I gazed up at the sky, overcome once again by a vibrant Summer Sunset in this blistering desert. Quickly I grabbed my camera and snapped away before the colors faded and the clouds pulled apart like cotton candy. When I checked the views billowing into my camera’s viewfinder, I was struck at the deep roiling red captured in my first photo. It eerily reminded me of fire more than a peaceful sunset ushering in a docile evening. I winced, not realizing that the next night, those fiery storm clouds would billow out of my mouth and set my home ablaze.
Scripture warns us that the tongue is like a fire and sets the whole course of one’s life on fire (James 3:5-6). That night, I forgot about the eery crimson clouds that had covered the sky. Maybe they had been a warning that I had not heeded. Or a vivid declaration of Scripture that I would not heed as I emotionally let words erupt like a volcano out of my mouth.
Sure I had valid reasons to be upset. Sure I had been hurt deeply. This was not the way this evening was supposed to play out. I was not supposed to be duped or surprised at the sudden turn of events. But did these reasons–events–validate the vindictive words that spewed from my mouth with justification.
Pride. Vengeance. Retaliation. My rights had been usurped.
“Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.” James 3:5 NIV
Were the roiling feelings inside of me based on pride,? My eyes would not see that truth for days to come.
But right before my eyes I witnessed a great forest fire that scorched the one in my family who was in the path of my burning words. They tore us apart like fragile pieces of timber, not like the soft puffs of cloud pulled apart like cotton candy. Would the fire not cease?
Who or what could douse the pride giving fuel to the flames? All my tears could not quench the damage caused by the inferno.
“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands (and mouth) the foolish one tears hers down.” Proverbs 14:1 NIV (words in parenthesis mine)
All I had worked toward for several months came crashing down around me in a matter of minutes. And the storm continued through the night. The aftermath left destruction in its path and barrenness where once a forest and a relationship had stood.
Who could replant life where charred ruins now lay dead?
I awoke during the night in tears once again. What could I do?
Just confess my sins and wait for time to heal the wounds. Sound counsel from the Spirit through my husband. I crawled out of bed and confessed my sin to God. I asked forgiveness from the Lord, although I had asked forgiveness so many times of the one burnt by my words.
As light filtered through the wooden blinds, I experienced one of God’s greatest promises.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23 NIV
He began a replanting of tender shoots that will take time to grow. Ones that will take nurturing and care and water from His Word.
Because of His mercies, the relationship could begin to see new life again. But there are scars from where the fire charred both of us. Realize that a fire does not consume only one space in a forest but also burns over the spot that ignited it. Both of us had charred remains that would need the healing balm of Christ.
Words. Pride. The tongue that spews the fire forth can cause unrelenting damage. God warns us and I take heed:
“…but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” James 3:8-12 NIV
Who can clean this contaminated spring?
God alone can clean the spring with His mercies and the Holy Spirit can set a guard over our lips that we may not come to ruin.
So we humbly present our need for cleansing to the Lord.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 NIV
And the Holy Spirit sets the guard:
“He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.” Proverbs 21:23 NIV