I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions.  It’s hard not to when the new year rolls around.  It really does seem like the perfect time to resolve to take better care of myself, try something new, or clean out something old.  If you watch a little television you can get a lot of ideas about better abs, more organized closets, and finding the secret to eternal youth.  I have to admit I’ve been tempted to order Crunchless Abs, Facelift in a Jar, or the Miracle Hanger.  And then words from past New Years interrupt my daydreams of thin, young, organized, and fabulous!

I recall countless resolutions to exercise more, eat better, read my Bible, and floss daily.  I read in a women’s magazine recently (one that suggested several diets and ways to organize your life) that over 60% of Americans do not make resolutions, and of the 40% who do, only 5% keep them.  Perhaps what we’re discovering is that speaking words of promise (even if just to ourselves) and breaking them does more damage to our souls than carbohydrates and messy closets.

New Year’s Day is a profound reminder that words matter.  In fact, words matter so much that God entered the world as Word.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).  From the beginning God demonstrates that it is the word that calls things into existence, calls things by name, and identifies what is most true.  “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth” (Psalms 33:6).   I love the image the philosopher Aristophenes uses to describe the creative power of words, “By words the mind is winged.”  I can recall words that people have spoken to me that have reminded me of who I am — that have created life:

*   My mother telling me when I was seven years-old, “Sharon, you are special.”  When I’m feeling invisible and less than ordinary, I still remember her words.
*   A professor in graduate school scrawling across the top of a paper, “You must write.”  When I am feeling out of words and foolish for thinking I could write anything, his words pull me back to writing.
*   A five-year-old boy staring at my feet and exclaiming, “Miss Sharon, your toenails look pretty.”  I was teaching children’s church, overwhelmed with responsibilities, dripping with sweat from the hot summer and the chaos of twenty-eight children in my basement for house church, and his words were like a cool drink that energized me to keep going.

There is a Chinese proverb that reads, “The beginning of wisdom is calling things by their right name.”  I pray that this new year I can use words to create life.

Words also overcome evil.  The Word explained, “I come not to judge, but to save the world” (John 12:47).  I have certainly experienced words of judgment and condemnation that become like ulcers that hurt, erode faith, hope, and love, and separate from others.  I have used words that I am certain have hurt others as well.  A good word brings light to the soul.  Our words are to reflect the Logos (the Word) who is Light and Life.   I can easily remember good words that have brought light into my life:

*  Words in books have often been the timely words that have saved me.   Brennan Manning’s words in Ragamuffin Gospel have been the lamps along my path many times: “The gospel of grace calls out, Nothing can ever separate you from the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.  You must be convinced of this, trust, and never forget to remember.  Everything else will pass away, but the love of Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Faith will become vision, hope will become possession, but the love of Jesus Christ that is stronger than death endures forever.  In the end, it is the one thing you can hang onto.”
*My son was only six years-old (he had just knocked over a lamp while playing Power Rangers in the living room) when he said words that I have hung on to during the inevitable ups and downs of family life: “Mom, in our family we always forgive each other, right?”
*A friend recently spoke words of light during a time of darkness, “Sharon, I trust your journey.”  Her simple sentence said more about faith, hope, and love than volumes of words written on the subjects.

I pray that I can use words during the months ahead to bring light into the lives of others. 

Words are eternal.  Edward Thorndike wrote, “Colors fade, temples crumble, empires fade, but wise words endure.”  Our words don’t disappear.  I can recall words that were said to me that I will never forget:

*I had a seventh-grade history teacher who heard my sullen, sarcastic, middle-school vocabulary and advised me, “You will catch a lot more flies with honey than you will with vinegar.”  I don’t remember his name, but I’ll never forget his words.  I think of them when I am exasperated with a store clerk, mad at my children, or frustrated with someone on the other end of the telephone.
*My mom gave me advice that I continue to pass on to other young mothers, “Sharon, babies cry. (I was sleep-deprived and desperate for my crying baby to stop crying to prove that I was a good mother.)  Your daughter doesn’t need to you to be perfect.  She just needs you to love her.”
*There is seldom a night that I go to sleep that I don’t remember the words of the Eternal Word, “Do not be afraid.  I have redeemed you.  I have called you by name and you are mine.  The mountains may be moved.  The hills may be shaken.  But my love for you will never be moved, and my covenant of peace with you cannot be shaken” (The Prophet Isaiah).

I resolve in the year ahead to remember that words matter.  And yet in the midst of resolving I remember the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Language is a solemn thing: it grows out of life . . . out of its agonies and ecstasies, its wants and weariness.  Every language is a temple in which the soul of those who speak it is enshrined.”  My words will not create, overcome evil, and matter for eternity unless I am enshrined in the Creative, Good, and Eternal Word.  My deepest prayer is that my words will reflect where my soul finds nourishment — from The Word. 

“The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.  We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish . . . . We all live off his generous bounty, gift after gift after gift. . . . This one-of-a-kind God-Expression, who exists at the heart of the Father, has made him plain as day.”  (John 1)