I sit eye to eye with him, watching as little facial features tighten up in frustration. Trying in vain for the third time to tell his story, my four-year-old friend mumbles a tired, “Oh, nebah-mine,” shoulders slumping out a sigh.
I feel a mutual loss as the fragile thread of connection is broken in that moment.
As a school based speech-language pathologist, I have the honor of sitting in the holy space of struggle with children of all ages. We work together to find the right words and then to say them in the right ways.
No matter the disorder, the main goal of my therapy is to help students connect with others better. Humans are wired, heart and mind, for connection. Language is a thought wrapped in speech that connects us with others. If used as designed, one word connects to another and another, creating a beautiful dance of connection between two hearts.
Ironically, I need help just as much as my students.
Yes, that’s right. I suffer from spiritually disordered speech that causes disconnection with those around me.
Here’s how it manifests: In times of exhaustion my patience is depleted and words are driven out in sarcastic harshness. I allow anger and bitterness to withhold words that could bring restoration and instead spit out painful barbs. My rampant selfish pride colors words, creating distance and hurt. And if I’m not careful, negative criticism sharply slices through relationships.
After years of training and experience I should have perfect speech. But nothing in my professional bag of tricks will work.
For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6:45)
The heart is deceitful above all things . . . (Jeremiah 17:9)
The root of all spiritual speech disorders lies within the heart. And it frustrates me that the abundance of my heart doesn’t always attract life giving connection.
Words spoken from a heart that is disconnected from God can result in small moments of death, not life.
Aren’t we all in need of spiritual speech therapy?
When we seek daily connection with God our speech reflects an intimacy that draws us to others. Time spent with Him has a therapeutic effect on all our relationships.
We learn to say the right words: Left unconnected, our deceived and uninformed hearts pick and choose words that serve self first. But hearts connected to God wisely choose words that serve Him first.
We learn to say the right words in the right way: Connection with God will not only help us choose our words more carefully, they will be more likely to reflect an attitude of Christ. This kind of heart speaks gently, in love, and with self-control. Tones are kind and patient, couched in ways that honor all involved.
I’ve learned that it helps to mentally check the state of my heart when faced with especially wordy situations: times of conflict, family dinners, ministry situations, carpool time, even date nights.
Or basically any other time I’m connecting with a human.
Words are a direct reflection of the one who controls the heart. When we speak life and light into our broken world, it brings the connection our soul craves and the glory God deserves.
What disorders in your speech are you willing to let God diagnose? How does connecting with God first, improve your connection with others?