An Answered Prayer
My tongue can be much sharper than I want it to be. Sometimes at work I’m so focused on the goal that I forget that real people are working to accomplish that goal. Sometimes my speech doesn’t take into account their needs or feelings.
It’s worse at home. My sweet, loving, devoted husband bears the brunt of my acidic tongue. Just this minute, for example, I went downstairs for more coffee and found something to complain about in the kitchen. Rich routinely washes dishes after dinner. That should be the headline–not the fact that some minor detail wasn’t done the way I would do it.
I’m pretty sure this sharp tongue of mine is one reason I write: When I’m writing, I can review my words, change them, rearrange them, sweeten them until I present the message kindly and gently and clearly.
I don’t get to do that with spoken words. No “delete” button undoes them once they leave my mouth.
This year, I’ve been praying ceaselessly about this tongue of mine. I’ve been asking God to soften its sharp edges, to help me to consider more carefully how my words will land before I launch them. I’ve been asking Him to help me keep silent until I’ve chosen my words with compassion. I’ve been asking God to help me speak to my husband, my family, my coworkers in a way that reflects His love through my words.
A few weeks ago, in the middle of church, my tongue caught fire. It didn’t set off the sprinklers and no smoke poured from my nose, but it burned inside my mouth. My mouth had smoldered for a day or so–enough that I was trying to remember what scalding thing I’d eaten–but in the middle of church it seemed to burst into full-on flames, just behind my lips.
The pain drove us to the doctor’s office, giving thanks for Sunday hours as we hurried across town after church. Good old Dr. C. asked a few questions, took one look inside my mouth, and announced, “thrush.” I didn’t know adults could get this infection of the mouth. And I felt a new-found empathy for every baby who’d ever suffered with this painful problem.
It took another week and another church service for me to understand. The next Sunday, as we opened with worship, and I struggled to sing with my thrush-scorched tongue, our worship leader invited us to pause, reflect, and ask forgiveness for our sins.
I sat in the pew, head bowed, holding Rich’s hand, and God whispered in my ear. I prayed, “Father, please help me to banish my harsh words and replace them with kind ones.” I heard, “I’m working on you! Why do you think it’s painful for you to speak these days!”
I could almost see Him shaking His head at my cluelessness.
13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
John 14:13-14 (NASB)