Brenda Schwartz shared this story with her Life Group. She experienced God's presence through the impact of her words on someone else. Our next Life Group launch is on January 28. Click here to learn more.
Words matter. We say it all the time, but do we fully realize the power of our words? There is a song called "Words" by Hawk Nelson that I hear on the radio often. I sing along and imagine the words as a prayer lifted up to God as I drive to and from work and all over town. However, I (more often than I would like to admit) might immediately follow up that musical prayer with a decidedly unkind exclamation to one of my fellow drivers who might have cut me off or slowed me down on my journey that day. It comes out suddenly and without a thought. Where did those ungodly words come from?
Earlier this fall I was both excited and reluctant to attend my 30th high school reunion. I wanted to see old friends and hear all about what they were doing these days, but I was also thinking that it could very well turn out to be an awkward evening since I hadn't seen most of them since graduation. What could we possibly talk about?
As soon as we walked into the room I was approached by a guy that I remembered from middle school. He was always that kid that existed on the fringes—he was around but he didn't have any friends that I recall and he was that kid that got picked on a lot. He wore ill-fitting clothes that were a bit odd, he wore cowboy boots that seemed several sizes too big, he had "Coke bottle" glasses, he was skinny and always had a shock of white hair that stood up straight from the top of his head. To add to things, he had a very unusual name that seemed to invite ridicule. It didn't make things any easier for him. I'm certain.
He walked straight up to my husband and I and said, "I know you probably don't remember me, but you saved my life. To me, you're an angel." I didn't know what to say. I told him that of course I remembered him and that I was glad to see him. When I introduced him to my husband he looked him squarely in the eye and said, "You make sure you take care of her. If she ever needs anything EVER, you need to know that I'll be there!"
By then I was really confused (and a little apprehensive) so I asked him to explain. He went on to tell us that only two people wrote in his 6th and 7th grade yearbooks—my friend Audry and me. He talked about how he was pretty sad at the time that no one else cared to even sign their name for him, much less write a quick note. To be honest, I don't remember specifically writing in it, but he definitely did. He said that what I wrote was so meaningful to him that he always kept that yearbook close and read our encouraging words throughout the years when he felt down. He said that on several occasions life was so bad that he knew that he would not be around today if he had not read and re-read our kind words to help him get through it.
I have no idea what words I wrote. I truly don't remember writing in the book. I do remember him and I do remember feeling compassion for him and his situation. I know that I'm not an "angel" as he said. I honk at other drivers and mix up my prayerful song with rude comments about traffic as well as plenty of other things that I'm not especially proud of. I do know, however, that God used me that day to put some kind words on paper for that middle school kid 35 years ago. To me, those words were so disposable that I don't even remember what they were. To him, they meant a lot.
I learned a powerful lesson that night in my small town. Every word that we utter is meaningful and long-lasting. I even use a watered-down version of that story in my job as a school counselor to help my students learn that words have power and can stick in someone's mind for a very long time—good or bad. Let's make sure that when someone remembers what we said to them today, that it's a good memory.
I'm thankful that God chose to use me that day. I pray that my eyes and my heart stays open to see more opportunities to build others up with encouraging words.
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." - 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Excerpt from "Words" by Hawk Nelson:
Words can build you up
Words can break you down
Start a fire in your heart or
Put it out
Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don't wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You