We goofed the other day, while cooking a couple of chili dinners. You’re supposed to cut a slit in the plastic film covering these dinners and then microwave the trays for 90 seconds. We did that. Then you remove the plastic and stir. Did that too. Then the little black plastic trays go back in the microwave for another minute. We put one tray in “Luke” and the other in “Nuke,” and then punched Quick Minute on our twin microwaves.
Luke and Nuke sang out BEEP! almost in perfect harmony, we opened their doors and … what a mess! We’ve often heated dinners like these with no mishaps, but this time we forgot to put the plastic covers back on the trays! Guess we were busy talking about our book projects and absentmindedly tossed those protective plastic covers in the trash. Live and learn: It looked like something had exploded in these microwaves. And that’s pretty much what happened. Beans have a tendancy to POP! when microwaved. When you have a bean burst, it hurls shrapnel in every direction: chili sauce, cheese, and bean fragments. The insides of Luke and Nuke were smeared with gunk! Cleaning up this mess was time consuming and not much fun. But we knew we needed to fix our mess before the chili sauce and cheese dried and got hard. Believe it or not, we can all learn an incredible lesson from this unfortunate mishap. Yes, we all need to cover our dinners in the microwave, but we also need to frequently cover our mouths.
Words are like beans. When we get hot, they tend to pop out of our mouths and make an emotional mess! Ever have someone tell you to just speak your mind? Uh, we’re not sure if we want to hear everything you’re thinking. We have some friends whose mouths seem to work faster than their brains. Forgive us for mixing our metaphors, but once the cow’s out of the barn, it’s too late to shut the barn door! So instead of blurting out things we later may regret, we need to carefully weigh our thoughts and words before they charge out of our mouths. Decide if what we’re about to say is helpful. Will it improve the situation. Will it BUILD the listener UP, or TEAR the listener DOWN.
We’ve all heard that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” WRONG! “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21 KJB) Words actually have the ability to heal or to hurt. In fact, wars usually start and end with words. Words, when hurled by a malicious or unruly tongue, can wound like tiny spears.
Remember how as kids we’d embarrass our parents by blurting out some really stupid and inappropriate things? Maybe we even made fun of other kids. But hey, we were kids, right? Unfortunately, some of us still are, or at least we act like it. We take great pleasure in making smart comments, often at the expense of someone else’s feelings. We gossip, insult, and aggravate with our words, never pausing to consider the damage we’re doing. The Apostle Paul writes, “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11 NLT)
In other words, stop spewing words that wound. This includes words that wound unintentionly — because some people seem to suffer from Foot-In-Mouth Disease. Whether intentional or not, we can take precautions that will prevent making a mess, by covering the chili in the microwave and the words in our mouths. Cover those little black plastic trays with plastic; cover your mouths with prayer.
If you forget to cover your food before nuking it, you’ll have a mess on the surfaces you can see and clean. But if you forget to cover your mouth, the mess you make is often unseen, smeared beneath the surface: hurt feelings, anger, resentment. If you can’t see these emotions, you can’t clean the stains they leave. So they harden….
Ask God to cover your mouth: “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3 NIV)