Softening Photos and Words
Last year I took a photo of a cactus in bloom. The flower was a bright, crisp and beautiful yellow. Today, I took that photo and softened the image as you see above. That process sparked something in my spirit about softness and the need we often have for it. Sometimes in photos, often in life.
I love sharp, crisp, clear photos. Blurry ones drive me crazy because I can’t see what I was trying to capture. I wear glasses because I want to see the world around me clearly. I write and want to communicate clearly. I want to communicate clearly – not sharply! There is a difference.
Speak in a Way That Will Enable Others to Hear
As I continued to ask God what He was saying to me about softness, I headed to the online dictionary. The second definition for soft was this – having a pleasing quality involving a subtle effect or contrast rather than sharp definition. There it was – having a pleasing quality or subtle effect rather than ‘sharp.’
Soft Words are Not Watered Down Words
As a young Christian, I remember being ‘sharp.’ Sharp with my judgments, words, and responses to people. Black and white. I tended to think that the line between right and wrong was so sharp and deadly as to instantly send you to hell if you got it wrong! I know that many people believe there is no grey area in living the Christian life. I understand that and agree. And, I can apply that to myself. I cannot demand it of others. Jesus did not demand, He gave choices. However, I’m not talking about grey – I’m talking about grace.
Grace isn’t a grey area, it’s an area where the ‘sharp’ has been softened to allow for imperfection. No, I’m not talking about watering down the gospel. Again, I’m talking about grace.
Jesus had grace for those, like His own disciples, who didn’t get it right the first, second or third time. Sometimes they were incorrigible knuckleheads! They tried to keep children away from Jesus, lied about who they were even as Jesus was dying, argued about who was going to get to sit next to Jesus in heaven and be the greatest, and sometimes just didn’t get it at all. Jesus commented to them about their failure to realize who He even was at times. However, He continued to love them and be an example. He continued even to death.
Jesus Had a Way of Being Soft That Made Him Indestructible!
We definitely have to define right and wrong, good and bad, and set boundaries in our own lives. However, a boundary can be a beautiful white picket fence or concertina wire with exploding grenades! My boundaries are for me. I can’t take my boundaries and build them around you against your will.
Jesus had a way of being ‘soft’ that made Him indestructible! That’s what the Pharisees could never figure out. They thought He was just ‘soft.’ Because He had a pleasing quality and a subtle effect, they took it to be weakness. How wrong they were. “Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52 He was not soft; He was wise. Those who are truly wise do not need to shout and be sharp. They have no need to pierce you with their grand speech. Jesus took the piercing on behalf of all. He took the piercing of death and turned it into life.
We can use our words either way – for death or for life. When the Living Word (Jesus) pierces our heart, it releases life. When our words, borne of judgment and self-righteousness, pierce others, they release death.
We are pierced by the Word – “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.’ Hebrews 4:12. Here, Paul was talking about entering into God’s rest. It was God’s Word, exposing our need, that would allow us to finally find that rest! It was not Paul’s sharp rebukes or judgments. It’s the power of God’s word – not my ‘sharp’ words. I can use that sword to defeat my enemy the devil. The Word clearly states that our war is NOT against flesh and blood.
Wisdom is Not About Setting Each Other Straight
When you really look at what Jesus wanted His followers to do, there was nothing about setting each other straight! Love, obey, keep the ten commandments, love, follow, make disciples, and share your testimony. James says this, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” It’s really very simple.
I am a Christian. I don’t really have to tell anyone about it. If they ask, I will gladly tell them what I believe and why. I’ve had many situations in my life where I said nothing about my belief, but those around me knew by the way I conducted myself. We developed a relationship and then I could share with them based on that relationship. Relationship created softness because of caring. When there is no caring, the words can become sharp and harmful. God’s sword heals because it is made of love.
Speak Softening Words
Jesus spoke to the people in the ways they could understand. He was patient and kind, caring and filled with grace. He gave them time to understand. For instance, He never berated Zaccheus, the rich tax collector who climbed up a tree just to get a glimpse of Jesus. He didn’t order him down out of the tree; didn’t make fun of him for being up there; and, did not command him to bow down and worship. Instead, Jesus looked up in the tree and said, “Zaccheus, hurry down from that tree because I need to stay at your house tonight.” John 19:5b. His love spoke. Mercy triumphed over judgment.
Soft words are powerful. They can have a subtle effect. They are most often far more effective than sharp and harsh words. Why? Because words spoken softly are borne out of a deep caring – caring more for the recipient than the giver. Speak softening words. Speak carefully. Speak based on love.