The Trouble with Toothpaste

I don’t remember a lot about first grade. My teacher was Mrs. Lankford – she had a kind heart and a no- frills personality. She also seemed to be 100 years old, but when I saw her at a wedding recently, she seemed much younger – time and perspective are tricky that way. First grade was the year I began my eraser collection and started reading on my own, and actually now that I’m working on it I can remember several things about that year, but one I remember vividly.   On the back rug of our classroom at Cary Woods Elementary, sitting “criss-cross applesauce”, Mrs. Lankford talked about the power of our words-

“Once you say something, you can’t take it back. It’s like toothpaste – once you’ve squeezed it out of the tube you can’t put it back in.”

She had brought in a tube of toothpaste to demonstrate. And sure enough, she was right – no matter what she did, she couldn’t get that toothpaste back in the tube.

In high school I realized this truth had spiritual implications -  

“And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3 NIV, emphasis added)

God literally spoke the world into being – His words are powerful, weighty, important. I’m no Bible scholar – to be honest, I’ve never read the whole thing – but I do know that throughout scripture we see the importance of words emphasized through covenants, names, birth rights, and psalms - and then, Jesus.

With His words, Jesus heals people (John 5:8), drives out spirits (Mark 1:25), brings the good news, and gives the great commission (Matthew 28:19). He is God on earth, and demonstrates again and again that our words can be life-giving, literally and figuratively. I believe this, I know this, I try to practice this.

One morning recently, my two-year-old got frustrated as she attempted to dress herself. In a moment of irritation, she said something that shocked and scared me. Now, it doesn’t matter what it was, but trust me that it’s not something you want to hear come from your child’s mouth. For the first time as a parent, I felt spiritually attacked. This is not something I say lightly – I usually leave it to more ‘hard core’ Christians to carry the banner for heavy things like spiritual warfare. If I were reading this a few weeks ago, this is probably the point I would check out but stay with me just a minute. Even after we spoke with her teachers, we couldn’t track the source of where she may have heard what she said. The truth is, we know exactly where it came from because our enemy also knows that words have power.

The enemy uses words not to give life, but to take it. His intent is manipulation of the truth and destruction of relationships. He did it in the Garden of Eden and he does it with us every day. Even though I was worried, I found confidence knowing that God is greater and has already won this battle. So we talked with our daughter about good things to say. We’ve prayed for her, out loud. And continue to stand watch over our own mouths knowing that sweet, precious ears are listening. I’m confident that she will hear (and see and feel) how much she is loved and I pray that one day she will use her own words to say, “Here’s my life, Lord.”