Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Out Loud

My dad once told me how he regretted joking about his wife to other people. Not only was it disrespectful, but he ran into something he wasn't expecting: he started believing his jokes. Early on, he was actually pretty happy in his marriage. But after he started jokingly referring to her as "the old ball and chain", as some young men do for laughs, his daily attitude started shifting toward resentment of her.

"Your words don't just leave your mouth and enter other people's ears," he explained to me. "They go into your ears as well. They enter your brain." His advice: watch what you say, because your spoken words can change your mind too.

Maybe that's why I've discovered such an impact on my own heart when I speak God's word aloud.

We all talk to ourselves. Saying aloud, "He didn't mean it that way" or "There's nothing to be scared of" or "Remember to feed the cat". Forcing your brain to hold onto a fact it really needs. It works for me, like it's snapping me out of my own head and grounding me in reality.

When I decided this year to switch gears in my inner life back towards God, I started doing something I hadn't done before: speaking God's word out loud, a lot.

I started with one simple phrase: "God is good." In any moment of fear, doubt, disappointment, or confusion, I'd do my best to jump back to that concept. Sample variations: "God, I believe you're good"; "God, your word says that you're good". Sometimes, I had to make my mouth form and emit the words. They were usually the opposite of whatever I was feeling at the time. But that's why I was doing it, so I stuck with it.

At first, the effect was hard to spot. I'd say what I knew was true, out loud, and it would stabilize me - eventually. But it was hard to distinguish from the natural settling-down of my emotions. There were fewer evening funks, though.

After a few weeks, I noticed the words were easier to say in difficult moments, the peace quicker to arrive. I was getting used to it, used to the sequence of challenge, speaking, calm. It's like mastering a complex physical movement; there's a moment when your brain finally "gets it", understands how to synchronize the different motions of that snowboard turn or karate kick without thinking step-by-step.

My confidence in "God is good" kept growing from there. Eventually, I was seeing hints of goodness everywhere, in things that had looked neutral to me before. Pleasant days, small conveniences, colleagues and students. Things carried a new interpretation.

This is the ONE major difference between my old thought life and my new one this year.

I encourage you to try it. Pick a short, simple Biblical truth, maybe something that answers a lie or crisis you're facing. Just repeat it to yourself, out loud, frequently, for a few days. See what happens.

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