The Weight of Words in the Heart of a Child

Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken at the right time.” – Proverbs 25:11

Words seem more ephemeral, insubstantial these days. Although we all know on some level that any words sent out into cyberspace will remain there forever, there is something about a text, an email, or a social media post that makes us believe our words are no more lasting than letters in the sand.

I, for one, am glad to have come of age during a time when handwritten letters were still popular.

Unrecalled Treasures

Lately I’ve been deep into the mid-life purge that marks the transition from accumulation of goods to freeing ourselves from the pull of possessions. Yesterday I unearthed a box of childhood memorabilia that tore my attention from the task of sorting and tossing. I settled on the edge of my bed, eager to see what unrecalled treasures had been hidden away for decades.

The first surprise was tucked into my padded satin baby book— an envelope filled with perfectly preserved goldilocks curls saved from my first hair-cut. Along with other pertinent data about my development, the date and details were recorded in my mother’s youthful handwriting.

(Really mom? You cut my hair into bangs at 15 months?)

Then there were stacks of letters on tissue thin paper from overseas pen-pals wanting to practice their English. Sweet letters from junior high crushes away at summer camp. Post cards from everyone, everywhere, back when you didn’t go on vacation without dropping a line to everyone in your address book.

The Autograph Book

But most fascinating was my autograph book, an item that every elementary school girl in the 50’s dearly desired for her birthday. We took turns writing sentimental doggerel on the pastel pages of each other’s books: “On this page so clean and white, only a friend would dare to write,” “ 2 nice 2 be 4 gotten” written in the shape of a math problem. Or even the saucy “God made apples, God made trees, God made girls, for boys to squeeze.”

Quaint. Corny. Charming. Sentimental. Innocent.

A world away from today’s sixth-graders texting and cyber-bullying, thinking their words will simply evaporate.

Pop signed it

I stopped to ponder when I came to the pages I’d asked my parents to sign. As I looked back over the half century since they’d written these words to their 10 year old daughter, I could see that their words had had the same effect on my character as if they’d been carved in stone.

To my darling daughter…

My father wrote, “To my darling daughter. Music soothes the savage beast. Keep it up. Love, Daddy.” When I got to college and became a smart-aleck English major, I discovered that my engineer father had used a common misquote of Shakespeare. Actually, I think it makes as much or more sense the way he said it. As King David showed us, music did soothe Saul when he acted like a savage beast. These were wise words about the power of music that I would come to learn by experience.

A few things stood out. First, he called me his “darling daughter.” My father has a Scandinavian reserve and was not usually given to affectionate terms of endearment. He was gruff enough that I never really felt he saw anything darling about me. Now that he is 90, seeing those words in print means the world to me.

Second thing I noticed: If you know me at all, you know that an abiding passion throughout my life has been music. Through his inscription in my autograph book, he called that out. He saw that spark in me. He fanned it. He encouraged me to keep it up.

I have.

So did my mother

Then I turned the page and found my mother’s words:

“Good, better, best,
never let it rest,
Until your good is better,
and your better best.”

“Never let it rest!?” Is it any wonder I have struggled with perfectionism? That I’ve rightly been called an overachiever?

Her words were also indelibly etched on my heart.

Choosing to see these words in a positive light, however, my mom was calling out the gifts, abilities, and talents that God had placed in me to develop for his glory and the good of others. She was urging me to steward them well. I pray that I will be able to look back at my life when the end draws near and to be able to say I have done that.

The Weight of their Words

Only a few sentences. Just a few words scribbled in a little girl’s autograph book. But those words had the power to shape my destiny. Children believe what their parents say about them.

How much more power do the inspired words in the Bible have to frame our character. Blessed are the children whose parents speak truth over them as they teach them the Word of God. The right time to speak words that are like apples of gold is when your children are small, malleable, impressionable—still discovering who they are meant to become.

Pray and ask the Holy Spirit for the words to speak over your children to help them to discern their calling. They are looking to you to help them see themselves. Be a beacon that will guide them as they seek God’s directdion for their lives. Leave them a legacy of written words that will light their path.

Your words carry great weight in the heart of your child.

What effect did your parents words have on you? What do you remember most about the things they spoke over you?