Perhaps you, too, wonder sometimes if the above message is tattooed across your forehead or printed on a sign around your neck, considering the freedom some people feel to speak their opinions about your life, often at the most inopportune times. In my experience those moments seem to come most often in public venues when I’m surrounded by a host of listening bystanders. The latest left me standing before the man open-mouthed and speechless:
“I can see that you’re gaining weight, and that‘s alright, except that you used to be such a slender little thing.”
Aside from the fact that I can’t even remember the last time I was “slender “(it may have been in the fifth grade) I couldn’t believe the gall of the man to bring up such a sensitive subject in the middle of a crowded grocery store line. Yet if God can get past our pride, He can often use such comments to provoke positive change.
While not everything people say to us needs to be received, in this case I had to admit that the man was absolutely right. Having recently reached a new high on the bathroom scale, I had downloaded a calorie counter app onto my phone just the day before. What I lacked was the motivation to start using it, which this customer unwittingly provided. And in the month and a half since that day I have been carefully abiding by my calculated calorie allotment per day, considering my food options and making choices based on the calorie counts I now read on nutritional labels, googling the same in their absence.
Several things have happened in the weeks since I started. The first is that I became aware of just how many calories I was consuming per day, especially in caffeinated liquid form. I’ve noticed that with less food on my plate I eat each meal much more slowly, taking smaller bites and savoring the flavors of each individual meal element, instead of simply gulping it all down due to the abundance before me. And I love the rediscovered feeling of control over my diet and my weight, to know that I can still eat whatever I want, just not all on the same day. I budget my calories now, and plan ahead for meals out or special treats (pumpkin spice lattes come strongly to mind) so that I can enjoy them at the time and not regret them later when I next have to step on the scale.
And then another day, another customer, and another opportunity for life change.
This shopper told a fellow cashier that he was once married to a woman who talked as much as I did and was reminded how glad he was to be rid of her! At the time I simply wrote him off as a grumpy old man having a bad day, but he got me to wondering what a difference it would make if I had an app that tracked the words that come out of my mouth the way my diet diary tracks the food that goes in. If I was only allotted so many words per day, wouldn’t I take care to make every one count? I’d be careful not to waste any on foolish conversations, instead conserving my daily allocation to communicate the important thoughts on my heart and mind or to speak a blessing or encouragement to somebody in need.
The customer isn’t always right, despite the saying to the opposite, but in this case I had to agree with mine that there are people we avoid because of the ceaseless babble that comes out of their mouths, even friends we are afraid to open conversations with because we fear they will never end. The more compassionate hearts among us seek to find the reason behind their need to speak in long-winded diatribes; the rest of us just run from them. I don’t want to be counted in their number.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are those whose words are carefully considered and chosen before they’re spoken, people whose inner thoughts come out in short and stirring messages of wisdom, hope, or enlightenment. While they don’t speak in volume, what they do say has a definite impact, and the people around them have learned that their conversation is worth the wait, however short their communication may be. This is the word-watcher group we should be anxious to join.
It’s interesting to note that my calorie-counter app takes into consideration any exercise I do, and allows me extra calories to consume each day according to the number I burn off in activity of some sort. It seems that everything short of sitting in a chair burns off some calories; the list of possible physical exertions to engage in seems endless as I scroll through page after page of them on my phone. I don’t visit the list often, as my “exercise” usually consists of a short walk on the road in front of my house and maybe a stretch or two. But I’m reminded of the correlation with my faith, that my opportunities to speak for God and the life-changing power behind my words are increased with the active pursuit of His presence through prayer and Bible study and the exercise of my faith in ministry of some sort. Again the opportunities to serve are endless and should be ever on our minds instead of tucked away and ignored as we go about our days.
Some day God will tell us what He really thinks…about our lives…our love walk…our spiritual weight… and the value of the words we spoke. His opinion will count for all eternity, so we should make sure it’s one we’re going to want to hear. Let’s strive to live in such a way that God Himself will savor the flavor of what we have to say.
“…For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings out good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings out evil things. But I say to you that every idle word, whatever men may speak, they shall give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.”
(Matthew 12:34-37 MKJV)
(Matthew 12:34-37 MKJV)