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Shut my mouth - please

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By Nancy Kennedy

If I were God, I would’ve made people with delay devices on their mouths or a filter of some kind.
For example, when your brain wants to say, “Poodles aren’t real dogs,” before it comes out of your mouth the delay device would kick in and send you a message: “Really? Is that really what you want to say in front of this group of people who may or may not include poodle owners?”
True story. I said that once in front of a group of women at a local church (which means I run into these women at the grocery store) and a woman in the front row raised her hand and said, “I have a poodle.”
Crickets chirped in the silence for about five long seconds — and then she laughed. She didn’t really have a poodle.
My immediate thought: Good. Now I don’t have to move to Nebraska.
See, if we had filters, whenever someone would say, “Poodles aren’t real dogs” it would come out, “Poodles are the greatest dogs God ever made.”
But we don’t have auto-filters, and I have a real problem with my mouth sometimes.
Recently, I said something in public that probably offended a few people who heard me and I didn’t realize it until it was too late. I felt terrible, but it was a situation where I couldn’t amend my words because it would’ve drawn attention to the people whom I may have offended and would’ve made things worse.
So, I went home and beat myself up thinking about all the unhelpful or hurtful things I’ve said in the past and that I’ll surely say in the future and decided to join a convent where no one is allowed to speak at all, except I’d probably talk in my sleep and offend some nun who probably owns a poodle.
I told God (silently since I pretty much determined that my tongue is a lethal weapon) that I was really, really, really sorry and please don’t fry me on the spot. If God rolls his eyes, I’m sure he did at that point as he reminded me of one of my favorite scriptures: “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).
I’m not normally this neurotic, but something else was bothering me. In a radio interview featuring Toni Birdsong, the author of the blog and book, “Sticky Jesus,” about Christians sharing their faith online, she talked about “reckless” words and quoted Jesus who said, “On judgment day, people will have to account for every careless word they have spoken. By your words you will be found guilty or not guilty (Matthew 12: 36-37).”
She echoed what I’d heard before. A church I went to years ago also taught that God would one day play back a movie of our lives and as we stand ashamed in front of him and the angels and everyone else, we would have to explain our thoughts, words and deeds and God would condemn or commend us on the spot.
I well remember being afraid to speak or even think, feeling condemned even before I opened my mouth, certain that God kept careful score.
Somehow, I missed what Jesus had really said — and to whom he was speaking. He was addressing the self-righteous religious leaders, whom he called a “brood of vipers” among other things. He was accusing them of all sorts of evil, especially their words.
But he wasn’t addressing his followers. He wasn’t talking to the ones who put their faith in him, who believed in him. He wasn’t talking to us, we who call ourselves Christians.
After all, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). The score has already been settled, including our speech. We are not condemned and never will be!
However, that doesn’t mean we can speak recklessly. Our tongues can be lethal and still need to be bridled. We still need a filter. Thankfully, God has given us one. We have his Spirit who whispers in our ears, “Not those words. Not that tone. Not here, not now.”
It’s up to us to listen — and heed the whispers.
Sometimes I hear too late, but many times I’m stopped in time. I hope I’m getting better at it.
For those I’ve ever offended, I really am sorry. And I don’t have anything against poodles. However, I do have my doubts about Yorkies.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.