The sounds of chicken frying and potatoes boiling, mixed in with the smell of biscuits baking, made for a most pleasant and secure feeling that night. My mom was busy in the kitchen while I sat cross-legged on the counter watching her every move.
Then the shrill sound of the old rotary wall phone changed it all in an instant. I could tell by the worried look on my mother’s face and the irritated tone in her voice that this was not good. She looked at me as she hung up the phone and said “Your Dad and I have been called to a Parent/Teacher Conference.”
My security slid right out the door and my appetite tanked. My older sisters found great joy in the moment, dancing around the kitchen, singing in unison, “You’re in trouble, you’re in trouble.” They were right. I was in trouble with my parents, but not necessarily in trouble at school.
I was in the 4th grade and my increasingly concerned teacher told my parents at their meeting that I didn’t get into trouble; I just laughed at those who did. My husband jokes that it was a pre-requisite for my career as a news reporter. But what was really happening was I had found my first excuse to talk about people. They were in trouble. They had done something wrong. I not only thought it was funny that they were being judged for their actions, but I was anxious to tell other people what had happened.
In some ways, it was a sport I had learned while watching grownups gossip at all sorts of gatherings. In fact, I discovered it was not only okay to talk about people; it seemed to be an acceptable sin even at church. I remember my mom getting to a point where she no longer wanted to get us all dressed up on Easter Sunday. It made her feel uncomfortable how some people talked more about what others were wearing, and how much they were spending, than the word they were supposed to be hearing.
I don’t know why it’s so hard to tame the tongue. We are warned many times in the Bible about its destructive powers. Although I know men who can slice and dice with a quick slash of their tongue, it’s usually women who get the worst rap when it comes to spreading gossip.
The older I get the more I recognize the temptations of that old trap. I’m far better than I was in the 4th grade, but still find that I have not yet mastered my mouth.
It’s not as bad as it once was, back when my tongue might have gotten me all tangled in a web of my own making. But I do get that little twinge of a spiritual reminder when I talk too much. It’s that gut feeling that I should stop. If I don’t, it either makes me feel really sick inside or I walk away feeling stressed and strangely justified, but sad and sorry all the same.
I did it again today. The conversation started innocently enough then one thing led to another and I quenched the voice of the Holy Spirit so I could have my say. It felt just like I knew it would.
“All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
It’s true! Sometimes we can’t stop it; and we certainly can’t tame it. But it’s not really up to us. God knows our weaknesses and he’s got us covered.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
Tomorrow is a new day and our God of second chances will let us try again to walk away or remain silent. A friend at work frequently uses the phrase, “Stay in your lane.” It’s good advice. If we concentrate on what we’re supposed to be doing, the temptation to talk about others won’t be so tantalizing. If you think about it, it’s ironic in a way, when we are talking about someone else we are the ones who are wrong.
Until we meet again, I pray we all keep our hands on the wheel and our judgemental and critical tongues tucked safety behind our teeth.
I don’t remember if I got a reprieve, was grounded or maybe even spanked after my parents found out what I was doing. But I suspect my sisters have a few memories they might be willing to share.
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