Words dress our spirits. Hurtful words clothe us in dark moods, encouraging words in confidence. Loving words whispered from dear ones are like undergarments, essential yet personal.
I’ve dressed my family in some shabby clothes today. I sent my husband to work wearing discouragement and failure. For my own ensemble I put on words of anger, pity, and lies. My children are wearing my words of condemnation and impatience.
Any of us who have experienced the impact of harmful or positive words can attest to their power. Words are hardly neutral. Those who live under the strain of an emotional abuser know that words can erode hope off the banks of the heart, and are often more painful than a fist. Just consider the verbal flogging Job’s friends gave him.
Solomon speaks of the beauty words can bestow, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).
James gives witness to the negative power of the tongue, “Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark…With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be” (3:5, 9-10). I was sent to my room once as a child to meditate on this exposition.
We are affected not only by the words we say, but by the words we fail to say. Words unspoken leave us naked. We need to hear affirmations from friends and family, and when those don’t come, we put on our own despair, Who cares about me?
In a sense, God is also dressed in the words we say to him. We dress him with praise and thanksgiving. Some dress him with curses.
The only words guaranteed to clothe our spirits with hope are the words of the Word. The words of Scripture safeguard our hearts from the daily assaults of careless, casual, or cursing words. When we read the words of God, we adorn ourselves in truth and our spirits are armored against the evil one.
And of course, Jesus, as the Incarnate Word, clothes us in righteousness. When we put on Jesus, we put on priestly robes (as opposed to the rags). Although I put him on once, initially, for salvation, I find myself in desperate need to dress myself again each morning in the Spirit of Christ. If I have any hope of my own words bestowing grace and beauty, I’ve got to be wearing the Word.