speak death.
By saying he just doesn’t listen, I wanted to sit in my pride. His defiance and disobedience were strictly his own doing. In seeking to avoid judgement, I separated myself from him. I wanted to make it clear that no amount of discipline and correction could change him (mind you, he wasn’t a day over two at the time…and I declared him “unchangeable.” shaking my head at myself over here.) Instead of praying that the Holy Spirit would help him in the areas of love and self-control, I took the easy way out. I chose to speak death.
One day, while out to dinner with my pastor and his wife, I casually said that Oshiolema had a cold. In the same breath, pastor said “battling a cold.” I was caught off guard a little bit and was processing in my head whether or not they were the same thing when he said, “to say your child is or has something is to declare defeat. To say they’re battling something is to say you’re inviting and seeking and believing for the Lords help.” It was life changing. That thought reminded me of the power of my words as a woman, a wife, and especially as a mother.
It makes me so sad to hear mothers say things like “She’s a brat” or “he’s such a little jerk” as a joke. Friends, our kids are too valuable for that. Instead, I’ve shifted from doing my best to only say things about my kids that the Lord says about them. And most importantly, to use my words the way He’s called me to. To let my conversations be seasoned with grace (Colossians 4:6) To not let any unwholesome talk come out of my mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, (Ephesians 4:29) To use my tongue to heal. And when it feels impossible, I will pray Psalm 149:3 , “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
I’m writing these on index cards and keeping them where I can see them each morning to get back to being intentional with each word that comes out of my mouth, even in the witching hours of the day. (I’ll need to make Psalm 149:3 on a full size sheet!)