Have you ever felt like you were at the mercy of the person holding you in their hands? Recently, I really needed someone to follow through on something. It wasn’t life or death:, just an integrity thing that showed honor to me. But no matter what I did to try to get this person to come alongside and assist me, the person was not able to do so. I felt squeezed in the grip of their lack of understanding.
Just a few days after this circumstance I had something happen that became a visual lesson for me. When I walked into my living room I immediately knew something was wrong. My living room carpet was feathered like a practical joke. I panicked. Wait. Where was the cat? Worse, where was the bird?
A commotion arose from under the dining room chair, and I rushed to the rescue.
Melchizedek, my cat is also known as Chizzie, was in sport mode, stalking. What a nice little toy you are, little bird!
I chased them around the living room until I caught the bird before Chizzie could make him a snack.
I was about to take the little guy outside when I realized I wanted to remember this image because of a story I’d heard. So I precariously balanced the little bird in my right hand while trying to finagle my phone in the left while I took a photo.
The bird’s heart was racing; I took him outside and freed him to fly away.
I walked back inside and the great high priest, aka bird-catching cat, was meowing “Hello.” He has somehow figured out how to greet us this way and knows I normally think it’s cute.
We all want that freedom. Don’t we?! This made me think about how words can bring freedom. Sometimes, miscommunication can hinder resolutions. Our words can grip a person and squeeze the life out of them or our words can release them.
This reminded me of a parable about a wise old woman that is told this way.
There once was a wise old woman that was so clever that everyone sought her for advice. In her village, there was a little girl who thought to herself, That old woman, she is not so wise! I’m going to prove that she is not! One day the little girl caught a bird and carried it cupped in her hands to show the wise old woman.
When the wise old woman came outside, the little girl asked, “Will this little bird live, or will it die?” The little girl had decided if the wise old woman said, “Die!” she would release the bird. If the wise old woman said, “Live!”, she would crush it in her hands to prove her wrong.
The wise old woman said to her, “It is all up to you! The bird is in your hands.”
I heard this story months ago, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Each person I interact with is literally held in my hands. Whether they live or die in their heart, mind, soul, and spirit could be up to what I say or do. It’s a sobering thought, but one worth pondering.
In my early twenties, I read Proverbs 13:17 in the Living Bible translation. It said, “Reliable communication permits progress.” I immediately asked God to help me reliably communicate with others. Later, someone challenged me, saying the Living Bible wasn’t a real Bible translation and that, “You have the passage all wrong.”
I was crushed. That verse held great significance to me, carrying me through difficult situations. God used it to help me speak up when I was afraid and to remain silent when I wanted to shout.
I looked up the verse in other translations, and I read something like, “a reliable messenger brings healing to the whole envoy.” The words may be different, but the meaning is the same. When we take time to communicate dependably, healing takes place and progress occurs. Reliable communication changes the circumstances and brings life!
Like the bird in the little girl’s hands, people can be released or squeezed of life by our words. We can crush someone with our words. We can suffocate them. We can shut them down. Or we can release them, build them up, and let them “fly” on to a better place or thought.
My husband Greg and I were driving on a long trip recently, and I realized I was like that little girl. Greg was sharing with me something new and exciting that he was discovering. He was applying the new truth to a situation we were talking about. Before he was done, I shut him down with my words. Without any thought, I was that little girl trying to prove something and, in the process, I killed a very fun conversation with my husband. Yeah, I know … I am ashamed to even say it. But it is real.
I sat there stunned! I killed “the little bird” in my husband with a few simple words. UGH! I knew I had to make it right and immediately apologized. “I am so sorry. My tone was rude, and you didn’t deserve the intensity of my response! Will you please forgive me?” I then explained, in the right way, what I was thinking. Fortunately, Greg and I have been married for nearly 30 years and we recognize that we mess up sometimes. So we try to repent, forgive, and move on as soon as possible. Thankfully, we rebound quicker than we did when we were younger.
But when I don’t have that type of relationship with someone, they might not respond as quickly to my attempts to undo a verbal life-crushing moment. Therefore, I must make the choice ahead of time to use my words for life and not death. We should determine, As long as a bird is in my hands, he will be set free. As far as it depends on me, I will be at peace with others (Romans 12:18). I know this isn’t easy. I fail at this more than I want to confess, but I also know that I’ve given life more times than I can count. My prayers for reliable communication to permit progress have taken hold, but I still have moments when I need to learn to use my words to bring life.
As you interact with others today, will you join me in remembering that their life is in your hands? How will you speak life to someone today? How will you use your words to release someone rather than give them death?