I came from work one Thursday evening, tired, hungry and bogged down with 99 other problems that I can’t remember right now. We had just moved houses and I was less than pleased that a few of our things were still in moving boxes. I walked into our cul-de-sac and could already imagine the sumptuous meal that Turi, my wife, had prepared. She always made coming home more than worth it. I saw myself stretched out on the bed and acquiring my hard-earned seven hours of beauty sleep; it had been a long day. I trudged to the main door. I rung the doorbell. The familiar muffled chime came followed by the distant shuffling of feet that grew louder by the second. The shuffling was silenced by the twist of the door knob. Turi opened the door. She looked lively for a person who had been out paying taxes. Still, she was as beautiful as ever. Turi could make a dull polyester dress look like a wedding gown. If beauty was measured in bricks, my wife would be the Great Wall of China!
“Welcome home, dear!” she cried.
She kissed me on the cheek and gave me a long hug. I was so tired and cranky that the kiss and long hug wearied me more than comforted me for the day’s work. Without a second thought, I said, “Not now, dear. Is there anything to eat?” Turi was obviously disappointed at the reaction to her warm reception.
“I was just about to cook dinner,” she said, the ice in her voice unmistakable.
At that moment, the Holy Spirit quickened in my heart that I had not been grateful. But before I even thought of apologising, my hunger overrode my contrition and I complained, “What? No food ready yet?”
The look on Turi’s face told me I should be apologising now. The contrition returned and reminded me that I was being a big baby. I tried to justify myself in my head that I didn’t mean what I said; I was just tired. However, Turi’s disposition cancelled my argument. Before the nice evening was ruined, I apologised.
“I’m sorry, dear.”
I almost added that I was tired as a reason for my sloppy tongue but the Spirit quickened me not to. Just apologise, Ernest. And so I did. I learnt later why I needed not give a reason for my tongue. The answer was this: I was not careless with my tongue because I was tired but rather because that is who I was. In moments of unbridled emotion, we often say hurtful words to other people. And when it becomes a hurtful exchange of words, it is our pride that demands to have the last say. The sinfulness of our humanity does not allow a cease-fire. Later when the storm has calmed and the damage has been done, many a person will often say “I was angry; I didn’t mean what I said.” The blame for our words is cast on our emotional hurricane and we expect anyone to understand that surely those words were birthed in the conflict. If you are a born-again believer, you ought to know that that is not true. The vitriol in our tones and words only reveal what was in our hearts all along. It’s Biblical. Christ said in Matthew 12:34-35“Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.
Emotional situations do not cause us to say nasty things; they only reveal that we have nasty things in us. Our lives are like cups of water with decanted silt at the bottom. The water looks clean when the cup is still. However, in moments of passion and emotion, the cup is stirred and the silt forms clouds of mud in the clear water. Did the stirring cause the dirt? No. The dirt was there all along, it just wasn’t revealed. When we upbraid others and we use words that hurt them, we only show what is inside of us. To blame our emotions for our words is as irresponsible as it is false! Words reflect the abundant content in a man’s heart. Having said that, it serves to note that we can determine our heart’s spiritual progress when our mouths are compelled to speak. That heart analysis is very important because Christ said in Matthew 12:26 “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.”
When I look at my life, I realize that I have said several things to those I love that no amount of recanting can take away. Forgiveness heals but the scars always remain. People can forget the content of the words you say to them but they rarely forget the feelings of the words you say to them. Believers ought to understand that how we speak can be the difference between someone rejecting Christ or accepting him.
James 1:5-11 states: Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles. And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.
James warns that if we demonstrate a life that consistently spews words that hurt others, we ought to examine where we fall spiritually and eternally because a life redeemed by Jesus Christ is a new creation that speaks life. Because of this, I began to cultivate an attitude of repentance with my tongue. For you see, if James is right, that a tongue can be likened to destroying a great forest, how much more a marriage?