Does anyone else ever hear a speaker or read a blog & think “wow they are speaking just to/about me”? Recently I’ve been struggling (well honestly I’ve struggled with this for years but recently it’s consumed me more than usual) the words that come out of my mouth & the thoughts behind them. I’ve been in a women’s bible study at church called Gracepath that is studying through the book of James. In James 3:6-7 it says “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, & is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles & creatures of the sea are being tamed & have been tamed by man but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil full of deadly poison.” Well I don’t know about you but when I read that I couldn’t help but shiver a little to think that my tongue is evil & full of poison set to destory. My tongue has always been my worst enemy. I’m a fiery southern country girl with Irish ancestry & let’s just say I’ve always loved a good fight. I was on the speech & debate team in high school & dreamed of being a lawyer arguing for a living. My quick temper gets me in trouble almost daily & add my type A, independent, always right attitude into the mix & well let’s just say it’s a deadly combination. When my husband & I first got married we had a stressful 1st year of marriage. Now every marriage is hard in the beginning but within 1 year we struggled with a medical diagnosis, death of both our dads, a job loss, & a career change….then add newlywed into the equation & it’s a recipe for disaster. We clung together that 1st year in “survival mode” but the real test came after we celebrated our 1 year anniversary & headed into year 2. I was hurting & depressed and completely loss interest in life. I felt beaten & dead. The evil of my tongue came out as I spit poison on the one person who was within aiming distance, my husband James. Many fights happened during that time & even the “D” word came up one painful night that neither of us will ever forget. I knew how to cut him down & the same for him. Thankfully my job sent me to a Christian counselor (that’s a God story that’s too long to share now but He completely orchestrated that) & she asked James to attend with me. Hands down that changed our marriage because of the invaluable lessons we learned from seeing that counselor. We both learned the power of our tongues & how they can both build someone up & tear them down. Karen Ehman says “Don’t say something permanently painful just because you are temporarily ticked off.” Geez how many times have a done that….sadly too many to count. But here’s the real kicker, many times I don’t actually say it to the person. Instead I’ll say it to myself & stir up anger in my heart towards them. Or I’ll say it to a friend seeking validation or wanting to vent. The single hardest adjustment for me since getting married has been adjusting to being a part of another family. From early on in our dating life I’ve had a rocky relationship with my husband’s family, even in premarital counseling they warned us that although James & I are highly compatible this is an area we would always struggle with & boy were our counselors wise! We have & do struggle with this, seeming on a daily basis. It’s the 1 thing that continually causes stress, anxiety, & arguments between us. In fact to this day we continue to go back to our counselor to work through major issues as they arise. And here’s the deal, my hurt, anger, & resentment has caused me to push them away. My coping mechanism is to shut down, which makes me good during a crisis, but long term it can’t be sustained. This is where my tongue fails me, I either don’t speak at all for fear of what will come out or I speak and the poison oozes out of me. I hate this about me, I hate this struggle, but mostly I hate that I can’t tame my tongue.
