The words jump off the page. But, hey, I've read this passage countless times. Why now? Why me? Am I all that bad?
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brother, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. James 3: 9 - 12
The memory comes that in the past I have always told myself upon reading this that it doesn't apply to me, that I am not one of those people who curses others, one of those bad people. Or at least that I'm not ALL bad.
But today, with my heart open to God in fresh ways, I stop, and listen, unafraid and ready to hear. Somehow I know I can face this in myself, at last, and in the moment of confession, find forgiveness. I trust my heavenly Father enough to know He loves me so much, and He just wants to do more refining. I instinctively feel that He is saying to look beyond the hyperbole that Jesus so frequently used, the exaggeration, and to see that even if my "tree" or "spring" is not all bad because of the bad that I do, that He needs me to see the destructive effect of what I sometimes do, and the potential for it to become much worse.
Yes, He knows I really mean it when I praise Him, when I lead in our worship team and belt out the songs I love. He knows I really do trust Him and seek to honour Him in my life and choices. He takes me seriously, and He knows I take Him that way too. But because He is my father, and He wants to bring me closer, move me further, grow me up even more, He has to touch that spot, and today He's done it and I didn't say ouch.
So I reflect, how do I curse? What have I done that merits that description? Ah, it is my critical spirit, that lurks behind my thoughts and comments. I don't always say things out loud now. But in the past I did. I often had to qualify praise for others, bring them down in some way in the eyes of others. Maybe it was only to close friends. But the bent was still there.
I remember that weird dream a few months ago. I was shown a funny little man, almost like a mischievous leprechaun, with an orange turtleneck shirt and funny brown tights, a jaunty cap, a jutting chin and a sharp nose. "His name is Legalism", the voice in the dream said. This was in the context of all of us in the dream being shown the evil parts of ourselves.
Again, I had been struck with the word. I am not one to think of myself as legalistic. Heaven forbid!!! I'm all out for a generous way of relating to God, while obeying His requirements, but not holding people's toes to the fire about rules and appearances. But again, I was open to see what God was saying. Again I had identified my critical spirit as the culprit.
Okay, so it runs in the family. I come by it honestly. In fact, that was the major thing I found fault with in my mother!!! How typical. My critical spirit was critical of her critical spirit. And I listened to her tongue qualify the faults of others, while to the world she presented that wonderful sweet spirit. Hmm...something hit home again.
Thank you, Lord, for Your gracious lesson again. Thanks for letting me find it in Your Word, and not have it come through the rebuke of friend or foe. Thanks for making me ready to hear and see, and ready to change. Help me, Lord, to leave the judgments of others to You, and just be the one to praise and bless.