If you hang around any group long enough, you start to pick up their lingo, notice their jargon. The church is no different, and one phrase which has been rattling around my head is “pouring into.” In various places and from various people, I have heard about the need for Christians to pour themselves into those around them. Several of those contexts, come to think of it, have been related to fatherhood and masculinity, but the meaning in the words is bigger than that. In fact, the more I think about it, the more God-centered the concept becomes.
The image which immediately comes to mind is that of a cup being emptied, which, of course, goes back to the old Biblical idea of a drink offering. That, though, is a pouring out, not a pouring in. More often than not, if you are pouring out something, you’re getting rid of it. Regardless of whether that something is tears, secrets, or just expired milk, the pouring is a reductive act. Pouring in, however, is productive. It fills something, enhances something, adds something where nothing existed before. The focus of pouring out is the first container, the one which must be cleaned, emptied. The focus of pouring in is the second container, the one being filled.
God’s very first act in our history was a pouring in: “Now the earth was formless and empty…And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light” (Genesis 1: 2-3). God poured light into the darkness and, significantly, he did it with words. There’s something for us to learn in that, I think. After all, I don’t think God had to speak the light into being. He could have snapped His fingers, or waved a hand, or whistled Dixie, but He chose to use words. Jesus told stories almost more than he did anything else. And while we are all well short of His divinity, those of us who have accepted Christ are heirs of God and can use our words to do good as well.
That where I land with this idea of “pouring in.” To do so in a meaningful way, I need to speak up more. Not in a way which defends something or someone, but with words meant to build someone else up. Maybe it’s just me, but I often think of good things about the people around me, but fail to deliver the compliments aloud. I’m not sure why, but it feels contrary to what’s expected of me socially. Am I afraid of being judged for saying something good? That it will be misinterpreted as sucking-up or as an attempt to get something I want? I don’t know. What I am sure of, though, is that the impulse to hold back has to be the Devil’s work because it only serves to drive me away from others, not bring me closer. Words of truth, spoken in love, will do more to heal this broken world of ours than just about anything else I can think of.
And, so, what I am trying to do is say those good things I would normally not, regardless of any perceived social consequences. I will take the time to tell a good kid’s parent what a great job they’ve done in raising their child. I will slow down and really thank a good waitress for all the soda refills. And I will tell my wife and my son how much they mean to me every, single time I think about it. The words I speak in those moments might not be many, but they might just be the cup of cold water that person needs.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.