Tripping On The Tongue
In college, my last quarter, I got to take all fun classes. Having fulfilled the requirements
for my major, I needed only to complete the necessary total of credits. My choice
curriculum included a creative writing class, and what an interesting group my classmates
turned out to be! One young fellow, who spent his evenings hitching rides in squad cars
for his research, wrote detective stories with an authentic ring. Another older fellow,
working on a masters in fine arts was a self-proclaimed former “skid-row bum” for two
years. He claimed to know where “the bodies were buried!”
Since I had been writing short stories from grade school days, I followed the admonition
to “write what you know.” So, the major story I wrote as a class assignment I titled
“Another Chance.” Fifteen pages long, it told the story of the time my brother nearly died
from acute nephritis when we were children. It was an unforgettable experience that
taught me a lesson I am glad I learned early in life---keeping short accounts.
“I’ll take care of that tomorrow,” we often think, assuming that, of course, we will have
another day. But, then we get that wake-up call. When Dad returned from the 60-mile
one-way trip to the doctor minus my brother, it grabbed me by the heart. My brother was
10 and the eldest of my five younger brothers. For some reason, he had always seemed to
resent me, and so I hadn’t learned to appreciate him, at the time, as I had the younger
boys. He and my 11-year old sister were best buddies. But, at 13, I was the old
bossy-cow big-sister assistant mom that was fair game. He and I were always on the
“outs,” or so it felt to me, with never a good word for each other. What a load of regret
weighed on my heart, as we learned from Dad how seriously ill my brother was. I slipped
away and locked myself in the bathroom, the only privacy available in a houseful of
family. And, I cried out to the Lord to give me another chance to be nice to this difficult
brother of mine!
One big danger in being a writer is mis-communication. We listen to the so-called news
of the world, but have to wonder how much is factual and how much biased propaganda
designed to polarize the population into warring factions ready to go at each other’s
throats. If the event reported were not bad enough, the telling of it becomes further cause
for offense. All this driving wedges between people is evident everywhere we look. It is
no wonder we see a world at war, and unimaginable scandals in the church at large, when
even the best of Christian families can be torn apart, going crazy over genuine or
perceived injustices! Wounded hearts are divided and the whole world has gone mad!
God knows what to do, but we forget to allow Him room to work! Recently, I spent time
studying the eighth commandment (especially important to writers!) section of Luther’s
Large Catechism. Luther goes so far as to say that “Every report, then, that cannot be
legally proven, is false witness...when one brings to you a report of another’s offense; tell
him to attend to punishment himself if he has seen the wrong-doing, otherwise to keep
silence...For there is nothing about a man nor in him that can do greater good or greater
harm, in spiritual or in temporal matters, than this smallest and weakest of his
When we are drawn into situations where forgiveness is sorely needed, we can add insult
to injury with our tongue. We all know we’re guilty. We read in James, “For in many
things we offend all...and the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity...it defileth the whole
body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell....”
My conviction is that one of the best uses of the tongue is in asking forgiveness of others,
and in granting forgiveness, immediately, to those who offend us. It is not in my power
to force another to repent and ask for my forgiveness before I will grant it. God will work
on the other, just as God works with me on my own offensiveness!
God answered my teenage prayer and He gave me “Another Chance.” My brother
survived and I learned a valuable lesson. As our pastor says, our God is the God of
Second Chances. Praise His Holy Name---and that is the very best use of our tongue!
Copyright 2002 by Edy T. Johnson
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