“The Lord Almighty grant us a peaceful night and a perfect end. Amen.”
I begin again through the Compline liturgy, trying to integrate this ancient practice into my bedtime routine. Praying through these lines each night is new to me, a nod toward the start of a new year and a hope to ward off anxiety and insomnia.
But this ritual doesn’t fit me yet. It still feels awkward and uncomfortable like a twisted nightshirt that binds me up in the night. Each time I pull out the folded paper from my nightstand and pass a finger over the creeds, intercessions, and confessions, my thoughts fix on a different word or phrase as if reading it for the first time. Recently, it was this: “we confess to you, to one another, and to the whole company of heaven, that we have sinned, through our own fault, in thought, and word, and deed, and in what we have left undone.” And I wondered, how have I sinned in word today?
Of course it happened to be the day a friend told me how encouraging my words had been to her. A quickly recorded voice message on Voxer had bolstered her spirit, she said. I had used my words for good, I thought, quite the opposite of sinning through a word spoken or left unspoken. I exhaled, felt my shoulders relax. I began to think about how easy it is to use my words to compliment people or offer them a boost. I write letters, I send emails, I leave messages, I say “Hi” and “How are you?” at the CVS and in the bank drive-through.
I am kind and gentle with my words … most of the time. And when I’m not, when I’m harsh or biting or rude, it’s usually obvious to me. And through the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, and through the daily confession both in Compline and in morning prayer, I keep current with both the ministry and offense of my words.
And so, having worked through those words in prayer, I set aside the niggling that had first given me pause.
Until the next morning.
What if there are other ways to sin “in word” that are far less obvious than simply saying something harsh? And what if using words kindly involves far more than simply saying something nice?