When One Word Makes All The Difference

Something happened recently in the preparation, preaching, and aftermath of a sermon that I just have to tell you about.

During a series on the intersection of relationships, faith, and politics, I delivered a message with this as the pointed point: Don’t burn a relational bridge over a political belief.

Yet towards the end of that sermon, in almost an aside, I made this observation under the headline of “please don’t hear what I am not saying.” Here’s how I had prepared it in the manuscript:

Now: before I go on, I want to make sure that you do not hear what I am not saying. Sad to say that some relational bridges actually SHOULD be burned. If you’re involved in abuse, if you are incapable of defending yourself from a manipulator, if you’re the offended party in an adulterous pattern, by all means burn that bridge. Forgiveness in those cases doesn’t – and shouldn’t – involve reconciliation. For your own sake and sanity and even in surrender to the Word, some relational bridges do in fact need to be incinerated.

Now: as some of you know, I write the manuscripts out some eight weeks ahead of delivery. Then on the week of the delivery, I practice the sermon every morning (yes, I call it “practice,” as if I’m still a tennis player). I followed that same routine with this message. But here’s the thing: only on Thursday (my fourth “practice” on the way to noteless delivery) did I notice that I had typed the word “incinerated” for what we should do with those kinds of relationships. When I saw that, I was like “Woah. That’s a strong word. Should I use it?” Then in the next couple of practices I realized that I should.

So on that Sunday of delivering this message, I remembered to use that specific word at all of our services. A word I had overlooked for four days, and yet quite possibly a word the Spirit had given me to give to the people. So in that case, at least, I remembered it and delivered it ver batim.

On the Monday after Sunday’s delivery, I received this email from a woman whom I knew had struggled to disentangle herself from an abusive marriage. Here’s what she said:

During your message yesterday you mentioned “please don’t hear what I am not saying” and went on to describe the relational bridges that should be burned. I loved the passion when you used the word INCINERATED!! So empowering!! I also appreciated you using the word adulterous “patterns.” I believe that marriages can be saved if it is an event and there is true remorse/repair etc…..but when it is a pattern….hmmmmmmmmmmm

Again, while I appreciate this series and the content so much, that particular part was exactly what I needed to hear to reset my thoughts/emotions to push forward…triggering me to remember the “why” and how strong I am and was to leave a situation so abusive emotionally.

I actually created a snippet of that portion from the video and will play it when I feel like I need a reminder.

So thanks for helping to preserve my sanity!!

One word helps preserve sanity.

One word empowers.

One word that I almost forgot but God helped me remember makes all the difference.

Imagine the difference the right word at the right time can make in your preaching.