Looking for a Few Good Words

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM   November 19, 2023

As a constantly curious person, there’s one question I’m perhaps most curious about and will voice to anyone, but especially to wisdom figures. I want to know, “How did you come to be the person you are today?”

Inevitably, the person on the receiving end of that question will mention someone who knew how to mine. This spiritual miner might be a parent, a teacher, a mentor, a friend. This miner possessed singular sight, able to see beyond the bravado and swagger of younger years and to uncover the timid or frightened or doubting child within who needed assurance or affirmation. This miner whose “I believe in you” litany offered an unfailing source of encouragement. This miner whose cheerleading evolved into a speech act.

In Loose Leaf Lectionary, Mark Strobel writes that a speech act is a single word or phrase that carries the power to effect change. A speech act happens in a circumstance where someone says something and the mere fact of saying it actually makes it happen. Imagine the first time a person utters the words, “I love you” and what that sets in motion. Scripturally, think of the Genesis account of creation where God says “Be!” and calls into being the universe, creating light and sky and oceans and all that swims there and all that crawls or runs on land. “Be!” God says to us and all our kin. And so it is. And it is good, so very good.

On the wall in the space where I write is a print with the reminder, “Words are so powerful, they should only be used to heal, to bless, to prosper.” Words, then, are potential speech acts.

So there’s an invitation to reflect on our own words, uttered or written. They may not be as dramatic as the primordial word spoken to creation by the Holy One, but like that divine invitation, they also possess immense power. Perhaps we’ve been blessed to hear in our lives speech acts such as, “You can do this!” “You got it.” “You have a gift.” “I believe in you.” How a life can be transformed by a steady hearing of such speech acts! These words or phrases invite our own mining and deep inner soul work. These words help to coax or spur into being our best selves, our infant talents, our transformation into generous, compassionate members of the human family.

Maddi Bazzocco, Unsplash

In this season of voicing gratitude, may we reflect on and give thanks for the significant persons in our lives whose words set into motion our journey from a shaky and wavering belief in ourselves to a profound knowing that we are beloved of God. May the Holy One, who rested with contentment after the work of creation, gaze at us with all our quirks and limitations and doubts and say once again “Be!” And find us good, so very good.

Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Reflect on a person who has invited you into greater confidence and deeper belief in yourself.
Hold that person in tenderness and in your prayers of gratitude.
Remember as well those in our global family who long to hear words of affirmation voiced for them. Give thanks for all the gifts you have received.

Featured Image:  Ashley Whitlatch, Unsplash

In this season of giving thanks, know how grateful I am for your following of Mining the Now, for your comments, and for all the ways you use words and you encourage me to use words that heal, and bless, and prosper. Happy Thanksgiving, and blessings to you and all those you love.

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2 thoughts on “Looking for a Few Good Words”

  1. Psalm 19, last verse: May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my mind be always pleasing to You, my Rock and my Redeemer”. Thanks Chris for this reflection on words-thought or spoken

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