I call it bread-crumbing. It’s a word I made up. It’s the way we tend to communicate with each other most often. It’s the way we speak in codes, hints, and facial expressions. We desperately want the other person to notice us, to know what we need, but we leave them only a thin trail of bread-crumbs to find us. When they fail to see the trail, or the sweep aside the bread-crumbs (saying to themselves, “Who left this laying here?!”), we feel hurt and abandoned. But there’s another way.
In the same way, unless you use your tongue for intelligible speech, how will what is spoken be known? For you will be speaking into the air. (1 Cor. 14:9 NLT)
In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul addresses the spiritual gifts of speaking in tongues and prophesy. I’m not going to get into all of that here, but I am going to pick up the heart of his message. It’s better to speak words that matter than words that don’t matter. I’m not sure why that’s so hard, but it is. We want to matter. Why can’t we use the words that lead us to it?
What are you not saying that you really need to? When we finally get around to saying the words we need to say, we’re usually angry. Tired of our trail of bread-crumbs being ignored and not followed, we finally say the words we wanted to say all along. Only, by then we’re saying those words at full volume and drive the one we need further away from us instead of closer. As they walk away, we feel even more abandoned, hurt, and angry. We present our need as an attack, not an invitation. We turn to blame- “Why can’t you see me?!” However, we never really revealed ourselves to them until now. And even if we do speak softly and in humility, if they don’t immediately respond in kind, we go immediately back to our anger. We’re a cactus screaming for a hug and can’t understand why they turn away.
The truth is we’re scared. Scared of rejection. Scared of not mattering. Scared to open ourselves up to vulnerability. Except that’s where all the connection happens. We long for safety and security but want them to do all the work. Paul says it’s our job to create the context for change to happen. Paul said he would rather speak five words that matter than 10,000 that don’t (1 Cor. 14:19).
What brings others to us is an invitation. Not a veiled invitation but a solid, clear invitation that holds the promise of connection. It says, “Here I am. This is something true about me. This is where I am. Where are you? What is that like for you? Can we talk about this?” That kind of communication leaves the bread-crumbs in the pantry, instead offers a steak dinner with the promise of desert. Who doesn’t want that?
May you lean into vulnerability to reveal yourself to the one you long for. May you set aside your fear and desperation to speak words of truth, love, and invitation.
Aron Strong, LMFT, was a pastor for more than a decade before transitioning to professional counseling. He is the director of Pathways Counseling in Murfreesboro and writes daily devotionals at www.biblebreakfast.club. He has been married for nearly 20 years, has a young son, two dogs and two cats.