|Words are everywhere at race tracks such as Dover International Speedway.|
Credit: Beth Bence Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs
“...and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” ~ Hebrews 12:1b
NASCAR is a sport of many, many words. Bold, bright words in all colors and sizes cling to the bodies of racecars. They’re plastered across haulers, too, and affixed to the fabric of caps and firesuits. As the cars zip around the track, blurred words along the outside wall appear on the television screen. The words we can see are usually names of sponsors, drivers, teams or charities. But what about the words we can’t see?
Some racing words are invisible, flying unobserved across airwaves as drivers and crews chat back and forth. This season the unseen words are more restricted, because a rule change limits drivers to radio communication with only their own teams. Each driver can talk with his or her own crew, spotter and team owner, but no one from another race team. The rule may keep drivers more focused, instead of fussing with radio channels, but plenty of words will still be exchanged.
Drivers’ words, your words, my words – they all have an impact on other people. Just like the racecar they adorn, words have power. Words possess a horsepower far greater than a mere engine can deliver. According to scripture, words have the power of life and death:
The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. ~ Proverbs 18:21 (NLT)
That sounds serious, doesn’t it?
Radio chatter gives us a glimpse of how drivers use the power of their tongues. Some have an edge to their voices and begin to spew expletives as soon as things start to go wrong during a race. Others seem to maintain composure and even keep a sense of humor about setbacks.
It’s hard to blame drivers for losing their cool once in a while. When people are stressed, our brains may not filter our mouths as well as we’d like. Think what you or I might say if we were strapped into a 120-degree race car and submitted to the physical and mental stress of a race!
But the sobering thing is that when we’re under pressure, our defenses are lowered, and our words reveal what’s in our hearts. Yeah, ouch. When we harbor negative emotions - like anger, bitterness or jealousy - those things will come out in our words, whether we realize it or not. When hear someone else speaking harsh, critical words, maybe it’s because they’re feeling wounded or unappreciated. You’ve heard the saying, “Hurting people hurt people,” right?
Most of us don’t want to be that pain-in-the-butt person who is always negative, argumentative or defensive. We want to use our words for good. We want to speak words that are helpful, not harmful.
How can we do that?
None of us can do it in our own strength. But with God’s help, we can speak blessing instead of destruction. Kind, gracious words. These kinds of uplifting words come from a heart that is focused on God.
What a blessing to serve a God who loves us all the time, even though our hearts and words are a mess. And the beautiful thing is that when we keep our eyes on Him, we change on the inside, and our words reflect God’s heart instead.
Words can harm or heal. How will you use the horsepower of your words today?
Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. ~ Colossians 4:6 (NASV)
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“Faith on the Frontstretch” appears every 1st & 3rd Wednesday and explores the role of faith in motorsports. Comments or twitter follows welcome: @bbreinke. See you on the Frontstretch!