About a week ago this time, Josh and I were enjoying lovely Jackson, Wyoming. We were there to celebrate ten years of life together, and all was blissful and wonderful and perfect.
We hiked a lot. We ate a lot. We bought cool t-shirts that you will now see me wearing until Christ returns, and we went white water rafting. And that was about it.
The rafting was my favorite. We survived, first of all, which was good. It was ridiculously exciting and beautiful. Also good. And we got to know some new people. (You really bond with folks when spend a few hours hurling through rapids in a tiny rubber boat together.)
There was a retired military fella and his wife from the West Coast with us.
They were there to celebrate her birthday (she wouldn’t tell us how many), they both owned separate motorcycle shops, and they had a shared affection for using the word “Jesus” in moments of danger (which, unfortunately, occur a lot while rafting), excitement (also happens a lot), humor (we had a funny group), normal conversation that may have otherwise been dull, and/or when large and interesting critters were spotted on the side of the river.
So…it happened a lot.
The word was a catchall for them. And though I suspect they weren’t even thinking about what they were saying, I was.
Especially that one.
I cringed every time it popped out of one of their mouths, but I never said a thing.
We were all in the shuttle driving back from the take-out point on the river. We were exhausted and mostly quiet. Our driver was a talker though and filled the silence.
She rambled on about this and that and somehow her stream-of-conscious-style of solo-conversation led her to randomly mention a particular celebrity and his “worthless no-good son who can’t keep his nose clean.”
Motorcycle Man speaks up.
“Be nice,” he says. “That guy is a good friend of mine.”
Extreme awkwardness followed as Talky Driver attempted to remove her foot from her mouth.
Words matter, and usually less is more.
I brought up the situation with Josh later.
“Wow,” I said (feeling particularly holy), “Could you believe how much Motorcycle Man and his wife used Jesus’ name in vain?”
“I know,” he said, “but at least he spoke up to defend his buddy to the bus driver. We never said a word to defend Jesus to him.”
So. Shamefully. True.
Maybe even more so when they’re not said and they should be.
A day or so after the rafting, Josh and I had fight in the shadow of Old Faithful.
I’m not being dramatic.
We watched him spew his 150-bathtubs-worth twice before we finally had to spew a little of our own.
I wish there was a picture.
Oh wait. There is.
So that timely old geyser faithfully did his beautiful business in the background while we had the nerve to have an ugly, stupid argument.
And it could have all been avoided, if I had just held my tongue.
But I didn’t.
I disrespected my husband. And for my reward I got an argument, a few tears and a half-ruined day at Yellowstone.
So my mouth has been a problem for me this week.
Sometimes it was what I said. Sometimes it was what I didn’t say. Sometimes it was the way I said it.
For months I have prayed Psalm 141:3 on a daily basis, that God would “set a guard over my mouth.”
He is faithful to do it, but I am not. When I forget to pray it, I can tell.
Arguments at national parks ensue.
But God is a God of forgiveness.
Though He saw me sit there all spineless-like while His son’s name was repeatedly slandered right in front of me, I am not ruined because “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12 NLT)
Despite hearing me nag my precious husband to a breaking point, He is still “a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” (Nehemiah 9:17b)
And He knows I’ll do it again.
But, Praise God! “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)
So I’ll pray it every day, “God, set a guard over my mouth.”
And when I can’t manage such eloquent utterings, I’ll go with old standby:
When in doubt, shut your mouth.
That’s the t-shirt I should be wearing…
Obviously, I need your help. Got any other practical methods for keeping a muzzle on your mouth? Share it so we all can benefit, eh?
Fantastic post, Hannah. Aside from my numerous LOLs while reading it, your message really hit me in the face. Words really do matter, and I am a regular offender when it comes to not being able to keep my mouth shut. I also appreciate your love of great t-shirts.
Thanks, Lindsay. It’s good to hear from you. I think many of us are regular offenders, we just don’t want to admit it. Not so unlike the many of us who already have plenty of t-shirts and don’t want to admit that either. 🙂 Hope you and Byron are doing well. I regularly use his Big Foot story when I need to entertain a crowd, so tell him thanks too. 🙂
My husband is very, very literal in what he says and how he takes what is said. I have developed a new appreciation for words and language. Specifically, I appreciate having learned the skill of keeping my mouth shut. Listening, acknowledging feelings vs defending and blaming. Arguments suck. Hope you guys rebounded back and enjoyed yourselves.
