Every September our family would move back to our home in Richardson – just north of Dallas. Re-entry was never easy. For three months the kids had the run of 250 acres…which included a caring summer staff, a few other staff kids, a 70 acre lake with boats, a beautiful swimming pool, lots of horses, a bountiful, big garden, and for at least two summers, pet raccoons. Life at the ranch was never real easy – but it was a good place to spend the summer.
Once home it was time to catch up with friends, check in at the school, buy school supplies and some new clothes.
On Sunday we would make the re-entry to the Highland Park Presbyterian Church. The senior minister was Clayton Bell, a long term family friend, and the minister under whom I served when I graduated from seminary. Peggy and Clayton had warmly welcomed us to Dallas.
One fall, when Jenna returned to her Sunday school class, she noticed that all of the other girls were wearing black patent leather flats. So Sally Jo took Jenna to buy black patent leather flats.
The next week, Jenna headed for her Sunday school class with a smile on her face. She had shoes like the other girls in the class were wearing. And then one of the girls looked at Jenna’s new shoes and said, “Jenna, they are the wrong brand!”
Dirk, who was eight at the time, remembers Jenna’s devastation to this day, just as Sally Jo and I do.
What the girl said was true! This reality only made the words more hurtful. My guess is that the girl who made the comment does not remember the words, the incident at all.
On several occasions the look on a person’s face has told me that my words have hurt them deeply. But the words are out. Yes, I can ask for the person’s forgiveness, but the words are out! And what about the people whom my words have hurt deeply, and I have no clue? Lord, forgive me!
James wrote: “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” — James 3:2-8
What a contrast to the fruit of the Spirit: “ …kindness, goodness, gentleness, self- control” Galatians 5:22.
And so I pray “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.” — Psalm 141:3