I'm doing a Bible study right now called "Me, Myself, and Lies" by Jennifer Rothschild. It's about the self-talk we have, the things we say to ourselves that aren't God's truths and that break us down rather than build us up. It sparked a conversation among some of the ladies about sayings in our families about the things we speak, not to ourselves, but out loud. Like if you say your kid is a holy terror and your mother says: "Don't speak that over her!" Or if you say that you are getting sick, it's: "Don't confess it!" In our family, we talk about not "claiming" things. It's all the same thing. It seems like bad luck to speak evil, or even just potentially uncomfortable, "truths" over your life.
I know some people think this is a form of superstition, but I disagree. Our words definitely have power. In a Toltec wisdom book I once read the author talked about our words being spells and that we are always weaving magic. The only question is whether it is good or bad magic. The Bible puts it like this: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it shall eat its fruits." That is some serious stuff.
So I have a little litany of things I say to my kids on a regular basis. When we are snuggling, I often ask them, "Do you know that you are fearfully and wonderfully made? That you are Mommy's blessing? That Jesus loves you? That you are the best ever you?" There are some variations but you get the general picture. One day I was saying these things to Baby Girl and she nodded sagely and declared, "I'm Baby Girl." It was thrilling. It made my day that she would define herself according to the perfect creation she is in Christ.
It is a practice I started with Eddie. I already was convinced by the time of his birth that the words you spoke over your children had power. Dramatic, tangible power either for good or for evil. And the words spoken over him were, in general, horrific. Sickness, struggle, hopelessness, death. To combat it we made a rule early on that if visitor could not be positive when they came into his room, if they had to cry or scream or carry on, if they could not speak love and hope to him that, sadly, they just could not come in the room. Anyone. Family, friend, pastor, whatever. It was a "love only" zone.
Of course, we could not help what was spoken over him by the medical staff. Some of it, admittedly, was necessary conversation. But I tried to counteract it. After rounds or after an update about his condition, I would tell Eddie he was beautiful. That he was perfect. That God had created him and that he was strong. He was my warrior, mi vida, y mi corazon. I would rock him and ask him: "Do you know how God made you? Daddy had so much love in his heart for Mommy that, if he didn't get rid of some of it, his heart was going to explode. And Mommy had soooo much love in her heart for Daddy that, if she didn't get rid of some of it, her heart was going to explode. So Daddy took half the love in his heart and Mommy took half the love in hers and God put it together and made Eddie. So don't ever forget, my baby, you are made of love. From the top of your head to the tips of your toes and everything in between." I would touch the top of his head, the tips of his toes, and lightly tickle him from head to toe while I said the last part. Even under dire circumstances, it almost never failed to get a smile.
Obviously our words are not magic charms. I could speak health to Eddie's liver all day long (and there are some days I tried) and in the end it would still fail him. But they are powerful and we need to choose them carefully. There will be attacks on my children's self-esteem that I cannot control, but I'm hoping to have filled them with enough knowledge of their perfection in Christ that they survive virtually unscathed. Not that I think my kids are perfect; they make bad choices sometimes, I know. And I'm not perfect either. I tend to call Baby Girl a "toot" but she at this point wears the label with pride. I overheard Baby Boy tell his little sister the other day in a voice that sounded oddly like my own: "I've had it with you today!" So I know I may be weaving a little black magic into their lives. But I'm trying really, really hard not to. Because I know that while my words couldn't heal Eddie, they made his life better. They mattered. In his last hours of life, when he began to grow anxious as his vision faded and who knows what else he experienced, I said to him: "Do you know how God made you?" He relaxed immediately, sinking into my arms, knowing who and where he was and, I think, where he was going.
So I'm going to keep speaking God's truth over my children until they are sick of hearing it. I'm going to tell them that they are fearfully and wonderfully made. That Jesus loves them. That God made them exactly the way that they are and that they are perfect creations in Him. And, while I'm at it, I may go back into their room and say, "You are getting sleepy...sleeeepy....SLLLEEEEEEPPPPYYY!" It's worth a try, right?