7.14.2018

A Confession. And a (hopefully long) Closure.

When I was a freshman in college, I was looking out the window of a friend's dorm room and made a comment about someone walking below. My friend looked up, locked eyes with me, and said, "You have a critical spirit." And then, she put her head back in her book and kept right on reading. I was stunned. What had I said? Nothing extreme or inappropriate, nothing different than what a hundred other women/girls had said before. Why the rebuke then? 
It took me quite some time to figure it out. Time in the Word. Time in prayer. Time in silence. And time bathing in the humiliation that brings about humility.
One of my (many) life verses during my college years was this beauty:
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Psalm 141:3
I had it written on my mirror in dry erase marker. I had it written on a note card ring that I carried with me at all times. I highlighted it in my Bible. I repeated it to myself over and over and over. And yet, even then, I drove a steamroller through the door and shot the guard more times than I care to admit.

I know I am not alone. I have listened to countless messages and sermons, read dozens of books, heard several testimonies, and watched women sob on my couch ... each one confessing embarrassing moments of gossip, meddling in the business of others, slandering someone, making wrong judgments in ignorance, or carelessly saying something that cannot be unsaid.
And relationships were either damaged or destroyed.

What do they all have in common? Lack of self-control and pride. 
Not thinking before speaking.
Not praying before thinking or speaking.
Not asking the right questions or enough questions to make sure all of the facts have been presented.
Not listening with the intent of understanding.
Not prayerfully pondering before answering.
Not asking if it is public or private knowledge or if it can be shared.
Not confessing, repenting and seeking forgiveness immediately after doing one or all of the above.
And the list goes on.

Almost 30 years have passed since I stood looking out of that dorm room window, but the sting of those words feels as fresh as if it took place just moments ago. And I am thankful because I need to feel the sting often to remind me that I will never have full control over my tongue this side of heaven.
I will always need to pray for wisdom and discretion to know when to speak and when to be silent.
I will always need to remember that "when words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." (Proverbs 10:19)
I will always have to remember that what is said and what is heard do not necessarily match. 
And I will always have to remember that though it may not be my intent, I can hurt, offend, and wound someone deeply with the words that spill out of my mouth.

Praise the Lord - PRAISE THE LORD! - for His forgiveness and grace when I fail to remember and walk in disobedience.
And Praise Him - PRAISE HIM! - that others are willing to offer that same forgiveness and grace when I fail them.

After a long two days bowed low before the Lord because of this very sin, He reminded me of this wonderful writing by a woman I admire and respect. Because I know how feisty she was and have read her personal confessions about this same struggle, I was encouraged with the thought that maybe, just maybe, I will one day discover that my teeth are rarely needed to bite my tongue. Not because I will have mastered the art of controlling it, but because I will have handed over the reigns to the One who is Master of all.

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When to Keep Your Mouth CLOSED.
- Elisabeth Elliot
In the Heat of Anger
-Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools. Ecclesiastes 7:9
-Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge. Proverbs 14:7

When You Don't Have All the Facts
-He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him. Proverbs 18:13
-The first to present his case seems right, until another comes and examines him. Proverbs 18:17

If Your Words Will Offend a Weaker Brother
It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Romans 14:21

When You are Tempted to Joke About Sin
Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is favor. Proverbs 14:9

When You Would be Ashamed of Your Words Later
For my mouth will speak truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are with righteousness; nothing crooked or perverse is in them. Proverbs 8:7, 8

When You are Tempted to Make Light of Holy Things
Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God.
For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few.
For a dream comes through much activity, and a fool’s voice is known by his many words.
Ecclesiastes 5:2, 3

When You are Feeling Critical
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 
Ephesians 4:29

If Your Words Would Convey a Wrong Impression
He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Proverbs 17:27

When You are Tempted to Tell an Outright Lie
Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Proverbs 4:24

If Your Words Will Damage Someone's Reputation or Spread Gossip
An ungodly man digs up evil, and it is on his lips like a burning fire.
A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends. Proverbs 16:7, 8 

If You Cannot Speak Without Yelling
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. Proverbs 25:28

When You are Tempted to Flatter a Wicked Person
It is not good to show partiality in judgment.
He who says to the wicked, “You are righteous,”
Him the people will curse; nations will abhor him.
But those who rebuke the wicked will have delight,
And a good blessing will come upon them. Proverbs 24:23-25


When You are Supposed to be Working Instead
In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23

When It is Time to Listen 
-Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.
James 1:19
-If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. Proverbs 18:13
-A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. Proverbs 18:2

Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from trouble. Proverbs 21:23

Imagine if we all followed such wisdom.
The world would be much quieter, and we could fill the silence with encouragement and praise!

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