Yesterday I got copies of minutes from a meeting. There was nothing that I was surprised with necessarily, but for some reason the minutes made me angry. There was something about seeing this person's interpretation of the meeting written down as the official word of the committee that gave it more power than a simple conversation. And her take on the meeting and what was said was not inaccurate at all, nor was it mean-spirited. But there was something about seeing her words in writing that made what happened an official set back to what others of us were trying to accomplish, instead of simply a potential set back.
There is a power to putting something in writing. There was a lot of things that were done by word of mouth and tradition in the ancient world. But when God wanted to get the point of the Ten Commandments down, he wrote them in stone. There is a reason for that. Putting them in writing made them official and unchanging.
This power is true in all of our individual lives. When we put our signature on a contract, that has very real power over us and our lives. I can sometimes remember compliments, but I still have notes of encouragement that people have given me from 10-15 years ago. And while I can sometimes analyze a conversation or a phone call, I read and re-read a letter. Or even some of the comments and posts of people who read this blog.
I have had two of my grandmothers die in the last month and a half. My great-grandmother Pearl sent my birthday card to me on a "Congratulations" card, and I recieved it two days after her death. The first sentence, "You know I love you and did not want to forget you on your birthday!" It had so much power as I read it--the whole letter in the card--because it was the last words she said to me and I had them in writing to read and re-read over and over again.
My paternal grandmother had a slower decline in her health, so I did not have quite the same experience. But she would also send letters and card to me, usually when she saw a newspaper article about a church or the Portland Trailblazers in the Oregonian that made her think of me. I would recieve those notes, and read them several times. Sometimes they were more serious and newsworthy about family and friends, other times more humorous. But she always shared how interested she was in our lives, how much she loved us and missed us, and that she was proud of the things we accomplished. And those cards would sit on my table or desk for several weeks and I would read and re-read them as well.
So, remember the power of words. As you speak them, and especially in this context as you write them. (Not that all of this is directed at anyone, it is just something I have been thinking about lately.)