by Jenelle Garden
I’ve heard it said that the “eyes are a window to the soul,” but sometimes I wonder if it is my mouth that gives me away the most.
Over the past few months, a colleague of mine has been going through some personal and professional difficulties. She is someone who is a close friend, but lately her circumstances have caused her to become somewhat confrontational, defensive, and quick to butt heads with others in our department. Knowing that, deep down, she is a kind hearted woman, I asked the Lord yesterday morning, during my prayer and devotion time, “Lord, doesn’t she worry about how people are beginning to perceive her?”
As the Lord often does, He answered my question with a question: “How do people perceive you?” I quickly began rattling off a list of all the reasons that others should like and respect me, in reply to His question: “But Lord, I lead a prayer group at school, I teach students with special needs, I’m a devoted wife and mother, I volunteer in my church…” and so on, and so on.
I wish I could tell you that the Lord gave me some long and meaningful affirmation in reply to my long list of “good works”…or reassurance that my deeds were so impressive to Him and others. Instead, in my spirit, I heard Him ask another question: “But what about the words of your mouth?” That question stopped me in my tracks.
You see, I believe I have a good moral compass and that the Holy Spirit compels me more often than not to walk the straight and narrow. But, sometimes it’s the small foxes that spoil the vine (Song of Solomon 2:15).
My small fox is my mouth. I usually have something nice to say and a smile on my face for everyone I meet, but at the same time, I know that I’m guilty of being too quick to complain to my close friends and my husband when someone wrongs me. I know that sometimes when gossip goes on around me and I have “two cents” to share, I do. I know that I am sometimes too quick with my words. Because I know that actions speak louder than words, I often reason that the kindness I show others and my good works make up for the “harmless chatter” that might go on between me and those people I interact with in my day to day life.
But, then the Holy Spirit speaks up and, in reverence for Him, my own spirit must yield. I know in my soul that the greatest witness we can demonstrate to non-believers in what it means to love the Lord, is to love others as He has loved us- that means loving them BOTH in what we SAY and DO. It’s Jesus’s most important commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)
So, though this “wake up call” was recently received by yours truly, and though I’m still a work in progress, I’m trying harder to be a cheerleader for those who don’t always seem to have my encouragement and applause. That means not being easily offended. It means practicing what I preach, but also preaching what I practice. It means not engaging in mindless chatter, which can sometimes be a pattern of this world. Instead, I must be transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2).
And in changing my words and thoughts, this is my prayer, that “the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to the Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”(Psalm 19:14)
I thank God for the fact that He is always in my corner and on my side, even when I don’t deserve His encouragement or applause. I take refuge and strength in His unconditional love and mercy. May I be an example of that kind of love to others- to my colleague who’s clearly in the midst of a storm, to strangers I meet along life’s path, and to anyone who needs to draw closer to the Lord during a time of isolation or loneliness.
Thank you, Lord for your loving discipline. Help us, Oh Lord, to be examples of Your love to others in both our words and deeds. Amen.
How do you combat the temptation to gossip or complain? How can your positive words and encouragement bring others closer to the Lord? Share your comments below!
Jenelle Garden is a first grade teacher, mother of 2 beautiful girls and married to her high school sweetheart. Jenelle recently joined the Beautiful Ministry as a small group leader and enjoys sharing her love for Jesus with other women and feels most blessed as she draws closer to God through fellowship.