I was a freshman in college when an older friend took me for a walk and confronted me about the deathly sharpness of my tongue, how I could cut another student to pieces and leave them in shreds on the campus floor.
Since then, there has been grace.
The Holy Spirit dug out mounds of trash and began growing kindness, gentleness, and self-control in me.
I started to think that this new ‘me’ is the real me, the gracious and gentle me who loves others and keeps her tongue in check. I thought I had learned the lesson:
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18 ESV).
But it was pride, foolish pride.
Now, the Lord is breaking that self-righteousness right down. It stings and aches, and I’d just like Him to finish the construction project already so I can stop feeling so bruised and laid bare.
I’ve been losing my ‘cool,’ snapping back when I felt challenged, flashing to defend myself.
One time felt like a fluke, just a bad day. But then it happened again. And again.
Every time, I’d think, “What’s wrong with me? That’s not who I am!”
I’d spend days, weeks even after each incident rehearsing the scenes in my mind, wincing at my words, embarrassed and ashamed.
I resolved to try harder next time. Be calm. Stay in control. Take deep breaths. Don’t talk when provoked. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to get angry.
Not that I’m cursing or yelling, of course. It’s just that temporary loss of control, speaking now and thinking later (with regret).
That’s not me. I’m sweet and kind. I’m patient and slow to speak.
That’s what I kept telling myself.
But the truth is even when I kept control of my tongue, the trash was in my heart–the criticism or judgments, the flashes of self-protective wit and anger.
Now God seems to be letting the trash of my heart come pouring out my mouth so I can’t hide it, not even from myself.
I keep entering the boxing ring and beating at myself with the same commentary.
I can’t believe I said that.
That’s not me. That’s not who I am.
What’s wrong with me?
Why am I so easily provoked?
I am an idiot.
I’m so embarrassed.
I review my day as a mom and realize I blew it here and I messed up there. I hear how my tone of voices loses gentleness even with my own kids.
I’ve spent months carrying around a load of shame and embarrassment because I just can’t seem to shake my reactivity.
What’s wrong with me?
Then this weekend, I read Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman and she pinned me to a display board when she said this:
Shock and shame are my most natural and immediate responses when I make a bad choice or have a bad reaction….If I feel shocked and ashamed when I snap…, maybe I’m assuming I can handle life on my own and I don’t really need redemption, not really. And so when my soul has a bad idea, I can’t believe it.
Shock and shame. That’s been me.
Why am I so shocked by my own sinfulness? Every. Single. Time.
It’s because I’ve been leaning so heavily on my own self-righteousness that I’ve failed to collapse in the arms of grace.
It’s because I’ve been assuming I could be perfect and am angry when I’m not.
I have messages I tell my kids over and over, hoping they’ll ring true in the deepest parts of them.
I love you.
I believe in you.
No one is perfect. We all mess up. We sin. That’s why we need a Savior. If we could be perfect on our own, we wouldn’t need Jesus.
Maybe in this season of humility and the breaking down, I find myself learning the lesson I’ve been preaching—
Accept the grace. Be loved.
Stop being shocked and embarrassed because I need a Savior.
Be humbled and live in awe of the One who Saves.
I don’t receive mercy because I’m perfect; I receive it because I’m imperfect and relying on Christ.
Aren’t we all?
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:8-12 NIV).
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now! To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2015 Heather King