Contend Earnestly: Phrase Abuse: Part I

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Phrase Abuse: Part I

I don't know about you but I use some phrases without really thinking about what I am saying. Some of them are shared with society and Christendom and some are just my own terrible usage and abuse of them. I like to point these things out to portray my true self for the use of repentance and also to hopefully open the eyes of our filthy selves to see how brutal we can be at times. Today I will put up some of the terms that I say flippantly and then will turn the tables to point out some that the evangelical community abuses too often.

The first term that I abuse often is the simple, "How you doing?"

Honestly, I really don't care how you are doing. I am just being nice so that there isn't that awkward silence as you walk by someone in the halls. Whether in church or at work as I pass by people I simply smile and ask, "How you doing?" and then I keep walking hoping that they simply say, "good". I should simply say, "hello" so not to give the thought that I care how one is doing as I hurriedly go about my day and the tasks that I have at hand. Because when someone surprises me with an "okay" and are noticeably upset, instead of stopping and speaking with them, I just smile and keep going like I am on speed in need of my next fix.

Instead of changing my phrase, I need to change my attitude and understanding of my role in the scheme of God's plans. I need to be ready to stop what I am doing and speak to the person who is not really okay, but is in need of a gracious ear. The problem is I really don't care for the person, but I need to start. I know this sounds brutal and blunt, but you know you do the same thing but you are just pasting your smile on your face and faking it. :)

As I start my day, I need to simply pray that God would use me how he would want me. I need to expect my day and my running to the bathroom to be interrupted with a real person with real problems. I need to not only do this, but I need to even ask the question, "How you doing?" with sincerity in my voice so that the one that I would usually trample over on the way to Starbucks has the sense that I really want to know how they are doing.

So, the next time you see me and I ask, "how you doing?" shock me and say, "okay" to see if I respond or walk by like a dog getting a stick without a care for you. I pray that I will actually care, but I can't make crazy promises like that yet.

The second phrase that I abuse way too often is, "I'll pray for you"

If you get me to actually stop and talk to you, which is difficult, and you have some things that need to be prayed for, I will definitely tell you, "I'll pray for you". I have to be honest. I probably won't. This just what I say so that I look spiritual. I mean I am supposed to be spiritual. I preach, teach, write, I am a lay leader and the youth director at our church. If I were to actually tell you, "I hope that works out for you" you would probably look at me like you would if you saw a republican helping the poor or a democrat caring about an unborn baby. (sorry, I love potshots) The spiritual thing at this point in the conversation isn't "I'll pray for you" but "Can I pray with you right now?" I speak to many people who tell me many things that need prayer and I can't possibly remember them all. So, I just lie and tell them that I will pray for them and then go about my day that will definitely involve reading about theology and ministry and forgetting about the theology and ministry that is happening right in front of me.

I know this sounds just brutal. But, if you read this blog at all, you know I am honest. This is something that bothers me a lot with myself. I need to be diligent in keeping a prayer journal and regular and sporadic prayer times. I need to act like an Arminian and believe that if I don't pray that God can't do anything. I need to believe that if I don't pray then then the hand of God can't move. I need to be that diligent, but sadly I am not. I actually, in practice, become a fatalist. Which sucks.

So, how do I fix this? I need to really stop at any point and simply ask the person if we can pray right then and there. Yes, my coffee might get cold, but prayer is much more important and if God predestined my coffee to get cold, whom am I to stop it? I also need to keep a pen and paper with me to write down prayer requests as people ask. I then need to continue to pray for them and ask for updates to the prayer requests. How odd would it be if someone asked me to pray and I actually did! Not only that, but I followed up with them to see what God's answer was to our praying together. This would seem that this would only make our relationships stronger, but would also make our understanding of prayer and the sovereignty of God more accurate. We could weep together, take joy together or just wait for God's answer together.

These are my two most abused phrases that I personally use. I know they are brutal and probably make you respond in either laughter or "I can't believe he just admitted that!" Either way, I hope that you will actually pray for me in these areas and not just tell me your on your way to getting your latte.

Let me know also what your most abused phrases are and we can all start praying that we take every thought captive and not just spout off whatever rolls off the tongue.


Anonymous said...

I commend you for your honesty. We often say things without much consideration about their implications. It has helped me to follow the old addage:

Say only what you mean, and mean that which you say.


Anonymous said...

Your over used phrases are so spriitual...mine is "freaking" as in "what is Bob's freaking problem, why doesn't he just grow up and love Jesus." :)

Anonymous said...

It looks like Seth is preaching to himself again. You obviously know this to be a good thing. Is this a resolution of sorts Whatever the case, I also commend you for it because it got me to thinking about those words or phrases I abuse. "I'll pray for you" is one of those with good intentions for me but I could never remember to pray for everyone I tell so. So I need to carry some sort of small tablet with me for when I do have a quiet opportunity to pray I can lift those prayers up to the throne.

One I ashamedly use without thinking sometimes is "Lord willing". Ironically I adopted this phrase in an attempt to be more biblically accurate in reference to future events in my life. ie.. "I will see you this Sunday, Lord willing." But I need to really think about what I am saying. Am I really considering the sovereignty of our God or is it just a verbal cliche'?

Chris Tolbert said...


Can I have my toes back now? You didn't just stomp them, you cut the things completely off! Great post, one that I greatly needed to read (although I can't say I really enjoyed reading it).

Soli Deo Gloria!!

Anonymous said...

Basically, ridiculous, and awesome. Used to the point where the range on each word could mean anything from "I just found a dollar on the floor" to that which is sublime.

Not to worry, though. Soon enough we'll be speaking Newspeak with our INGSOC comrades.

As for dark alleys and hallways, try using more body language. A head nod or some sign of recognition, always with a smile and eye contact.

Or do what I do...
Look down and hope that the nightmare will be over soon.

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