“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” – Ps. 19:14.
The words slipped out of my mouth before I thought to stop them. “What were you thinking? Are you crazy? What’s wrong with you?”
His little face crumbled before me, and he ran into his room to cry. Of course, I felt like the absolute worst mommy in the world. What kind of mother makes her six-year-old cry? But it had been an exasperating day with a lot of disobedience, and I had reached my limit. The resentment and anger had been building in my heart until it came spewing from my mouth, burning anyone in its path.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” – Prov. 15:1.
I know that I am not alone in the struggle of soft words with our children. We are sinners raising the next generation of sinners. When their sin collides with our sin, we can only brace ourselves for the damaging impact. It’s not the kind of mom I want to be, but, unfortunately, it often is the mom that I am.
We are now in the time of Lent, the 40 days before Easter when many Christians give up something in observance of the 40 days that Jesus went through His wilderness experience (Matt. 4:1-11). Many will put off food, drink, or bad habits in order to prepare themselves for the observance of Easter, when Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice in His death and resurrection.
I don’t usually practice Lent, but this year I was challenged to participate on Facebook through a group that wanted to build up a community of like-minded women who were willing to put off their unkind words. As this is a daily struggle for me, I decided to participate. I don’t believe in putting something off without putting something on in its place, and their biblical focus seemed to be just what I need!
Let me tell you, this is an exhausting challenge! It is so hard to give a soft answer after telling my kids (for the 100th time!) to please put their shoes on, so we can leave for their extracurricular activities! It is so difficult to not want to scream when they have poured syrup all over the kitchen floor. It is almost impossible to keep calm when there is pee all over the bathroom floor! (Seriously, how does this even happen with potty-trained children?!)
But let’s consider the psalm I put at the top of this post. In the verses preceding this verse, the psalmist has been proclaiming how wonderful God’s law is and how it benefits us:
The law of the Lord is perfect,[c]
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean,
the rules[d] of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether – (Ps. 19:7-9).
Can we put off the sin of our harsh words on our own? No, of course not! We may be able to put on a facade for awhile; but eventually the anger and frustration will bubble forth again, and we will lose our cool. We can’t simply get rid of anger in our hearts; we have to fill up our hearts with God’s love, which comes from meditating on His Word.
God’s Word is so powerful that it can revive us, make us wise, cause us to rejoice, and enlighten us! The words of our mouth are a reflection of what’s in our hearts. If I haven’t memorized scripture to meditate on, then there is nothing to fill in the sinful emptiness of my heart, and anger can easily slip back in. But when I allow the Holy Spirit to fill my heart with the precepts of the Lord, I have the resources I need to give my children a soft answer. I can “let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable” because God is my Rock and my Redeemer. I don’t have to do it on my own.
As I struggle through Lent, I am more conscious than ever that I can’t do this mommy “thing” all on my own. What about you? What are you struggling to give up for Lent this year? Even if you don’t participate in Lent, I want to encourage you to spend time in God’s Word, memorizing it and meditating on it. You will be much more prepared to face the day!
Now I guess I’d better go clean up the mess in the bathroom…