Behold the Power of the Tongue

  • Friday, July 23, 2010
  • "Death and life are in the power of the tongue..." Proverbs 18:21

    "For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect (mature) man, able to bridle the whole body as well" James 3:2. It's one of those stories my family will never tire of telling. I think we were prepared for a Burwell Frontier Days rodeo. We were definitely not expecting the Kentucky Derby! Let me explain...

    My Dad was a lover of horses. His dream ride would be an Arabian gelding. But his station in life, his financial limitations, his lack of proper facilities, and a host of other realities prevented him from ever realizing that dream. However, that did not keep him from attempting to pass on to his children an appreciation for animals...especially for horses.

    I think I was in the 3rd or 4th grade. We came out of the one room school house we attended to see my parents in a borrowed pick-up with a makeshift rack wired on the box. Four kids piled into the seat (one bench seat, but no seat belts in those days, so...). We headed east toward the city of Huron, South Dakota, totally engaged in trying to get the folks to let us in on the secret. "What are we picking up that goes in the back?" But they would give us no clue. We guessed a calf (thinking 4-H, I suppose), or a sheep, or a new dog, or...we guessed all around it, but for fear of the ultimate dream NOT being the surprise, not one of us suggested a pony. And finally, after a long, long ride, we turned off the hi-way and into a pony farm. When you are 10 or 11 years old, that is like a golden gate to heaven!

    An hour later we were all piled back into the seat of the truck and headed home. In the rear was the most beautiful Welsh pony your eyes have ever seen! And with him were a nicely cared for used saddle and brand new bit and bridle. As we drove way too slowly home, we were repeatedly instructed as to the responsibilities which had now become ours with the ownership of our new pet. Then, finally, we were home! Dapples (don't even ask where THAT name came from but somehow it was attached to him for life all because someone called him that on that long drive home), was led out of the box and stood in halter and rope, shivering just a bit out of fear of this over-zealous new family which had just become his.

    My Father's strategy was multi-faceted. He loved horses and this was an opportunity to come close to one. He loved his kids and this was an opportunity to gift them with a dream fulfilled. He knew that the care of a pet would teach us responsibility and consideration for the needs of others. And he also reasoned that the process of training an inexperienced pony would result in either our breaking the horse or the horse breaking us!

    He helped us slip the bit into Dapple's mouth, buckle the bridle under his chin, and synch down the saddle. And then he asked who wanted to ride first. Well, the entire drive home had involved arguments about who was going to have that honor. But when the reality of the opportunity arrived, along with the awareness that this was a pony not previously ridden, fear seemed to restore reason. Finally, being the more adventuresome of the four, I mounted this new prize. Now I fully anticipated a Burwell bronco but was completely unprepared for what happened next. To this day my family laughs when remembering my screaming as we (Dapples and myself) flashed past the front of our house, galloped at full speed across the large field that separated our home from the traffic of the hi-way, and headed into the deep road-ditch! Over my screeching I could hear my father's instructions, "Pull back on the reins! Pull back on his reins!" I did, but the brakes weren't working... :( He had taken the bit into his teeth and was feeling no restraint!

    On far too many occasions since that frightening but memorable event, I have found myself out of control, hanging at the mercy of an unrestrained animal. But it has not been galloping horses. Rather, it has been the untamed tongue...regrettably, my own untamed tongue!

    "If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses' mouths so that they may obey us, we direct their entire body as one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison." James 3:2, 3, 8

    "Death and life are in the power of the tongue..." Proverbs 18:21. Found yourself thinking, "I wish I hadn't said that!" Or, "When will I ever learn to just keep my mouth shut?" Or, "I hate it when I have to eat my own words!"

    Then this week in Proverbs is just for you. Consideration of mouth control from this book of wisdom will provide a "bridle and bit" to restrain and inform your tongue!

    Years later when the family had grown and were no longer home to care for and enjoy the pony, Dapples was taken to the sale barn. Though he was now significantly older, he had become so kid-friendly that the bidding went to double the highest sale they had made on a pony in months. We had ultimately succeeded in breaking Dapples. Now, if only I could do the same for my tongue...


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