I often wish I knew how to respond with life-giving and healing words, so as I read through Colossians the past two days, Colossians 4:6 jumped out at me. During lectio divina, a key moment is when a word or a phrase seems to come off the page and my own heart answers with a little flutter, “Yes, I want to know more.”
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.
The English translation is curious, because the direct suggestion “Let your speech…” seems to be followed by an effect, “so that you…” This didn’t make sense to me—how could I practice a certain kind of speech that would in turn provide knowledge about how to speak? But looking at the Greek, I realized that I was interpreting “gracious” as a human quality, akin to cordial or courteous, or hospitable. These are good qualities for conversing, yet knowing how to practice them appropriately in a given situation is tricky.
Gracious in this context is actually grace, or charis–a divine influence upon the heart. For me, grace is not an obligation, or something earned, or a gold star for good behavior, but the gift of God’s own presence saying, “I love you.”
The text suggests that the first step of speaking is my heart listening to God’s love for me and for the person with whom I am conversing; that speech flowing out of conversation with God, flowing out of a heart itself salted by God’s “I love you,” will be life-giving and tasty.