“Gracious Words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”
We all know grace-filled speech, don’t we? Think of an example, quickly. If you can, great! But when I read this question off the leader’s guide at my home group on Sunday, everyone was silent. No one offered a single example with context of gracious words. Maybe they were all filling the “quiet member” role in that moment or all being respectful and letting someone else answer. Maybe they were like me, imagining all of the ungracious things I say to my loved ones, all the ways I can get under their skin and cut the line of communication like too much ice on a telephone wire.
As a beekeeper, I was instantly intrigued with a verse that I hadn’t noticed before. In the 16th chapter of Proverbs, I’ve probably skimmed over it a time or two. I remember specifically a day after staring at my streaking hair in the mirror, desperately needing to find that verse about gray hair being a crown of glory. But I wasn’t a beekeeper then, and I didn’t really like honey all that much, so to me, it didn’t hit home. This time it was different. Monday morning the silence and that verse were still on my mind. I did a quick search in my bible concordance to see how often honey and honeycomb are mentioned. I found two entries. Proverbs 16:24 and Song of Solomon 5:1.
As you may well know, Song of Solomon is a love song, and is a conversation primarily between a man and his bride. It is filled with metaphors and euphemisms for intimacy in a relationship. Intimacy that would not be possible without good communication between the lovers.
My home group is currently going through a study about communication between married couples. As I was sitting there trying to think of examples of gracious speech that I’ve used toward my husband, I could think of way more times that I’ve nagged, whined or been cranky with him.
But presented here in front of me was a picture of what excellent communication between a couple can look like. It starts in chapter 4 when the man compares his bride to a garden. This metaphor is extremely rich and deep in meanings from our relationship and communion with God and Jesus redemption of the church. The superficial (on the surface, no fake) meaning is the marital relationship. She produces fruit abundantly (think spiritual fruit here) and her gates are locked (she is pure and reserved). Then, she invites him in — she makes herself vulnerable and available. Which brings us to the opening of chapter 5 and the honeycomb. The husband engages in communion with her and gives us a look at her traits in the following stanzas of verse 1. He says she is spicy! I interpret that to mean interesting (but she probably smelled nice too). She is sweet (pleasant) in her words and her demeanor. And she is comforting and relaxing to be with. Everything about her invited good communication and intimacy in their relationship.
So I turned back to Proverbs with the bride’s image in my mind and expanded my reading to either side of this verse, I found what I was looking for in verses 21-23. “…Sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.”, “Good sense (insight and understanding) is a fountain of life”, “The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious (intelligent)”. The Hebrew words for “good sense” and “judicious” are related. This insight is viewed as God given and provided at his will. And then 25 – 30 provide us first with a warning to not overthink our situations and to value good communication so that we are willing to work for it. Then, we are given a concise list of “To-Don’ts”:
- Digging up evil
- Dishonesty and gossiping
- Picking fights
- Negative body language
These “Communication Killers” are precisely what will extinguish intimacy and communion in any relationship. Conversely, vulnerability, availability, pleasantness and being relaxed and comforting will go far opening up lines of communication.
Getting honeycomb is hard, hot work for the beekeeper and it took the work of thousands of bees to create. It takes discipline and dedication. Just like building and maintaining good communication in a relationship.
Challenge and Application
1. Read and memorize* Proverbs 16:27-30.
2. Make a list of seven ways that you can open up or maintain the lines of communication with your spouse.
It could look something like:
- Don’t ambush them with grievances as soon as they walk in the door
- Keep your topics pure
- Be truthful, yet loving; don’t be manipulative
- Don’t shake your head or cross your arms
- Look them in the eye
- Maintain touch while talking, etc.
Each individual and each couple is unique and will develop their own pattern of communication, so this list is just an example. It can be longer or shorter, and can include good habits that you already have, as well as areas that you need to improve.
3. Pray with me, that we can use these verses as a mirror to see ourselves and create grace-filled speech that invites communication so that we can grow together with our spouses in Christ Jesus.
Be sure to post some of your ideas in the comments so that we can learn from each other!
*At least memorize verses meaning even if you aren’t able to get them perfectly word for word.