Updated: Feb 22
By Heather Cox
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
As soon as the words left my mouth, a pit filled my stomach and I immediately regretted them, knowing an apology would be necessary. How could I have said something so horrible to someone I love so much? The image of a tube of toothpaste came to my mind, reminding me of the analogy of words being like toothpaste squeezed out of its tube: once it’s out there, it’s impossible to put it back in. And from the look on my daughter’s face, my words were definitely out there.
Oh I could blame a myriad of things for my angry words: her addiction to her phone, my overscheduled day being messed up as a result of school being called off AGAIN for the 98th Friday in a row due to snow, or my poor sleep the night before. But I’ve been a follower of Christ long enough to know that, while all of those factors may be true, the real root of my hurtful words stemmed from my heart (Matt. 12:34) and for this, I would need to get quiet before the Lord.
Memorization of scripture has never been my strong suit, but Ephesians 4:29 is one I try to keep top of mind. Early on in my life as a Christian, I knew some things were going to need to change – my occasional propensity for cuss words, my love for crude humor and jokes and how easy it was for me to fall into the pattern of gossip and tearing others down. To remedy all of that, my solution was to memorize Ephesians 4:29 and write it on notes so I could see it and hope and pray it would stick.
As you can see from my opening story it has not stuck, even all these years later.
BUT rather than fall into shame and discouragement, I first apologized to my daughter, asking for her forgiveness. Then I went back to Paul’s words in Ephesians to be reminded of what he instructs us in regards to words. I was then hit in the face with Ephesians 5:1: Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children…
While I am incredibly grateful for the fact that God sent His Son for us as an example, I am also incredibly grateful for the fact that we are His dearly loved children. And that truth changes everything.
Because I am His dearly loved child, I can respond with compassion and gentleness.
Because I am His dearly loved child, I can humble myself and ask for forgiveness and seek restoration with those my words have harmed.
Because I am His dearly loved child, I can set aside bitterness, rage and anger when things don’t go my way.
Because I am His dearly loved child, I can walk in the way of love.
Now I know the sad truth is I am still going to lash out and use harmful words to those I love the most, but being reminded of my positional standing as a dearly loved child of God is an excellent motivator and beats posting sticky notes around to illicit behavioral change. As a dearly loved child of God, I am invited to imitate my heavenly Father. When I forget this, what is the result? Piles of toothpaste words left in my wake. Gross. Today, let’s accept the invitation we have to live a life of love as a dearly loved child of God.