Life Lessons From the Kitchen Cabinet
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I could take you to the exact spot, along that Nashville highway, where I felt that dagger plunge into my heart as I drove home one afternoon. Words were the weapon—instead of steel—but they cut just as deep.
I fought back tears as I struggled to find a response to my young son’s comments he whispered, under his breath, from the backseat: “I wish you were not my mother.” At that moment, many words flashed through my mind: angry words, tearful words, words of correction. But I realized that a quick response would not carry the weight I wished to share. My son lashed out when he did not get his way, not truly understanding the significance of what he said. And I needed him to understand.
In silence, we drove home. My son tried to talk to me as I got out of the car and walked inside, but I remained quiet. I walked into our kitchen, opened a cabinet door, and retrieved a 5-pound bag of cornmeal. I asked my son to follow me as I carried the cornmeal to a small patio that overlooked our tiny backyard. He curiously complied.
Reaching into the paper bag, I extracted a handful of the yellowish-white cornmeal and flung it across the yard. The powdery plume quickly fell and settled into the crevices of so many blades of grass. Then I turned to my son, extended my empty hand, and asked him to pick up every fragment and return it to my hand. With an excitement that only comes from youth, he raced into the yard, not even hesitating before he began this impossible mission. I stood, with my hand extended, as he made multiple trips to place a tiny portion of the powdery grain in my hand. Finally, he tired of this task, admitting he could retrieve no more.
“Was this how much I threw out?” I asked. He admitted that the contents of my hand—cornmeal mixed with weed fragments—was not anywhere near as much as I had broadcast across the yard. We stood there in silence a moment longer. Then I told him that our words are like that cornmeal. Once we throw them out so carelessly, we cannot fully retrieve them.
I did not rush this conversation. I wanted it to penetrate the crevices of his heart and mind so he understood. I then reminded him of those hurtful words he said in a moment of anger. Those words could never be fully taken back. So, that is why we should choose words carefully.
Of course, I forgave my son. He was a child who behaved … like a child that day. But now, I see so many adults who also lash out and broadcast hasty words to any who will hear—in person, on social media, everywhere!
The third chapter of the book of James warns us of the power of our words—for good or harm. In verse 5, the tongue is compared to “a tiny spark” that can “set a great forest on fire.” I know we’ve all seen reports of wildfires that often start small but soon destroy thousands of acres, homes—even lives! That is God’s warning about what our words can do in a moment of carelessness.
But God wishes for us to speak words of life—not destruction.
Dear Father, help us to sow seeds of peace, not strife. Help us to speak life, not death. May we surrender every word to You so people will recognize us as the righteousness of God. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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