What do you mean?

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth,…so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it. Isaiah 55

As a teacher, a preacher, and a writer, words are important to me. And the right word for exactly what I mean and want to say sometimes sends me on a quest to the dictionary for help in understanding. But words have no meaning in and of themselves except as symbols – symbols for a thought. And the reason we use particular words when we think specific thoughts is because we have, in one or another culture, agreed on the meaning of those words.

However, it’s also true that men and women often understand words differently. How is that possible when we have “agreed” on the meaning? I suppose it’s possible because the context in which we use a word is as important as the meaning we ascribe to it. Context. The context of our thoughts create symbols of meaning. And it’s really tough to read someone’s mind unless he or she is able to clearly use the words that help us understand.

The same is true if you think about the context of rain and snow coming down until “they have watered the earth.” Has a benign image all in all, doesn’t it? Sort of like “April showers bring May flowers.” And yet, as we see over and over in the news footage these days, whether the floods in the United States or the tsunami in Japan, watering the earth is not necessarily benign.

The word that goes forth from my mouth to do my will may be just as dangerous. It may not wash away a building, but it may deeply injure another’s soul.

To what “end” do you send your words? Is your intent to create a protective wall around yourself? Push another away? Punish someone because you are unhappy? Is your intent to heal? To offer understanding? Love?

Today, observe how you send out your words. What do you want to create with them? How do you injure or destroy? Words are not just words, but rather they are tools from our mind, and like all tools they will do the work for which they are designed.

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