A few years ago, our women’s Bible study class did a charity yard sale at my house.
On Thursday night, one of the ladies and I were making the signs using brand new markers she had bought. Suddenly, one of the markers started leaking! Black ink splattered onto the vinyl tablecloth and the vinyl tile floor. Black dots. Not cool. We hurried to clean it up right away before it dried and managed to get most of it up, but we must have missed a few splatters on the floor, and by the time I saw them later, they were permanently on the vinyl tile. I tried product to no avail, and scrubbing got up the ink but also removed the shiny surface of the tile.
The same night, my husband decided to grill steaks outside so we wouldn’t have to cook. The grill had a pane of heat-resistant glass in it, and (wouldn’t you know it!) chose that night to burst and shatter! The glass shards were scattered in the grass, on the sidewalk, and inside the grill. What a mess! And cleaning it up in the dark was quite a challenge; we had to check in the daylight to see if we had gotten everything.
Anyway, I got to thinking that, in a way, permanent markers and glass windows can be alike. When they burst, they both make a BIG MESS that is very difficult and sometimes even impossible to clean up. Also, they are usually both easier to clean up if you do it right away.
The same thing can happen with our words when we don’t think before we speak. We can make a big mess and hurt people even when it was unintentional. Then we have to go back as soon as possible and start the clean-up process with our sincere and heartfelt “I’m so sorry”s using the soaps and balms of love, kindness and humility.
The longer we wait to clean up the mess of hurt feelings, the more likely it may be that the relationship will be permanently marred, stained, or even shattered.
Have you hurt someone with your words? Please let me urge you to humble yourself and go right away, with urgency and prayer, and do everything you can to make it right.
The Sunday evening after the yard sale, I went to Bible study, not having studied my lesson that week. Lo and behold, I found out that part of the lesson had to do with the destruction we can cause with our tongues! I was able to share the above insights with the class.
Not long after this, the Lord gave me a second double whammy.
My daughter and I went and bought some paint for the walls in her bedroom. As she was carrying the small can of pink paint across the deck, she dropped it, and the lid came off spilling quite a bit of the brand new paint. Are you kidding me?!?!
We had to clean it up right away, of course, before it dried, just like the permanent marker. Only the interesting thing about what happened with the paint was that it drew out the dirt that was in the wood, and after we had it all cleaned up, the place where the paint had been spilled was cleaner than the rest of the deck. Now don’t think that I’m advocating purposely hurting someone so they’ll clean up their act after you apologize. Don’t forget the shattered glass. We have no guarantee that our apologies will be accepted. We cannot force the other person to forgive us. It’s always better not to say injurious words in the first place but rather to pray for God to clean up their act in His own perfect way. The spot where the paint had been spilled still stood out in stark contrast to the rest of the deck as a reminder of the accident and the paint and time that had been lost.
Shortly after cleaning up the spilled paint, one of us broke a glass cup that my husband had brought back from Germany. As far as we know, it was irreplaceable. We cleaned up the glass shards and left an empty place where the glass used to be.
This part grieves my heart because I’ve seen and felt the brokenness that comes from relationships shattering. Perhaps you have too. Some relationships cannot be put back together by “all the kings horses and all the kings men”. But the King, Himself, He can do wonders!
P.S. Do you feel like you are picking up glass shards in the dark using a flashlight?
“God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” I John 1:5b
Look for the shards in the light of His word. Search for them diligently so no one else will be injured by them before you find them. Pick them up and get rid of them. Don’t continue speaking (or thinking – Phil. 4:8) sharp words, discouraging words, words that tear down. Ask for God to help you obey His command in Ephesians 4:29:
” Don’t ·say anything that will hurt others [let any rotten/unhealthy word come from your mouth], but only say what is ·helpful [good] to ·make others stronger [build others up] ·and meet [according to] their needs. Then what you say will ·do good [give grace; be a gift] to those who listen to you.” (Expanded Bible)
Yes. Words that do good. that give grace. that are a gift. That’s the way to go!