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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Let’s Just Back That Up A Step

From the Department of Missing the Obvious: I appear to have missed the obvious, and for most of my life. Funny how that works.

The more seasoned believers who read and comment here occasionally are welcome to have a giggle at my expense, though I know some of you well enough to be sure you’ll be considerably more gracious.

This is how the Christian life goes, right? So I throw this out there for any who are as thick as I am, which may well be nobody.

Setting a Watch

Personal story. For months I have been increasingly conscious of sinning with my mouth. Typical day: I get up, I walk, I pray, and I ask the Lord to “set a watch over my lips”. Yet often within hours I catch myself saying something I wish I hadn’t, and by the end of day if I cast my mind back over the conversations I’ve had, I’m sure to be asking forgiveness for multiple verbal blunders, some near-trivial, others egregious.

How does that happen so consistently? How can we ask for something in faith so often and not receive it, when we know that what we’re asking for is a good thing, and honoring to the Lord?

There’s probably more than one answer to that, but this morning I had an epiphany of sorts. I said to myself, “Wait, Self, let’s just back that up a step.”

Chronic Festering Attitudes

Back it up to where, you ask? Well, to my chronic festering attitudes. See, as you all well know, and as even I know (in theory if not in practice), the mouth is the last link in a chain of events that starts with the attitude. As the Lord put it:
“What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.”
Or as David says in the VERY NEXT LINE that follows the one about the “watch over the lips”:
“Do not let my heart incline to any evil.”
Oops. Apparently you can’t do much about the symptoms if you haven’t got around to treating the infection. Somehow I missed that connection for years. Go figure.

Addressing Root Causes

When I cast my mind back over the typical ways in which I err verbally (okay, yeah, let’s just call it sin), I can probably trace back each failure to a root cause of one sort or another.

That snarky comment about my neighbor? The words themselves were accurate, but I still shouldn’t have said it. I’ve been bearing a grudge against her for a while now. But I’ve been sticking my nose in something that’s none of my business. That’s between her and God and the people she’s offended. She hasn’t done a thing to me.

My heart is the problem.

That nasty throwaway line about an old, failed relationship? Totally unnecessary. Simply me fishing for validation from somebody likely to be on “my side”, when there’s baggage that needs sorting out with the individual in question.

My heart is the problem.

That edgy joke that was in poor taste? At very least, it was a failure to take evil seriously.

My heart … yeah, you know the drill.

Clearing Out the Bin

For the Lord to set a watch over my lips when I’m carrying around a heart full of pettiness, envy, unwillingness to forgive and lack of trust would be as futile as closing the lid on an overflowing dumpster. Sure, it might mute a few of the more noxious fumes temporarily, but the moment you open the lid the odor is even more blindingly toxic than before.

The better solution is just to clear out the bin.

Back it up a step.

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