A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45
The server didn’t deliver my food as I had ordered. I wasn’t too upset… I mean, he left the bacon on my salad! I love bacon! But I was trying to eat healthier that day. I chose not to say anything about it and go on. Surrounded by some of my favorite people, we were meeting to discuss ministry matter with two of our Pastors, and the ReEngage leadership team – a marriage ministry that my husband and I help lead.
When everyone had their food and after we had given thanks, one of our Pastors made a comment about how amazing the server was, that he had remembered everything we ordered without writing anything down. There were 10 of us so this was quite a feat! This next moment I keep replaying over and over in my mind, as I blurted out “He didn’t remember everything!” while oozing contempt if only for a second. My friend next to me kindly pointed out that he was right behind me, with the dressing I had asked him to bring.
Open mouth, insert foot.
I’m certain I turned all shades of red as I realized what happened and everyone at the table just sat there momentarily in silence, not knowing what to say or how to react. My stomach was sick and I was stunned at my outburst. I didn’t think about it before I spoke. I just spoke.
Management found out about it and came to apologize, offering desserts to our entire table. I politely declined and explained that I was not in the least bit upset. I’m not certain anyone believed me. In fact, I wasn’t certain what I felt at the time either. After our lunch meeting continued on, I struggled to focus. I genuinely felt bad for the server. I’ve been in those shoes and that job is NOT easy. So near the end of the meal, I excused myself from the table and talked with him, apologizing for what I said and explaining that I was not mad and he had, in fact, done a fantastic job serving us.
Fast forward 12 hours to smack dab in the middle of the night. I was awake after only getting 2 hours of restless, dream-ridden sleep. As I lie in bed staring at the ceiling, I start thinking about it again. I pray, asking God to show me why I was so critical. You see, God’s Word states that what you say flows from what is in your heart. I said a very critical, piercing statement about the inadequacy of our server. It may seem to many of you that it isn’t a big deal, but I’ve been generally working on finding out what’s in my heart and how that is a direct correlation to what comes out of my mouth.
I wrestled with it for a little while before finally crawling out of bed and heading to my chair – the chair where I spend time with God most mornings – the chair where I write and study writing – the chair where prayers have gone up for my family and many of you. As I sat and prayed, then listened, I felt God working on me and my critical spirit. Critical spirits come from being arrogant. If you feel you would do a better job, then you can easily become critical of others when things aren’t done as you think you would do them. So as God spoke to me about my root of criticism, I prayed. I prayed that He uproot it, that He remind me of the grace I need every day so that my first response anytime someone else messes up is also grace.
What comes out of my mouth is a direct reflection of what is in my heart. I don’t want to simply watch what I say, even though at times that is needed. I want the contents of my heart to be so pure, kind, humble – that the first words that come out of my mouth are filled with sweet goodness and grace.
What I’m learning is this: It is good to control my tongue, but what if my focus switched from trying NOT to say something to focusing on the cause of it so that the thought never crosses my mind? I think I’d rather spend the time necessary searching out the root of ugliness and allowing God to pull it up so I don’t have to continue trying to watch what I say.
Every time I say an unkind, inconsiderate comment that slips out, I’m going to seek God in understanding why I said it so I can allow Him to get rid of it. I may never be perfect but I can continue to keep going back to Him, seeking His guidance, and living within His grace.
If we can focus our attention on the root of the matter, rather than only controlling our tongue, we will make strides to not only keep from saying something ugly (that we actually want to say) to being a person above reproach, full of grace, authentically showing the love of Christ to others. Don’t you want that too?