Thursday, February 26, 2009

It Only Takes A Spark

Our words are so powerful. We can use them to lift someone up or tear someone down. We can use them to make a situation worse or make it better. Our words affect people and can change situations. The Bible says in Proverbs 18:21 ‘the tongue has the power of life and death”.
Once I was reading James 3:5-6, “ Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, set the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” The thought struck me, ‘I only get in trouble for the things I say, not the things I don’t say. Don’t say everything.’
It occurred to me that we do not need to say everything that pops into our heads, no matter how funny, sarcastic, witty or even truthful it is. There are times when we do not need to say anything. There are also times when what we are thinking is the exact wrong thing to say.
Recently, some of those words escaped from my mouth. I knew it as soon as they flew out, but I chose to pretend it had not happened. Maybe the person had not heard me or would forget what I had said. No such luck. A month later, she told someone else what I had said and my words came back sounding much worse now that they were out in public and being repeated.
That same day my mouth starting feeling like it was burning. My lips had been dry and cracking the day before. Now my lips, tongue and mouth all felt itchy and like they were on fire, just like the verse in James. I immediately went to my dentist, who sent me to the doctor, who said I had a mouth infection. Even though there was a physical explanation for it, I knew in my heart it was a spiritual reminder of what I had said. The medication he gave me involved sucking on lozenges all day long, which of course forced me to keep my mouth shut all day.
I apologized to two people who had heard my words, but I was not able to apologize to everyone who had heard. It reminded me a wildfire spreading from a spark. For three weeks my mouth infection was a physical reminder of how our words can be like fire.
Like the verse in Proverbs 10:19 “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Let’s help each other to be careful with what we say and to remember that we don’t have to say everything.

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