The most common thing that acquaintances and strangers say to me is, “You are so patient!” Note that this is being said by, ummm, people who do not fully know me yet. Apparently, I appear to be a very patient person. Actually, if you Google “the appearance of patience,” you might just find me there.
I am not a hot-tempered person. No, wait, that’s exactly what I am. Let’s just say that I am a redeemed hot-temper. My ancestry is largely German and Irish (sometimes I think I am self-combustible). But my main goal for my spiritual life, and thus for my life as a whole, is to gain complete control over my tongue.
Proverbs 10:19 When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
2 Samuel 23:2 The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; his word was on my tongue.
Psalm 34:13 keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.
Psalm 35:28 My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long.
Psalm 39:1 I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence.
Proverbs 10:20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.
Proverbs 12:18 Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Philippians 2:14-15 Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.
I made this my primary battle about two years ago. And although I have come a long way in that time, I am nowhere near where I want to be. However, the Lord has been teaching me something that I’m finding to be an invaluable tool.
I can give Him my anger in the middle of a sentence. I can give Him my anger after I’ve already started to mess up.
Sometime last week, I was sitting on the couch nursing Baby Bear (I have the sneaking suspicion that I have started quite a few paragraphs this way). I had a large bag of Epsom Salt sitting out because I’m trying to get around to making bath salts for Christmas. Honestly, I don’t think that my brain has been running at full-speed these last couple of weeks. I’m stressed, stretched, and I feel like I’m continually hovering between health and illness (mostly due to the weather). I’m just telling you this because I’m almost positive I was looking directly at my children. But what I was seeing and what was actually happening didn’t connect until I heard, “Uh oh!” And I looked to see a large pile of Epsom Salt on the floor. It seems that being snatched too soon from an outer space adventure is much like being woken from a heavy sleep. At that first moment of I’m-awake-I-just-wandered-off-for-a-bit! consciousness (a few seconds before full lucidity), I’m not sure I could fathom anything worse than a pile of Epsom Salt on the living room floor.
“Lil Prince, what were…”
I could feel the tension rising as my shoulders grew stiff and threatened to crawl up over my head. The headache I had squinted past all day pushed through to the center of my focus. Many [unfortunately] times before, this scenario has climaxed with a harsh voice and a rude (or at the very least, unthoughtful) tongue (or what I refer to as “losing it”), but I’m growing stronger.
And with an audible exhale that I know God was there to receive, I stopped mid-sentence and said, “Oh, honey, that’s alright. Let’s clean it up, OK.” And let me just tell you, the wrath that was turned away by that gentle answer was visible. If I were to say that Wrath doubled in pain and then ran down my stairs, slamming the front door as he left, I would only be slightly exaggerating.
I’m telling you this, because even though it is embarrassing to admit that after spending the majority of my life with the Lord I am still fighting a battle with my tongue (and inner dialogue), the victory I am gaining is share-worthy.
I believe there is a phenomenon that happens when one first begins to sin. In reality, we are being blindfolded and then physically lowered into a vat of warm and rancid waste; but there is something in our human, fleshly nature that feels at home there and begins to sink slowly and wilfully down. Once Satan has had his way with us, our eyes are opened to the filth that thickly coats our skin. At that moment, we have the choice of running through the cleansing Blood like a child through a sprinkler on a hot summer day, or letting guilt lead us to despair until we sink further in and nearly drown.
But what about just jumping out of the vat, pre-submersion, instead?
I suppose this lesson is obvious when looked at through the lens of big sins. But what about eating the whole pie, snapping at your children (which is inevitable after eating a whole pie), or neglecting God for the sake of entertainment? I believe it is in the minor things that we most readily allow Satan to use us, and about which we are the most blind.
But did you know that God has given us power, not only over the enemy but over our own flesh as well? And, once again, I’m telling myself what God first told me to tell my kids…
God says you can control yourself. Ask Jesus to give you self-control. And then learn to use it.