“Love you, girl!” I hung up the phone with the words still ringing in my ears and swallowed hard the lump in my throat. I realized I had hung up without acknowledging those words and, worse yet, without returning them. Now I could not swallow hard enough to squelch the regret at holding back those three little words that say so much. The conversation had been intense as I was trying to work through a difficult situation and I desperately needed the help and encouragement offered by a dear friend, but I did not want to her to hear the unsteadiness in my voice and so I said nothing.

The weight of those unspoken words lingered with me throughout the day. I remembered my dear friend Kristen; she had said those same words when we last hung up the phone. That time I had easily returned them. Little did I know how I would treasure those simple words spoken by a friend who left this world suddenly only 24 hours later. And I cannot think of words left unspoken without thinking of those that lingered unsaid, unuttered, and unexpressed between me and my husband. Unspoken words that I will never get to say – or hear. Unfortunately, there are countless others – words not spoken often enough to those that live nearby or those that technology has brought within easy reach. Those simple words – I’m sorry, I forgive you, and the most powerful of all: I love you – speak volumes. They are the words we most often want our loved ones to carry with them into eternity. “I love you” – words that I whispered to my son as he took his last breath when there were no others to say. I was glad for that moment with him, but we don’t always have the privilege of a final goodbye and it is the words left unspoken that haunt our hearts.

And then there are the numerous good intentions – simple acts of kindness that show I care – with which I never follow through. So often they remain forgotten or left undone because I have allowed the unimportant to interrupt them. Many years ago I copied quote that read, “It is difficult to say who do you the most harm: enemies with the worst intentions or friends with the best.” I had hoped that by putting those words before me I would remember the effects of my undone deeds, but sadly many of my best intentions still never find root in action.

We all know the old nursery rhyme about sticks and stones and words that never hurt us, but we also know the reality that words wound and deeds do not have to be violent to hurt; simple actions – a turned back, a shut door, an angry gaze – can cut the heart like a knife. However we forget that words left unspoken and deeds left undone can injure just as profoundly as those spoken and done in anger or childlike foolishness.

Proverbs 15:23 speaks of the value of words spoken in season, but we must remember that seasons pass. Although by God’s grace we not asked to carry the guilt of those words left unspoken and deeds left undone, perhaps we can allow the wounds we have inflicted upon others to prick us deeply enough to remember and to pray earnestly for grace to do better.

Precious Heavenly Father, please guard the words that I speak that they would not wound but grant me the grace to speak when I should and the grace to act when it is within my power that the words I speak and the deeds  I do would bring glory to you and bloom as bouquets of flowers in the hearts of those I love.