One of the things I love most about myself is my quick wit. I am usually the first to have that perfect crack, the one remark that has everyone laughing. From childhood, I was fed sarcasm until it became second nature; in my early twenties I took great delight in triumph in my ability to annihilate anyone with a few well-placed words. Over the years, I have learned, or started to learn, how to still be the smartass without inflicting damage. I am not always successful, but I try very hard… very very hard.
Despite my toughness, I really don’t want to hurt people… especially those that I love and apologizing is so hard when you know that the words that you speak never really go away. You may receive forgiveness… but nobody ever forgets, and trust can be forever shattered. I don’t want to be the raging bull in the china shop leaving a trail of broken relationships behind me… so I fight my nature, and try to be mindful of my words. Engage my brain before I open my mouth, it’s hard to get my foot in there if my mouth isn’t open.
BUT… I want to win, have the last word, and be the one left standing not be the one who is hurt and angry. It’s not fair that I watch my words when other people don’t. I don’t always want to be the one who is censoring myself… I want to win! My pastor has this remark about not being able to get toothpaste back into the tube after you squeeze it out. So here is my theory (borrowed theory at any rate) about toothpaste. We have all squeezed the tube too hard and tried to work at least some of the goo back in... it doesn’t really work, but we still try. Some people really like to use a lot of paste, others use very little. It’s a matter of preference I guess, but I can’t tell you how much toothpaste is right for you.
I can tell you that like toothpaste, words once said never go away. Once you say something good, bad or indifferent… you can’t really take it back. You can say that you do, but it’s out there and it doesn’t vanish from our hearts. Especially the bad, it really hangs on to our hearts and we always remember the wound. In a conflict, there are no winners. Even if I victoriously decimate you with my words, I don’t win. Oh, I so want to win, I have the words. I can lash out, and end this conversation, triumphantly put you in your place, show you that I am right and you, you are oh so wrong. At what cost? At what point does my righteous (ish) indignation supercede yours? In what world do we live in that this is the way that we interact with on another? It’s me against everybody, and I will take you out before you even have a chance to get close.
It is our fear of being vulnerable that makes us cling to the armor that we know, for me it’s words. I can build walls that even I can’t climb and keep myself removed from intimacy and authenticity. Fortunately, for all of us, God is greater than our worst downside. Not one of is a cosmic exception; we are all redeemable and called to be in relationship with our Father. I don’t have to get it right every time, but I do have to hand it over to Him. The rage, frustration, pain all of it… it is not mine any more than my joy. It is all from Him and for Him. Sometimes I feel like I am being turned inside out and all the yuckies are being shaken loose from corners of my soul that I didn’t even know existed. It is not always something that I am prepared for, nor is it always that pleasant. I don’t really want to know that those things were actually a part of me. Awkward and embarrassing, difficult to explain… like He caught me squeezing the toothpaste all over the bathroom counter. Uhh… it seemed like a good idea at the time? I wanted to be right. I didn’t want to hurt.
Oh, right… I am sorry Father. Please, please help me. Guard my words, let my words be Your words. When I open my mouth let me speak Your truth, let Your wisdom guide me in the darkness. Let your righteousness overrule my need to be right. Bind my words; hold my heart so that I am not afraid or angry. Heal my woundedness that causes me to strike first, last always. Forgive me my weakness and knee jerk reactions, show me Your hand. Abba, Daddy, Father... You are my all in all. Thank You, thank You, thank You. Amen… so be it.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.