As children, we learn to communicate naturally by trial and error. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, gives us a perfect example when Max’s mother calls him “WILD THING!” and Max says, “I’LL EAT YOU UP!” At that point, she sends Max to bed without his supper. Then, as we often do, he sails off in his dreams to another land where Wild Things live. He creates a rumpus until he tires of playing and tells the Wild Things, “Now stop!” Having his boat anchored back home where he is loved and where he can now smell dinner, Max decides to sail back home. The Wild Things cry the statement that Max had meant to say to his mother earlier, “We’ll eat you up—we love you so!”
Do you ever say, “I’ll eat you up,” instead of “I love you so”? I do. Communicating effectively takes practice. It is an area where I struggle and hope to grow.
Great Christian leaders continually improve the ways they communicate with others. The Bible admonishes us to build up one another as we communicate. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” How much grace do we give other people when they communicate ineffectively? How much grace do we need when we say something opposite of what we had intended?
Life for Maurice Sendak was a privilege. The child of a Jewish Polish immigrant, the author and illustrator knew about living far away from his homeland. While living in New York, Maurice’s family got word that their Jewish relatives in Poland had either been killed or taken to concentration camps. The sadness and guilt of living far away from home during the Holocaust surely influenced Sendak’s writing.
Like Max in Sendak’s book, when we feel sad or guilty—having communicated or acted improperly—we need to return to a place where we are fully loved. Hebrews 6:19–20 reminds us, “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Though we have impurities and are not worthy to enter into the “holy of holies,” Jesus has gone there before us and on our behalf.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Claudia Johnson, CWLC Leadership Consultant
Bible verses taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.