Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hold The Tongue and Gimme a Side of Hush, Please

I think I've used this real life example before, but I'm going to use it again. It seems to come up with me often enough that it's too good a lesson to ignore.

Some years ago we lived next door to a couple of foul mouthed sisters. One of the sisters had a daughter the same age as our second oldest, and they liked to play together from time to time. One day the girls had some sort of falling out, and Jennifer came home upset. To her it was a big deal, but in reality it was just one of those "kid things" that really wasn't a big issue. If I recall correctly, I simply encouraged her to give it some time and maybe talk to the girl in the next few days.

Well, that night after dinner came a knock on the door. It was either the mother or the aunt, I can't recall for sure because they were identical twins. Both had a mouth like a drunken sailor, and both were loud. Whichever one it was, as soon as I opened the door, she started in. Whatever it was that Jennifer and her kid had the falling out over, she took personally and was as ticked off as ticked off gets. She let me have it with both barrels and every filthy, obscene, profane, insulting word you can think of - directed at my parenting, my character and Jennifer's character. I was actually okay (for the most part) until she began using obscene words to describe my then 12 yr old daughter. That's when anger in me began to build up very quickly. I felt so defensive on behalf of someone I cared deeply for, that I was "that close" to losing my own temper and tempted to give this woman flying lessons (right off my porch). Chalk that up to "mama bear" syndrome.

This is the part where it actually gets sorta comical (although I was not seeing the humor in it at the time). I literally bit my tongue, put my clenched fist behind my back and silently prayed while being assaulted verbally with all kinds of disgusting words. The lady on my porch wanted me to physically fight with her, and she was taunting me, trying to get me to step outside. I just stood in my doorway biting my tongue, tasting the blood in my mouth, and keeping my fist behind my back (I didn't want her to see it and think she was getting to me but it just kept clenching into a fist!) and praying these words:

"Lord, please shut my mouth!"

He was faithful to do just that. Finally, the woman took a breath (or ran out, one or the other) and I simply said something along the lines of "thank you for your opinion" and I closed my door. She screamed and carried on out there on the porch for a few more minutes, hit or kicked the door a couple of times, but I locked the door and went into the other room.

That was one of the hardest confrontations I have ever had as a Christian and I'll likely remember it for the rest of my life (unless I have another one much worse). There was a time that Mouthy Neighbor Lady wouldn't have had 30 seconds to speak before things would have gotten right ugly, right quick - but that was the old me, and not the ambassador of Christ.

I used that example because it's one of those things for me that the Lord is still working on. We all have a weakness or a button that is easily pushed, and there are so many times that for me, that I want so badly to say something, but I know that it's my flesh itching to speak, and not coming from a thoughtful, reasoned, prayed-about reaction. I know that for me, when my flesh wants to speak, it's the best time to shut up. I don't always do it, and I so wish I would.

If you know someone like this - someone who often spouts off and says something that wasn't the most brilliant thing to say, you should add them to your prayer list. For us believers that have this weakness, it's a miserable struggle to have. There are even times when speaking up should indeed take place, but our timing isn't always the best, and if it's done without careful, cautious consideration, we might be doing more harm than good.

Oh, and in case anyone might be wondering if I stuck my foot in my mouth recently, the answer is no. I was just reading something yesterday that made me think of being slow to speak, and wanted to put this reminder out there for others who might also have this weak spot in their lives. Besides, I don't post all the dumb things I do. Only a serious weirdo would do that.