Wretched groans of despair spew from an upstairs bedroom. Cries for help mingle with guttural moans of disgust. Big sister arrives on scene to evaluate the situation. “What is that???” she gasps. “I don’t know!” the room’s occupant replies. “That is just disgusting!!! What are you going to do?” sister asks. “It’s all over the bathroom and my bed. I can’t stay here!” the other declares. “I’ll never sleep in my room again!”
Mysterious noises travel through the ceiling to my office, where I listen in delight, knowing exactly what it is. What is she doing up there? Her desperation escalates as the reality of the substance gains significance. Suddenly across from me, she pleads through eyes and mouth. “Mother, what am I going to do????” Keeping a straight face takes everything I’ve got. She shows me the source of her distress.
“Wow! Do you think it’s a rat? It must be really huge to leave droppings that large! I thought I heard scuffling above me earlier today when you all were gone. I wasn’t sure what it was. I know now!” Somehow my words don’t reassure. Disgusted by thoughts of an unwanted roommate, she sits defeated. She even touches one.
“Gross! Now you need to disinfect your hands with alcohol!” I insist.
She disappears. Moments later, passing through the kitchen, there she stands over the kitchen sink, spray bottle in hand, disinfecting. Self control expiring, it’s time to let her in on the scheme. Just then, she sees it. More droppings scattered in the kitchen sink. Suspicion registers.
“Mother, how is it in the sink too?” she asks.
Gig’s up. Time to confess. Where is the sister behind the prank, anyway?
The story comes out. Peeking in the smoking oven, temptation triumphs. A casualty of the day’s lunch becomes fodder for a sister’s sly schemes. Pine nuts, when burnt, distinctly resemble rat poop. Sprinkled on bathroom granite and a fluffy bedspread, they become convincing evidence of an unwanted occupant. Relief floods the victim as she falls to the floor, tears of joy pooling as she realizes the excrement is actually an edible pod. In the face of overwhelming gratitude, revenge doesn’t even register.
How do we handle things that appear one way but in reality are something else entirely? Do we take time to investigate before reacting? Proverbs 14:15 instructs, “The simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps.” Are we careful to dig a little deeper than the obvious? Pine nuts posing as rat droppings are harmless. Decisions based on errant assumptions pose a much greater threat and can cause harm. I think about gossip. The things we hear from others. The things we believe based on what we hear. Conclusions we make. Annoyances we allow to cloud our vision of others in ignorance of the actual root. The things we chose to share.
The book of Proverbs provides an abundance of wisdom on speech, whether it’s what we hear or what we say. It’s been our focus during morning Bible study with my girls this last month. What is pleasing to the Lord? What does He hate? He sets a high standard. How are we doing? When we look in the mirror of scripture, what do we see? Shortcomings. I see a role model and mentor whose need for God’s grace and transformation is clearly reflected in the habits and behaviors of her children. The habits of their tongues.
I hear it in the comments we make about what someone is wearing. The hairstyle they choose. The color. We like it. We don’t like it. A decision someone made, and for some reason, we don’t agree. Something someone said, and for some reason, we take offense. A way someone acts, and for whatever reason, we feel we need to evaluate them. Tasty tidbits on the tongue. Harmless banter, right? People watching. Criticizing what we’ve heard and seen. Who doesn’t do it? But is it really our place to comment? To even think it?
Matthew 7:2-5 clearly admonishes:
For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Am I measuring out what I want to be measured to me? Really, am I ever plank-free? Is there ever a time when there’s absolutely nothing unrighteous in me, and therefore, I am free to examine others and take specks from their eyes? I seriously doubt it!
Thank You, Holy Spirit, for raising my level of alert. Thank You for the elbow when the thought is about to exit the lips. Jab harder. Better yet, deal with my thoughts in such a way that they produce words of life. “Death and life is in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Prov. 18:21). Let the fruit of my tongue be life. A feast from which I and others gorge.
I think I’ll make this the first of a series. Actually, it’s sort of the second in the series. “My Wicked Tongue” was really the beginning, but then God took the next posts in a different direction. I think I’ll call the series “Curing Loose Tongue Syndrome.” LTS for short. It is a serious malady. A cancer. We must take aggressive measures to eradicate it from ourselves and our families!
The disease and antidote are embodied in Proverbs 10:19: “In the multitude of
words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”
The first symptom: a wicked heart. It’s remedy: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10).
Today’s symptom: a critical tongue. It’s remedy two…well, it’s actually a few rules by which we can live.
LTS Rule #1: Criticism is welcome when perfection is achieved.
LTS Rule #2: No one is perfect. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
LTS Rule #3: “What is desired in a man is kindness” (Prov. 19:22).
Together, let’s practice these rules as we become more wholly His today.