You got it, Hawley. There is a major learning curve with marriage especially that involves lots and lots of communication errors, many of which could have be avoided by just shutting up. If only it were so easy in the moment. 🙂
And, yes, we did rebound and have a good time. Everything out there is worth seeing, even when you are angry at your spouse. 😉
Great blog and I laughed and nodded and said oh yeah I’ve been there. As we age this grace comes from expierance but I know I’ve prayed many days that god would guard my mouth. Love your blogs always come away with something good from them.
Thank you, Marta, and thanks for reading. God has worked through some very painful lessons in my life to bring me understand how damaging our words can be. I’m thankful for His patience, and forgiveness, and mercy…and the list goes on and on. 🙂
Fantastic blog Hannah! I laughed, yeah I have been there. Over the past few years I have learned how much words do matter. I have had hurtful things said, to me by loved ones who did not mean anything by it. As there words hurt to the core of my being I went to the Lord in prayer. Gave my hurt to him and prayed for those who had hurt me without even knowing it. understand that they don’t understand what I am going through, may have pain and hurt in their own lives. Reminded me that I should be praying for them more.
Great reminder, Andrea! You definitely model the right way to handle it when someone uses words against you because, you’re right, this works both ways. We’ve got to be ready to forgive others when they say the wrong thing just as God forgives us when we say the wrong thing. Thanks, as always.
Great remender, Hannah!! I pray the verse in Ps. “Set a guard over my mouth O Lord, Keep watch over the door of my lips” quite often but never enough!!! 🙂
I know, Bonnie! I can’t pray it enough either, and I sure can tell a (terrible) difference when I don’t pray it at all! Thank goodness for God’s mercy. Thanks for reading and commenting!
I wish you would write everyday….I always love it! I also feel offended when people use Gods name in vein. I also don’t say anything
Thanks, Nanci. I’m glad you enjoy the blog. I wish I knew how to say something in love to someone who’s using God’s name in vain and say it so that it didn’t embarrass them or come across as self-righteous, but I’m just not sure I do. Even if I knew the right way to say it, I think I would still lack the courage. So, in that case, I need to also be praying 2 Timothy 1:7 daily as well: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and self-discipline.”
In other words, I have a lot of praying to do. 🙂
Writers have the wonderful ability to edit out the bad and edit in the good. That’s why I like written communication better than oral. I am forever saying things I’d like to take back and failing to say things I wish I’d put in.
Too bad God didn’t program in a replay button on our mouths.
But he did give us a pause button, kind of. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for a man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
You asked us to share tips on how to muzzle the mouth…
One step I’ve found helpful is to take the focus off the negative “I need to muzzle my mouth” and put the focus on the positive, ‘I need to open up my ears.”
I think if we are quick to listen that is one positive thing we can do that doesn’t require a lot of restraint. It’s not like we have to curb or tongue, which is hard.We don’t have to deprive ourselves of any of our rights to listen to the other guy. And when you are concentrating on the positive action of being quick to listen, the negative action of being slow to speak automatically follows without any effort on your part.
And since I know you’re into dying to self, you should like this plan. Because this “quick to listen” thing happens without a lot of thought about self. It takes the focus off of self (I need to muzzle my mouth) and puts it on the other guy (what is he saying?)
In the end all of the tongue troubles, the sarcastic, hurtful things we say, the gossip, the character assassinations–all of these–can be solved with dying to self.
Easy peasy. 🙂
Excellent, excellent point, Sally. I’m going to add that verse to my “mouth muzzling” prayers every day.
Better listening equals less talking. Less talking equals less saying things we wish we could take back. Though in the case I wrote about it, I wish I would have had the nerve to speak up, in most instances it is the other way around.
A year or so ago, a friend and I decided that we were going to try to remain silent for 5 seconds after every comment made to us, negative or positive. We were suppose to be practicing holding our tongue. I don’t know about her, but I never once actually did it. It wasn’t terribly practical anyway, but it was just way too had and way too unnatural.
Apparently, I stink at listening. :/
So you’re right. Die to self, listen more, and start praying for the strength to actually do it. Easy stinkin’ peasey. 🙂
Funny thing is: after I made that comment yesterday, I went on Facebook and spewed, without listening. Spewed my views without praying first. Was slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to become angry.
We never actually arrive. This battle with the flesh keeps going on.
You got that right.
Try writing a whole blog post about it and then failing upwards of 400 times since. Ouch.