Wednesday, October 21

Just Shut Up.

Image by Mateus Lundari Dutra via Flickr
The waitress, overhearing part of the conversation at our table, piped up as she brought our meals, "Oh, I heard about that event from people at my church!"

We smiled and engaged her in small talk about the event, but grew quiet after she left.  

We were each thinking the same thoughts:  What part did she overhear? Did she hear us gushing about the myriad of positive things that took place? Or..., did she hear us lapse into complaining as we recounted a few of the negative remarks made to us by a tiny percentage of people in the midst of an otherwise wonderful experience?  

Did we just become the very people we were complaining about? 

UGH. UGH. UGH.  

I laid awake that night praying about my unruly tongue and asked the Lord to forgive me for letting it flap in a way and a place that was not only unbecoming to myself but, more importantly, was unbecoming as a representative of Him.

Isn't it interesting that it is always the moment in which we start to feel as though we've got it all figured out that we stumble by saying or doing the very same something we so smugly accused another of doing?

Oh, how I wish words were a tangible thing, that I might reach out and grab them back even as I hear my voice still echoing in my ears.

It is so easy to shift into gossip, into complaints, into words that tear apart instead of building up.  After all, its what we see and hear on TV, read online and witness in our general culture; it has become the default for so much of the communication we see around us. 

In the face of these cultural norms, it takes constant guarding, constant thought before we open our mouths and let the words spill out. 

I know I'm not alone in this struggle. The third chapter of James says this about our tongues:

5-6 It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.

7-10 This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth! James 3:5-10 (MSG)

I alone control whether I am going to wield my tongue as a weapon to hurt and destroy or as an opportunity to bless and build up. And sometimes, some days, it's best if I just shut up. 

Lord, help us to recognize, before the words spill, those moments in which we are about to engage in a conversation we will regret. Help us to measure our thoughts, measure our words and to hold back that which is not helpful and kind. Help us to handle our tongue in a way that reflects you. And, in those moments when we want so badly to complain or gossip or speak hurtful words, well, help us to just shut up.  Amen.


   

 

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