What leads me further into you? What leads me further away from you?
I am human. I crave intimacy. I want to be close to you, my spouse, my child, my friend, my God. I am vulnerable, so the road lies open, I am me and you can see everything.
But what is this club I keep hitting you with? What is this tool I keep using to build the wall between us higher and higher?
I am a fool if I think my words do not bear upon my relationships. My words, they ...
Embody my anger
Funnel out my hurt
Carry out my fears
Paint my pride in ugly hues
They work as the path to deepen my relationships, or they ravage and veer me from the path of intimacy.
I am fool to think that what enters into my body doesn't affect it. What I eat and consume works its way through my body. It can infect or it can strengthen. And what happens when I forget about my insides? They rot. My heart rots and in my heart, "the me" I long to connect to others, spews forth rot.
What good can a blackened heart do? A blackened heart darkens my words. My words ejaculate from my rotten heart and hurt, pound and sever.
But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That’s what pollutes. (Matt. 15:18)
Why do I not protect my heart better? Why do I not take time to deal with the things that darken it: my past fights, my past betrayals, my past abuse, my past lies? My heart seeps into everything I do, and most of those things involve words.
What I write.
How I speak.
The words I use.
The truth I value.
The truth I eschew.
The lies I embrace.
Here I am, Lord, all grown up. I look around and my Christian brothers and sisters are plentiful. And yet sometimes it feels like I'm back in that "Christian college" where the crowd made the decadence all okay.
"Well, we're all doing it and so it's not hypocritical. Let's live like we want."
"The crowd is untruth," says Kierkegaard. And yet the crowd dictates this so-called Christian culture. Everyone is doing it, everyone is saying it, everyone is watching it, everyone is tweeting it--it must be okay. It must not be hypocritical.
And so I let my mouth sound like the world. I let my heart be darkened by the rot. I spew forth defecation and call it cool. I level bitter criticism and call it accountability. I wield my words as a lance impaling my own brothers and sisters. And I say I've kept my grip on heaven but do not realize I speak from the depths of Sheol.
How subtle are the ways of the Enemy, O Lord. How easily I am fooled. I long for the quiet intimacy there upon the heights, but find myself sinking in the muck of hell.
My words, my words. Purify my words, O Lord! Touch my lips with the Angel of Fire. I am a man of unclean lips. I want to be pure, and I long to be close, to You.
Hell invades. And what is hell? It is separation from You. And I just want to be close.
And yet, through the tangle of my words you come. Even in half-spoken tearful cries, you come. You are the wind and I am the winter oak. You roar through my bare limbs and clean me. You clear the sky so I can breathe. You are the blue at dusk, the beauty of contrast enlivening my soul.
The longing of winter looks like spring, and your roar ushers me there--to newness, to light, to rains aplenty, to life.
For I am human, I am a tree. I reach to the heavens--hear me! A new day begins and my lips sparkle with life. I am clean, once more.
Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.