Once there lived two mamas, each on opposite sides of the Canada/Michigan border. They were training toddlers, teaching children, and learning to love and serve Jesus more with each setting of the sun over the Great Lake Huron stretched out long between them. Then one day, the mama on the the Michigan side wrote some very good and practical words — a gracious primer on the tongue: Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It & When to Say Nothing at All. Today, it’s a joy to invite my very wise friend, Karen Ehman, to the farm’s front porch to share a word or two with us about using our words.
“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).
Iam such a Bible nerd.
I love to not only learn the meaning behind the Hebrew or Greek words in Scripture, I also like to study certain English words that pop up at me, pogo-stick style, drilling down deep to understand why perhaps a particular word or phrase is used.
And so, I grew curious one day: Why does God use a honeycomb to describe gracious, sweet, and healing speech?
I didn’t have to look far for my answer.
There is a teenage boy who lives in our neighborhood named Jake.
He is an outstanding football player and a wrestler. However, Jake is also a beekeeper who sells his amber jars of honey at local festivals and fairs. I decided to interview this high school entrepreneur one afternoon to discover all I could about the honey-making biz.
Jake told me that the flavor and intensity of honey depends on what kind of nectar the bees drink in. Clover nectar produces honey that is light and heavenly sweet. Another flower’s nectar might create a dark, bitter product, with a lingering, unpleasant aftertaste.
A smart beekeeper will be sure their beehive is strategically placed near a large patch of clover if they want to sell the sweetest, most delectable honey there is.
Jake also told me how crucial it is that the beehive also be placed in a location where the sun will hit it first thing in the morning, warming up the bees and causing them to get to work churning out the greatest quantity of sweet syrup possible.
“So,” I questioned my young friend, “is it safe to say that the sweetness or bitterness of honey is determined by what the bee drinks in and the amount of time it spends in the sun—especially early in the morning?”
“Exactly!” he replied.
DING! DING! DING! We have a winner. I think I found my answer.
Perhaps it is also true that the sweetness or bitterness of our words will be determined by what we drink in and the amount of time we spend early with the Son.
But choosing grace will sometimes cost us.
Spats and squabbles are oh-so-easy to fall into. We will have to resist the urge to lash out in anger. We might even have to bite down on our tongues.
But better a bleeding tongue than a family member’s wounded heart.
We might have to choose to let go of the need to prove our point, choosing instead to do the right thing: to impart grace and deal with the other person in love and with utmost patience.
We can choose to speak honestly—with words that are direct—but that are also strategically tucked inside an envelope of grace.
When we choose to do this—even though it can be extremely difficult—we model to those closest to us a picture of Christ loving His church.
Fights are abandoned. Tempers cool off. Stress simmers down. Our gracious words wash over the other person with love and compassion. We find ourselves faithful to God.
When we lace our speech with grace healing happens.
So when a family member’s behavior threatens to knock the nice right out of us, we can pause before we pounce. (Or better yet pause, pray and then…don’t pounce at all!)
Take the advice I sometimes have to give to myself:
Don’t say something permanently painful just because you are temporarily ticked off.
All the humans you encounter throughout the course of the day are “on purpose” people. God plopped them into your life for a reason.
These souls—whether they are of the easy-to-love variety or the scratchy sandpaper kind—can be used by God to mold, reshape, and sometimes stretch our souls as he perpetually crafts us into creations who are becoming more and more like his Son.
Our people are watching, sizing up how we behave. What will they see? Stirred-up strife—or lovingly covered offenses? Words that incite spats and squabbles? Or speech that soothes and heals?
Pssst.… The correct answer is “g.”
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership of today’s devotion ]
Karen Ehman is a Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker and a writer for Encouragement For Today. Mom of three and married to her college sweetheart Todd, she resides in the boondocks of central Michigan. There she enjoys antique hunting, cheering for the Detroit Tigers, and feeding the many teens that gather around her kitchen island for a taste of Mama Karen’s cooking.
The author of seven books including LET. IT.GO. and A Life That Says Welcome, her latest, Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It & When to Say Nothing at All, is packed with biblical wisdom, self-tattling stories, and practical ways to make your speech laced with grace, as sweet as honey, and yet seasoned with salt. (Click here for a quick view of a sample portion from the book.) I’m reading these pages gratefully — and thinking it’s a book my whole family will thank me for reading (warm smile).