The Heart of the Matter
My sister Chrystal and I shared a room growing up. It was a small 12 x 13 space with our twin-sized beds lining opposite walls. Mine was right next to the Jack and Jill bathroom that connected to our brothers’ room. I distinctly remember waking up one morning, looking above the frame of that bathroom door and seeing a slight, slender crack creeping upward about two feet from the top of the door to the ceiling.
When my dad found out about it, he called a painter who came over, applied some plaster and repainted with the most compatible color he could find. For several weeks after that, I went to bed looking at the misplaced line of color streaked on the wall above the door.
Then one day I awoke startled to see that the crack had returned. And this time, he wasn’t alone. He apparently had been recommending his new living arrangements to his family members, because it appeared they’d all come to settle in with him. As many as a half dozen cracks of all shapes and sizes now laced the wall.
But when another painter came to examine the situation, he told my dad that painting alone wouldn’t be sufficient to solve the problem. The reason the cracks were showing up, he explained, was because the foundation underneath our house was shifting. And no matter how much paint we splashed up there to cover them, they would keep coming back. The cracks were merely symptoms of a more serious condition.
The only way to rectify this problem was to address the foundation.
. . . the foundation.
Have you ever said something – uttered an off-hand comment or voiced an impromptu sentiment – then immediately wondered how in the world you’d allow something like that to spill out of your mouth? Have you, like me, ever surprised yourself?
Controlling my own tongue is a quest that I’m sure will require all the maturity that every single year of my life will bring. That’s because so far along this journey, I’ve already discovered that the “cracks” I make with my mouth are actually symptoms of a much deeper, much more intimate issue, something much more difficult to address. It’s down below the surface. Closer to the ground than my mouth is.
“For out of the abundance (overflow) of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45 AMP)
Turns out, my mouth is only a barometer that divulges whether I’m immersed in humility and surrendered in obedience to the Lord, or whether I’m housing a malnourished spirit that stubbornly refuses to yield to the wisdom of God’s own Word.
It’s a foundational issue.
So taking inventory of your tongue’s track record is an instructive way to uncover what’s hidden within your heart. Let’s try it.
- Symptom: Are you always quick to offer an opinion, inserting your assessments into conversations at every conceivable opportunity? Diagnosis:This could reveal a haughty tinge in your heart, which causes you to feel the need to impress and be at the center of attention.
- Symptom: Are you constantly critical and demeaning in your spoken sentiments? Diagnosis: These are often code words for insecurity and a lack of certainty in your inherent value, as well as a heart infested with anger and judgmental attitudes.
- Symptom: Do you frequently find yourself quarreling with your spouse or being divisive among others? Diagnosis: You’re lacking a spirit of peace and unity deep inside, a true desire for your relationships to be strengthened and reflect the grace of Christ.
- Symptom: Does gossip continue to come easily for you, so that even the steeliest self-restraint is unable to stop you? Diagnosis: You find others’ problems and difficulties entertaining and don’t think of them as people needing your support, prayer, and companionship.
- Symptom: Do your words often reveal a doubtful, skeptical outlook? Diagnosis:You’re low in the faith and belief department, not operating from a deep trust in God’s ability and His wise handling of the details and timing of your life.
The words of our lips are like cracks in the wall, revealing what’s going on at the foundation. For truly, “out of the abundance (overflow) of the heart the mouth speaks.”
So I ask you . . .
What is in abundance in your heart?
What are you putting inside?
What treasures are you storing?
If you don’t know, just listen to yourself, because your words and tone and topics of conversation will tell you. This is why it’s so imperative that you heed this remarkable piece of biblical advice:
“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
You must be the guardian of your own heart, ensuring that you do not allow it to become polluted by anything that will hinder your mission of being conformed into the likeness of Christ. The more you soak in His Word and His truth, the more you can expect to have a deep reservoir filled with all the treasures needed to temper your conversations with wisdom, kindness, and humility.
So maybe, instead of “watching our mouths” we should begin by watching our hearts. Any lasting change we make in controlling our speech will have to start at the base, the foundation, down where the cracks are really formed.
Down where breakthroughs can really happen.
Priscilla Shirer, Going Beyond Ministries
*Adapted from Priscilla’s new book, “The Resolution For Women“. To be released September 2011 through Broadman and Holman Publishing