Earlier this month I had the honor and privilege of speaking at a fundraising dinner. I think there were between three and four hundred people in attendance. Even though my little talk was only about five minutes long, I was very nervous leading up to the event. I wanted to convey the message well, and I didn’t want there to be regrets over choosing me for the task.
As I closed up my remarks and headed back to my table, I passed the leader of the organization and he spoke only one word to me, “Perfect,” he said. Now, I’m not so delusional to think that the word “perfect” actually applied, but how affirming to hear it! C.S. Lewis said, “Isn’t it funny the way some combinations of words can give you–almost apart from their meaning–a thrill like music?” (The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves) Words have such power, and words of affirmation, no matter your dominant love language, are gifts to be treasured.
Yet so often that treasure is withheld. I have a friend who called her parents with exciting news, longing for a few supportive words, maybe even a congratulations. Instead she faced questions and discouragement. I have another friend who craves the praise and approval of her mother, yet no matter how much others recognize the daughter’s gifts and accomplishments, she endures the nagging silence of her own mother.
Choosing the right words is not always easy. As C.S. Lewis said, “to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that’s the whole art and joy of words.” (Till They Have Faces) There is a special satisfaction in hearing those artful, musical, well-chosen words. There is also joy in speaking them on those rare occasions we stumble upon them, but maybe beyond the art and the music people just need to be affirmed. Is there someone in your life who could really use an encouraging word, even if it isn’t eloquent?
And as for the “perfect” comment I received, it was an undeserved shot in the arm, but it also symbolized a spiritual principle much weightier than any five-minute speech. After all, if you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, flawless is how your Heavenly Father sees you. The blood of Jesus covers every wrong thing you’ve ever done, and to quote one of my all-time favorite songs, The Power of the Cross, the blood of Jesus even covers “every bitter thought.” How incredible to think that the Creator of the Universe looks at you and at me, and lovingly declares us, “PERFECT!”