“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 NRSV
There are two days during the year of which I am not particularly fond. The exact dates vary from one year to the next, but one is guaranteed to fall in the spring and the other in the fall. At this point, you may be wondering just what it is that I am talking about. The answer? Dental checkups. In fact, I do not know many people who would say they are all that fond of going to the dentist. Whether or not we “enjoy” our dentist experience is one thing, but, in all honesty, we know there is something to proper dental hygiene. There are a multitude of commercials for this toothpaste and that toothbrush. We teach children songs to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” to instill in them the need for daily brushing. If you are anything like me, you may attempt to make up for poor flossing practices the week of your appointment, but the truth comes forth once the chair is leaned back.
In my reflection for July, I do not wish to dwell on dental hygiene and I am not going to offer helpful tips for a healthy smile, but I would like to take a moment to focus on the mouth. No, not the fact that each of us has been created with lips, teeth, and a tongue. And not even for the fact that, as Barney Fife discovered, “all God’s children have a uvula” (the little flap hanging down in the throat). On a side note, this discovery was made in the episode “Barney in the Choir” from the Andy Griffith Show (a favorite of mine). Instead, I wish to focus on the mouth for what it does. With it, we can chew our food, breath air into our lungs, and make an expression which indicates how we are feeling in a given moment. We can also use it for communication, both healthy and unhealthy. Granted, it does not produce speech on its own. It works in conjunction with the brain and voice box to formulate words and convey ideas. But, we must admit, it is pretty important to the process.
The Psalmist understood the impact of speech and how that speech is developed within the meditations of the human heart. The mouth does not say whatever it so chooses, but is capable of communicating only what it gains from the inside. That is why the Psalmist uttered the words, “Let whatever is in me and comes out of me be appropriate to you God” (my paraphrase). The verse falls at the close of Psalm 19 which acknowledges the presence of God through nature and the Psalmist’s appreciation for the Lord’s instruction. When the Psalmist ponders the divine presence in and through creation, and what he discovers of God through a meditation on God’s instruction, he cannot help but reflect upon his own life. To discover who God is causes humanity to see ourselves in a different light. We start to unearth our personal shortcomings and those areas of our lives which do not match with God’s character. This realization then must place us at the mercy of God. You might say this closing statement of the Psalm is a petition for divine help. It is a petition for God to get things right in his heart in order that he might say what is true of God through his lips. The mouth can only report what it knows within and that is why it is so essential that the inner source be clean and approved of God.
So, I ask, “What do your words say about you?” When you “peel away” the layers of your inner being, how does your “source” appear. Is it filled with bitterness, resentment, and negativity? Is it filled with anger, revenge, and arrogance? If so, how can God bless such a heart and the communication which originates therein? The answer is, “He cannot and will not do such a thing.” Whatever is in your heart will become known very quickly to anyone who cares to listen. Unfortunately, so many people bear their hearts without regard for who might be listening. No, not that others are eavesdropping and being disrespectful to private conversations, but rather that they are in the right place at the wrong time. It happens in homes, places of employment, and, yes, even amongst the people of God. I encourage you to take a moment to reflect upon your conversations at the close of each day for a few days and ask yourself a few simple questions:
What subject did I talk about the most?
Did my conversations revolve around other people?
If someone’s name did happen to surface, what was the nature of the discussion?
What would God say about the things which I have talked about today?
The words of Psalm 19 have been a part of my life for a number of years. The late Reverend Willis Wilson, who pastored my home church when I was growing up, would incorporate them into worship Sunday after Sunday. Prior to the morning message, he would offer a simple prayer, “Lord, let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you.” His desire was for his sermon to be communicated in a manner which was true to the biblical text, but also true to his character as a minister of the Gospel. The same should be true of our lives. Each day, we need to voice a prayer which includes careful attention to what is in our heart and how that is communicated to others and concerning others. It reflects not only on who we are, but also suggests to others much about God, our Christian beliefs, and the reputation of the Body of Christ. “O be careful little tongue what you say. O be careful little tongue what you say. For the Father up above is looking down with love. O be careful little tongue what you say.”
Together in Christ,
The Reverend Kelley Smart