When Kristen yelled those words at her dad, he and I both gasped. Rick looked at me, wide-eyed, as if to say, Where did that come from? Heat crept up my neck. My face burned.
I knew exactly where that came from. Me.
It was my word. My way of dealing with rude drivers in our big city. It was stressful driving in all that traffic. Calling other drivers jerks under my breath was how I dealt with it. Better than raising my fist or letting off a string of cuss words. Right?
My special needs daughter was having a hard time telling the difference between my calling other drivers jerks, and calling her father a jerk. Hey, honey, it’s fine for Mommy to call rude drivers jerks because they can’t read her lips — they can’t hear her — they don’t know her…but it’s totally disrespectful for you to call Daddy a jerk. You should never, ever do that.
The gray I was living in was turning black and white.
And just to drive the point home, out of nowhere, words I’d read earlier that day flooded my mind:
43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
So, I get it. If I am living a Jesus kind of life, then all my words ought to reflect that. Even those in the car, in private. Even something as seemingly innocuous as “jerk.”
Apparently it’s not so innocuous. I have someone with me much of the time – someone who absolutely adores me. She watches my every move. I’m under her microscope.
But is that so bad? If I’m living for Jesus, shouldn’t I be open to inspection? Not perfection, just inspection. I’m not perfect by any means, but shouldn’t I aim to reflect His goodness?
As Christians, shouldn’t this be our goal? Yet, don’t we feel justified saying, “I’m so stressed!” It’s our blanket excuse for acting less-than. It’s acceptable. Certain words and behaviors are accepted under the heading STRESS.
But Jesus doesn’t go along with this. While He is compassionate for our stress and anxieties, Jesus has higher expectations for us. He doesn’t want us to settle for second-rate living. And stressful living is second-rate.
When Jesus says, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of,” He is making a point: change your heart.
I love Jesus. My words need to reflect my heart, in good times, in bad times, in traffic, and in stress.
How does that happen? For me, it will be unlearning anger, impatience and fear. I have a strategy.
Everything should begin with prayer, but if I’m honest, sometimes I just start. I can’t do this without the strength of Jesus.
- Memorize Scripture.
No small feat, this. I’m a lousy memorizer and a great paraphraser (being a big picture thinker and all…), but I’m dedicated.
- Abide in the Word.
Every day I read and study the Bible. I do this along with Proverbs 31 First 5 Experience Guide (I’m reading Luke now). It works well for me because it’s short but every day I learn something valuable.
How about you, friend? Do you have someone watching your every move? Have you thought about what your words reflect? Believe me, I’m not pointing a finger at anyone except myself. As Believers in Christ, we’re on this journey together! The good news: Jesus wants the best for us! We can do this through Him (Philippians 4:13).
By the way, when I confessed to my husband where Kristen had gotten her phrase, he started laughing. “No way! I thought she heard it from me!”
As always, he and I are in this together, for better or worse.
Photo credit: Matthew Henry, Unsplash.com