A Lesson about Words Brought to You by a Child with a Tube of Toothpaste (@ Granola Bar Devotional)
I have read far more than I desire of late when it comes to Christians saying things about other Christians that is negative, complaining, derogatory, and more, when what we are called to do is love one another, to reflect the image of Christ, talk privately to another if you feel they are wrong or you have been wronged.
I wrote the following true story as a devotional in 2009. I have edited it slightly for this post. The story is true and most needful again and again. Teachable moments are not only for children!!
A friend was teaching her four year old son about spoken words. She wanted him to know how important it is to think before he speaks, to use either kind words or no words at all, and to respond when spoken to in an uplifting and respectful manner. She wrote the word “W O R D” on a piece of cardboard, making sure he knew what those four letters together meant. Then asking her son to take the tube of toothpaste, she told him to trace over the four letters with the paste as he squeezed it from the tube. For a four year old, this was great fun! Upon completion she praised him on his careful toothpaste tracing. Her next request surprised him. She said, “Now, put the toothpaste back into the tube.” He looked at the cardboard with the toothpasted “W O R D” on it. “Mom, I can’t get it back into this tiny hole,” he said in frustration while pointing to the end of the tube. She asked him why he couldn’t do it. He felt some angst because he was disobeying his mother by not putting the paste back in the little hole.
The mother then began her lesson of the importance of the words we speak. They talked about how important it is to think before speaking; and that once a word is out of our mouths, we cannot put it back into our mouths. She explained how hard it can be to take words back with an apology, and that words can hurt people’s feelings and have lasting effects on relationships. She talked to him about thinking about how our words might make someone else feel. Would they make them feel better or worse? Would they be helpful or hurtful? Would the person think better of us or poorly of us?
As this simple lesson can teach a child, so, too, can it teach us, as adults, as sisters in the LORD, that our words can have those same effects on family, friends, co-workers, and anyone on our daily journey. We need to think about what we are preparing to say before the actual words exit our mouths. I am often reminded of this toothpaste lesson, guarding my tongue and weighing my words as best as I possibly can. Caution and prior reflection help me say and do that which God desires of me. He wants His children to be salt and light in this world. We must ask Him for His guidance and His wisdom for our words. (Not only is this about the actual verbal words that exit our mouths, but the words we type on blogs, emails, comments, Twitter, Facebook, and anywhere else we may wander in cyberspace. The typed word is just the same. Once the “Submit” or “Send” button is pushed, there is no taking those words back either. Type all you want, but sit on those words overnight, for a week. Pray and ask God for the guidance He wants to give to us. Listen for His Spirit as You ask for assurance in what you have written. We need that. We need to reflect our Christ. If we don’t look and act like Him, then who is the world seeing in us?)
1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
Wisdom from Above
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14