I knew it was coming. The past few weeks have been so hectic and so busy and so full and we haven’t done the best job of juggling it all. We’ve been running and gunning and in a family of eight, that leaves little time for the important stuff…stuff like instruction, discipline, reproof and correction. Sin has been blazing all around this family the last few weeks but in the busyness (which also brings with it great fatigue), I just let it keep on blazin’. Oh sure, I could have turned on the sprinklers here and there and tried to put out a few embers. But I knew what we needed was more than the sprinklers…we needed those helicopters that dump that special powder that has the power to put out entire forest fires. We needed God Himself to slow us down, sit us down and bring His truth powerfully into our lives once again. And I knew it was coming.
It rained all day yesterday which was actually kind of nice. At least until about 4:30 pm when everyone was starting to go stir-crazy and the house was getting louder and louder and I was feeling kinda cruddy from a head cold I’ve been battling the last few days. Kevin went out to the garage to work on Molly Kate’s Halloween costume (she wanted to be Amelia Earhart so awesome daddy that he is, he’s making a cardboard plane for her to wear!) and I sent all the kids out to the garage with him (again, awesome daddy that he is!). It didn’t take long…sure, there were a few shrieks of laughter as they bumped around the garage on plasma cars but before I knew it, there was whining, shouting, arguing and crying. You would have thought I sent them out to the garage and said “hey, I want you to go do as much verbal damage to your siblings as you possibly can!” So I opened the door, told everyone to clean up and come sit on the couches and not say a word. I think I even muttered something to the effect of “If you can’t use your words kindly, you can see what it feels like to not use any words at all!”
Mostly their time sitting on our couches facing one another in silence gave me time to think. It’s funny how many times we mamas dive into a discipline situation before we really think about the best course of action and we’re spouting off bible verses mixed with cliches mixed with our own anger like a half-crazed television preacher! We’re so scattered and flustered and usually so irritated that what’s on our tongue probably isn’t even beginning to reach their hearts. But one thing is for sure: we aren’t going to win them to Jesus by yelling and screaming and carrying on about sin and disobedience and the like. And in this particular situation, yelling and screaming and anger is what landed four little bottoms on the couches in the first place.
So I thought and I prayed “God, give me wisdom. Help me reach their wayward hearts.” I pulled up a barstool and opened my bible app and did a search for “tongue”. With their full attention and the house so quiet you could hear nothing but Mallory babbling in her crib, I proceeded to read several verses including the following:
He does not slander with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor takes up a reproach against his friend; Psalm 15:3
Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit. Psalm 34:13
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
And his tongue speaks justice. Psalm 37:30
Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips,
From a deceitful tongue. Psalm 120:2
The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver,
The heart of the wicked is worth little. Proverbs 10:20
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21
If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. James 1:26
So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell…But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. James 3:5-6, 8
The beautiful and wildly gracious part about raising kids in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is that He often uses our discipline of our children to discipline us. I sat there reading these verses and several others and became a bit awe struck by the power of our words. I was quickly convicted of how regularly I spew forth death words…with my kids, with friends, with Kevin, with church members. As the kids and I began discussing what these verses meant, I could see personal defeat written all over their faces as they thought about how powerless they are in the battle against their tongues. So together, we looked to Jesus. He had the perfect tongue…the praise of His Father was always on His lips and not once did He utter a word of hurt, a false word, a word of slander or gossip or a word of death. His words were always life and His words have brought us life. We trust His death to cover our hurtful words and we trust His Spirit to tame our tongues. We recognize we are powerless and we look to the One who holds all of the power to change hearts and change mouths.
This is just one tiny window into one small moment but I do think this is what gospel living looks like. I don’t get it right very often…I am the mama spouting of this verse and that verse, giving myself a pat on the back for recalling a pertinent Scripture all the while my kid has completely tuned me out. But yesterday, in my willingness to slow down, take time and rest in God’s ability to pour that special powder over the forest fire our tongues had created in this home, I got to take part in a unique moment of family repentance…each one of us recognizing and admitting that our words are often full of death and asking God to take them, change them and bring forth life instead.