The Right To Speak
It seems to me that there are some words we must “earn” the right to speak. Consider the case of a young man and a young woman who meet and find pleasure in one another’s company. They continue to meet. Their joy in one another grows. They begin to feel those special feelings for each other. They begin to think of and act in the best interests of the other. Most of us understand that it wouldn’t ring true for them to be telling each other how much they love one another at their first meeting. Had they not spent time getting to know one another…getting to sacrifice for one another…the words would be premature at best and hollow at worst. No…it takes at least a bit of experiencing life together to “earn” the right to bless one another with such beautiful words as, “I love you.” Please do not misunderstand what I’m getting at. My goal is not to cause people to say, “I love you” less often. My goal is to help us think about the needed “context” of that statement.
I’m sure that you, like me, have heard of uses of that phrase that are a travesty. How many times has “I love you” been used as a lever to pry something out of someone that they really weren’t ready to give? Sometimes the words are just a thin veneer that people use to cover up a loveless relationship. I still remember the old man telling me how much he loved his good wife. The wife was sitting in the same room with us. She was a quiet woman. But this time as she listened to him proclaim his love, she couldn’t take it any longer. She looked at me with a knowing, bittersweet smile. Then she spoke clearly to her husband, “I’m thirsty. Would you please get me a drink?” As sure as I’m telling you this, the man acted as though he were completely deaf. After that, whenever he would tell me how he loved his good wife, the words didn’t sound the same to me.
Jesus pointed out the folly of referring to Him as Lord, while routinely disobeying His will (Luke 6:46 along with Matthew 7:21). We can only properly call Him Lord out of the context of a life that truly seeks and follows His will. In the Old Testament Israel bragged, “My God, we, Israel, know You!” (Hosea 8:2) They were self-deceived. They neither knew God nor the dire spiritual condition they were in. Jehovah Himself counters their claim saying, “Israel does not know” (Isaiah 1:3b).
I was thinking today about how many times I have multiplied words. As a teacher/preacher I’ve had far too many of those moments when I felt way over my head. I would almost have an “out of body” experience as I thought about God listening to me. And I wondered what He was thinking. There have been so many times I should have shut up sooner. Too many times I have declared my ignorance on a subject and then spent the next thirty minutes demonstrating it. God forgive me. If I know my own heart to any degree at all…this is what I want. I want what I say to be true and for it to be reflected in my own life. When I speak of loving my God…my family…my church…my friends…and the lost….I want those words to be flowing out of the context of my life lived demonstrating the authenticity of my speech. I know…I know…none of us love enough. We don’t love purely enough. We don’t love as unselfishly as we should. I don’t. You don’t. That’s just how it is. But we are not looking for excuses, are we? The point has to do with our intention and our follow through as we are given the chance…the opportunity.
I know all of this can be over-analyzed…so balance it as you need to. I hope you are able to credit me with the “right” or, more accurately, the “privilege” to say what I am about to say. I’ll take the risk anyway because I can’t hold it in. I love you. I am blessed to know you. Among all the other truths about your life is this…your life is a gift of God to me. I am enriched by you beyond my ability to relate. I don’t ever mean to take your friendship for granted. I am for you. Your good is my prayer. Your example lifts me. Your struggles engage me. Your victories thrill me. Your words teach me. Your perseverance is something I count on. I miss you when we are not able to be together. And I long for that condition to which our Lord will one day bring us…where neither miles, nor time, nor health, nor responsibilities will come between. Bless His Name!