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I Can’t Believe I Said That

I was having a great time with Pam yesterday. We were laughing and getting caught up with one another as we shared stories of the week. Then, for some unknown reason, I blurted out something that was just really insensitive. It was one of those moments in life when you realize just a little too late that what you are saying is not going to accomplish anything good. I was stunned at myself because I wasn’t trying to be mean. There are times, to be sure, when my attitude is childish and I say things with a little bite in my tongue but this wasn’t one of them. I was enjoying Pam’s company and I wasn’t aware of anything that was bugging me.
Without hesitation, I followed up the insensitive announcement with, “I can’t believe I just said that. That was so insensitive. I obviously wasn’t thinking because I would never have planned to say what I just said.”
I looked at Pam to see how she was doing and I could tell she was a little stunned also, so I kept talking. “Really, Pam, I can’t believe I just said that. I don’t even believe the words that came out of my mouth. That was so weird. I didn’t even have time to reel them back in, they just blurted out like they had a mind of their own. Whoa, that was really insensitive.”
Fortunately, my rambling rescued the mood. What could have been a hurtful, lingering memory got us both laughing. Pam gave me the benefit of the doubt because I guess I have a long enough track record of sensitivity toward her and she accepts the principle that the tongue has a mind of its own and gets carried away sometimes.
It was a perfect example for me of James 3:2-10, “We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check . . . 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 . . . It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell . . . With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”
So, what exactly did I say to Pam that was so insensitive? Well, it wasn’t a good thing to say the first time and I am not foolish enough to repeat it. You will just have to imagine what it might have been based on your own experience.

Muddy Tires

Every once in a while I hear a statement that captures my attention and gets my mind racing. It happened recently with my son. He has taken up mountain biking as a hobby and decided to explore a new trail. It had snowed a couple of weeks before and temperatures had been fluctuating from mid-twenties at night to high forties during the day. He researched the trail on the internet and carefully planned his route. He didn’t take into account, however, the fact that the slowing melting snow would impact the trail. I asked him how his ride went.
His reply was, “I didn’t get very far. So much mud accumulated in my tires that they stopped moving. It was so thick I had to pick mud and rocks out of the tread. I finally had to just turn around, find a hose and ride home on the streets.”
We laughed about it as he told the story in great detail but the idea that accumulated mud stopped his progress wouldn’t go away. I started thinking about the ways this statement applies to my life.
• Life is intricate so it is hard to predict every obstacle. I may set goals, plan out a course of action, anticipate the challenges and still miss an important fact (like melting snow creating mud). Remaining flexible enough to make mid-course corrections is as important as being firmly committed.
• In this world, mud accumulates. When it is a little, it is not too difficult to deal with. “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) We can “hose off” and get back on the trail without too much effort or agony.
• When a lot of mud gums up the works of my life, I must make significant decisions and put in concerted effort. “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8) If my son had stubbornly kept going, he would have had a very long day. He could have dug the mud out of his tires, rode a few feet then repeated the process but it would have needlessly exhausted him. He could have gotten off and pushed his bike along the trail but it would have defeated the purpose of trail riding. He could have gotten angry and put more effort into his peddling to overcome the buildup of the muddy obstacle. I am pretty confident that would have only wore him out without producing any better results. The best thing for my son to do was to turn around, learn from the misadventure and be wiser next time.
I think the reason this statement stood out to me is that I see so many people stubbornly refuse to make changes when change is obvious. We all battle with desires in our hearts that lead us to unproductive and unhealthy paths. We all hit obstacles despite our best intentions. We all face decisions that could needlessly complicate our lives and halt our progress. So often, we just keep moving in the same direction rather than admitting the mistake and turning around. It has now become one of my goals this year to admit to muddy trails as soon as I am aware of them.

An Unexpected Collapse

Haystack Rock

I love playing on the beach with my one-year old granddaughter because she seems to have an unusual love for sand. Twice I have seen her get a mouthful of pacific grit without any signs of irritation. The first time it was because her sister rolled her to the ground. The second time she picked up a small shovel of sand and voluntarily took a bite. I went to the edge of the surf to get a bucket of water to help with her latest masterpiece. On my way back I saw her standing still watching her sister. I stopped and started pouring liquid on her feet thinking she would like the feel of the water on her skin. At first she loved it. She smiled then broke out in laughter. Then her expression changed to one of surprise as she started to wobble. She swayed one way then the other before she collapsed in a heap. I looked down to see a sink hole in the sand right under her feet. What started out to be fun eroded the ground below her feet and made it impossible for her to keep her balance.
I couldn’t help but think if James 1:14-15, “. . . each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
If I wanted to be mean to her, I would have repeated the behavior over and over to amuse myself at her shaky behavior. The expression on her face was funny and the way she collapsed was remarkably cute. This is the way our world approaches us. The world system and the army of evil spiritual forces around us enjoy the difficulties and devastation of people’s lives. They treat it like entertainment and play the scenario over and over as often as men will participate.
I love my granddaughter, however, so I stopped as soon as I realized it wasn’t good for her.
It is a shame we have to live in a world of temptation but that is reality. There are lots of activities, philosophies, and experiences that start out feeling really good but in the end they cause us to lose our balance and lead us down a destructive path. The “cool water” is refreshing when it first hits our feet but then it creates sink holes in our emotions, our relationships, or our attitudes. If we recognize the destructive nature quickly, we can easily step to the side and avoid any real damage. If we refuse to accept that the ground under us is deteriorating, the effects can become devastating.
Lord, give me the wisdom to know the difference between experiences that make me a better person and those that create sink holes under my feet.