But why can’t I? Well it comes back to a heart issue for me. When I’ve been hurt, I shut down but that also means I shut people out. I try so hard to push away the pain & struggle so I don’t have to face the ugliness & uncomfortable feelings that come with conflict. Jeremiah 17:9 says “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it”. I’ve started hosting a women’s bible study in my home on Tuesday nights and week 1 of the study was on the heart & how it deceives us. My heart is full of hurt & anger but especially judgement. Even when I was a little girl my mother would say how carefully I would choose my friends. She praised this as a good thing but I’ve come to realize that it wasn’t. I was judging people & selectively cutting those who didn’t measure up out of my life. Forgiveness & Grace were not lessons I was learning & it has caused (and continues to) a lot of pain and frustration. Recently another “his side of the family” issue arose. I took a small coal, blew some air on it & ignited a huge flame that burned in our house for several days. I wrote my husband an email telling him all the things he should be doing & saying. Yes the vile poison came flowing out of my body as quickly as I could type. But the Holy Spirit stirred within me & I immediately felt convicted about my attitude and my motives behind them.The Bible reminds us that we shouldn’t “let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths (or fly from our typing fingertips), but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.” I responded not long after with a “never mind”. But being the gracious loving man that he is, who totally “gets” me, he did respond but in a thoughtful email response to me questioning my motives. And you know what ladies, he was right. “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul & healing to the bones” Proverbs 16:24. God was already moving in my evil sinful heart but his sweet words brought healing to my soul & quenched the fire that was blazing inside. I couldn’t help but laugh this week as I went to church on Sunday and the message was about being at peace with one another, Romans 12:18 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Then on Tuesday for my home bible study the lesson was on “control issues” & how God is continually shaping our lives for His purpose. She asked the question “are you a blessing or a burden, a challenge or comfort to others?” Ouch I had to admit that I felt like a burden & a challenge towards my husband’s family. And today the lesson was on wisdom “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial & sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness”-James 3:17-18. Our speaker talked about how worldly wisdom creates disharmony & asked if we were judging people based on our own agenda. Hmm yup guilty. Finally my daily devotional from Proverbs 31 ministries was titled “seasoned with snark or laced with grace” talking about how the the sweetness or bitterness of our words will be determined by what our hearts drink in each day. The bible tells us that out of the overflow of our heart our mouths speak. So if I drink in God’s word everyday, His love can’t help but come out. But since poison was coming out of my mouth, that meant I was choosing to drink from a bitter cup. I couldn’t help but say, “Ok God are you speaking to me? It seems like you’re trying to get my attention. What are you wanting from me?” His answer, a “heart shift”, as we say in bible study.
But what does that look like for me? Controlling my judgements & showing grace, speaking sweetness instead of poison to others with my words, & being at peace with others which means embracing rather than closing myself off. Boom done! Right? I’m a type A so give me a 3 part step instruction & I’m good. A little grace + humility = peace. That’s easier said then done but I can feel the not so subtle nudging of the Holy Spirit telling me it’s time for change. The last 2 years in January, I’ve taken time to pray & ask God about the coming year. This year He told me was the “year of change”. I didn’t know what that meant but I was excited because I thought we would finally be moving into the country home we’ve dreamed about. But that dream was shot down early on & instead I’ve been bombarded with difficult people & situations but also perfectly timed messages via sermons/blogs/books/friends that speak to me in the moment. God is teaching me how to respond in those moments & to those people with wisdom & grace. Chapters of my life are ending & new ones opening. Friendships are changing, some ending & some mending. I feel an electricity in the air as I sense the change all around me. I’m beginning to look for His teaching in the everyday moments & listen to the instructions I’ve been receiving. And He sure is talking a lot. My heart is being changed & challenged. It’s not an easy road to travel & I know I will fail (a lot) because I’m human & well full of sin. But He is the potter & I’m the clay. He’s used my past to smash me & my pride into a little formless ball but He loves me to much to leave me like that. Now I can feel His gentle hands building me back up & molding my character. He’s slowly smoothing out the rough edges & turning me into His masterpiece. It’s a life long molding & shaping only to be completed when I leave this world and see Him face to face in Heaven. This in fact is the year of change all right, but not the way I expected. It’s the year God has chosen to change my innermost being & mold me into the Christlike woman He is calling me to be. It’s scary, overwhelming, & I’m afraid that it won’t “take” but I’m trusting Him to lead me step by step. To help me make those tough decisions & know that He will work out His plan in me & for my life. For he says “all things work for the good of those who love the Lord & are called according to His purpose”. It brings me comfort to know I don’t have it all figured out & relationships aren’t fixed in a day. But He knows what he’s doing, his plan is always in motion even when we can’t see it. I’ve had so many moments where I’ve held His hands & walked through the darkness only to see how he intricately weaved a path for me that was more perfect & better than I could have ever planned for myself. So I will trust Him & His plan for me as I submit to His leading. “The one who obeys God’s instruction for today will develop a keen awareness of His direction for tomorrow.” -Lysa Terkeurst