A few months ago I was in a public toilet and happened to glance at the writing on the back of the door. I have never before read one helpful thing scrawled on the back of a public toilet door, but that day I read this: 'We are the master of our silences but the slave of our words.' I thought, hmmm, there is some truth in that. Our tongues are difficult to master (James 3:1-12) and there are advantages to being slow to speak (James 1:19) and using less words (Ecclesiastes 5:3).
I really liked this chapter on being thoughtful with our words. Well, actually, "liked" is not the word for it. I was very convicted by this chapter. Almost every paragraph called to mind something I've said recently that I shouldn't have said - something that was disrespectful, uncharitable, indiscreet, whining, something that cast someone in a bad light - and I did a lot of repenting as I went along. It was diagnosis and surgery for my good.
I liked that this chapter illustrated how our words reveal what is in our hearts, and then applied the truth of the gospel to our hearts. I liked that it gave us five areas in which to think about what our words are saying about our hearts and practical ways to work at change in those areas. No doubt we all have our particular growth areas among them, and for me the section that poked me hardest was on complaining and thanksgiving (and often for me it is not blatant complaining so much as bouts of pessimism). This book has challenged me right the way through to think hard about what my attitude to singleness is, and now, how I give voice to that attitude. The diagnostic quote from Chris Silard on page 188 was food for soul searching and repentance. One of my resolutions for this year (and last year!) was to work harder at being thankful and I have added into that the voicing that thankfulness. And as Carolyn tells us, we have the grace and truth that came through Jesus and the Holy Spirit to regenerate our hearts and enable us to increasingly gain the mastery over our tongues.
Related to that, the idea of being prepared to give an answer for our hope (1 Peter 3:15-16), in response to ungracious or insensitive questions about singleness was a novel one. I've been known to say things in response to such questions like "you'll know (implication being, without you having to ask), if I ever have any "news", because the sky will fall down the day that happens" (? - what am I thinking when I say that?!). Using it as an opportunity to point to the Lordship of Christ in my life is not something I've done well. So I'm working on a few different responses.
Here are Carolyn McCulley's discussion questions for this chapter:
Further reading (and listening):
2008 National Desiring God Conference. It is convenient that this whole conference was about words. This is a link to a page containing all of the talks. The first talk by Sinclair Ferguson, on James 3:1-12, and the resolutions that he includes in it, is worth reading or listening to (you can do both via that link).
You Can Change, by Tim Chester. Once again this is a good book for doing more surgery on yourself.
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