Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men who work iniquity; and do not let me eat of their delicacies.Psalm 141:3–4 (NKJV)
In my last post, I mentioned how challenging it’s become for me to talk – physically and emotionally – since my ascending aortic dissection. That wasn’t always the case.
I definitely used to talk too much! All the way through school, my teachers said I talked too much. (I have the report cards to prove it.) All the way through school. Including college!
I wished I could stop. But I would talk to perfect strangers. Well, no one is perfect, but they were strangers. My family had given up asking me if I knew them.
I couldn’t seem to help it. If it made its way to my head, it found its way out of my mouth. No pause. No buffering. No filter. Essentially, I thought out loud and worked it out as I went along. I often joked that I didn’t think before I spoke because I liked being as surprised as everyone else. That often meant that the first thing I said didn’t necessarily reflect my final, well-considered opinion. I can see now that it was a lack of self-control
There were times that I would share something I didn’t necessarily need to say just because I wanted to sound clever or funny or intelligent. And it often worked; I would get a chuckle, a laugh or a thoughtful “hmmm.” But the truth was that it wasn’t necessary and served only to put the focus on me. Very simply, it was pride.
I even experimented with keeping my mouth shut. It was my “Fine, then I won’t say anything!” campaign. I may have suffered some internal injuries during those experiments, but I can’t prove it.
Certainly, I believed, if I could just keep my mouth shut everything would be better. It was incredibly difficult for me to go cold turkey, to suddenly stop what I did every day without a moment’s thought. Eventually, I would give up. My ego was too strong to tolerate being shut down.
As I said, that has changed since I was on heart-lung bypass for eight hours during surgery. I now “budget” what I say now because I’m self-conscious of my speech and because it’s challenging for me to carefully enunciate so I don’t have to repeat myself.
I don’t like it. My flesh screams to just rattle off whatever pops into my head at times, but it is getting easier as God disciplines me. I don’t mean discipline as we think in disciplining children; I mean it in the sense of correcting, controlling and training my mouth – the way “discipline” is intended to be.
What I say matters.
Not only should my words – which come from the overflow of my heart – be pleasing to God, but they hold in them the power of life and death. Now, there’s a thought to bring me to a screeching halt!
First, I know I need to be careful with what my heart harbors. Second, I need to respect the power of words. That’s a lot of responsibility and not one to be taken lightly.
That’s where the Holy Spirit steps in – to give me the wisdom to do what I ought and strength to do what I can’t.
Isaiah 11:2 promises that “the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”
As long as I allow the Holy Spirit to do his thing and depend upon him to give me righteous counsel, my words can bring life – not death. I’ve been made in my Father’s image. He is a creator – the Creator. I need to remember that.
It would seem that God’s way of disciplining me is an effective one, regardless of how frustrating it is. If this is what he had to do to rein in my mouth, then so be it. My constant prayer is to be a better reflection of his image – and to be quiet long enough to let that happen.
When I contemplate the Lord’s glory, I have the promise of being “transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which come from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
And that is something worth talking about!