Annie Downs is an author who loves helping young people—especially teen girls and young women—overcome the challenges that life puts in the way of their spiritual development. Today, in the first post of a new series, Annie shares what she learned about the power of Scripture in the course of writing her new book Speak Love.
I sat at my favorite coffee shop in Nashville today. It’s often quiet, library kind of quiet, and that’s what a lot of us freelancer-types really like. Except earlier this afternoon there was a table of five loud twenty-somethings all dressed far more hipster than I know how to pull off.
I got all my things out on the table, put my headphones in, and had my almond milk chai ready to hydrate this session of writing. But before I could start my music (Ellie Holcomb’s new EP With You Now, if you were curious), I began to eavesdrop.
It’s one of my favorite pastimes. Forgive me.
The girl with the too-trendy bowl cut and big round glasses began to talk about a fake profile she had seen on Instagram, and then relayed her own Catfish-like story. “Well, when I was in tenth grade, I hated a girl in our class so much that I created a fake profile of the guy who liked her and made her think it was him. I broke her heart in the end.” And as I looked over, she smiled wickedly at her friends.
The rest of the table didn’t smile at all. In fact, they seemed pretty disturbed. “Wow,” another girl said, “I have had some people in my past I didn’t like, but I’ve never done ANYTHING like that.” And everyone kinda just started muttering to themselves.
She was embarrassed, realizing how it sounded coming out of her mouth (crazy!) was way different than the justifiable experience it was in her head. And? I felt something rise up in me that was controlled only by the tiny bit of wisdom I possess. Because I don’t have a lot of patience or love in my heart for mean girls.
What an ugly thing to do to another human. What a waste of time and words and anger.
I decided against going all Justice League on the girl and instead, I rallied up some compassion for her. (It wasn’t easy, but I tried.) My pastor at CrossPoint Church, Pete Wilson, always says, “Hurt people hurt people,” and I am sure she was hurt.
She was hurt with words. So she hurt with words.
Words have that kind of power—to wound deeply and to heal profoundly. The longer I sat beside her, the more my heart softened and the more I wanted to tell her she is loved, she is accepted, she is valuable.
Sometimes that’s all it takes, isn’t it? A kind word or two.
The Bible is full of God stepping into stories and saying just the thing that the hurting human needs to hear to set them free, to heal their hearts, to redeem and restore and bring life where death had claimed victory. And we are made in His image—just like He creates with His words, we do as well.
Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death,” and if you have lived on this planet for any amount of years, you know that is true too.
I’ve seen it firsthand—I’ve been hurt and I’ve been healed by words. Also, ashamedly, I’ve hurt with words. Over and over again. But now I’m spending my life trying to teach girls a different way, a healing way, a life-giving way, of using words. My book Speak Love covers exactly this topic, in three main areas—how we speak to God, how we speak to others, and how we speak to ourselves.
God is always speaking love to us, so we should be speaking it to others (and ourselves!) as well.
Annie Downs is an author and speaker based in Nashville, TN. Flawed but funny, she uses her writing to highlight the everyday goodness of a real and present God. Her second book, Speak Love, releases this week. Read more at annieblogs.com and connect with Annie on Twitter @AnnieDowns and facebook.com/annieblogs.