A heart willing to be directed
I’m determined to watch steps and tongue so they won’t land me in trouble. (Psalm 39:1)
If you have ever tried to "watch your steps", you might just have tripped over your own two feet! Worse yet, you are actually paying so close attention to your steps, you miss the post in front of you and run smack-dab into it! You probably notice this the most whenever you are trying to watch what you say - for words can be the toughest things to keep a rein on. At the moment we determine to watch our words, we can almost count on something slipping past our lips, out into the open space between us and the ones who will hear them, never to be in our control again! Determining we are going to influence our steps or control our tongue is silly because of our total inability to do either! We definitely need some influence outside of our own effort to get this stuff right, don't we? "But as I stood there in silence—not even speaking of good things—the turmoil within me grew worse." (Psalm 39:2) We stand our ground, keep our peace, but when surrounded by evil, the toughest thing to do is remain strong in our stand and to hold our peace when everything inside us is just beckoning to share a little of our thoughts about the matter! Perhaps the toughest struggle comes to us when we are faced with something we don't have the best feelings about and then we try to bring out some good feelings or speak forth some good words in the midst of the turmoil. I think this may just be because we don't want to be in-genuine, or hypocritical.
Is it possible to "watch our steps" when the road ahead is not very pleasant? What is it we can do to pay closer attention to our steps, but avoid the tendency to misstep? I think the "secret" to this is not in our desire, but in our action. As long as WE are taking the steps to walk straight, we probably won't realize how treacherous some of our steps actually are! We need the influence of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to guide our steps - to keep us on track - and to establish us on a strong foundation. OUR steps aren't consistent without the help of the Holy Spirit. He is our enabling force when we just don't know how to take the first step and he is our directing force when we might be about to change the course of our future stability with the step we are about to take. OUR ears and heart have more to do with the stability of our walk than we might actually realize. It is more than action - it is the right action which produces the outcomes we desire. Our ears must be attentive to listen for the still small voice of God - maybe in a word we glean in our time in daily study, maybe in a tiny whisper deep within our inner man that just "checks" us before we go any further. Our heart must be willing to be directed - otherwise the steps we take will be ours - directed by our self-will and independent determination.
Can we really "watch our tongue" when there are so many words just clamoring to get out? After all, the world needs to hear what it is we have to say, doesn't it? Maybe I could challenge us all a little on that one - not everything we think is worth speaking! Scripture often speaks of just being still and listening - something we might do well to engage in a little more frequently, huh? Listening is one of the toughest things because we just want to jump right in and shed a little of our "light" on the matter. The tongue needs more help than we may actually realize. Scripture bears witness to the fact of words being spoken and acting as the seed of thought which will determine our steps. Adam and Eve only took the first misstep AFTER the serpent spoke the words which placed a moment of doubt and a little confusion into the minds of the listener! The words we listen to will influence the words we choose to speak. In determining to keep a watch over our tongue, we are actually committing to keeping a watch over our ears, eyes, and other senses, as well. What we hear influences what we speak. What we see puts fresh thought into our minds which may not have been there before, influencing our speech in ways we may not imagine.
Lest we think we can do this on our own, let me just point us back to scripture. James 3 reminds us of the means of controlling our tongue. The idea of a bit in the mouth of the horse, or the rudder on the ship - each being able to control something more powerful than either the bit or the rudder would appear to control. We may not realize the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, often because we don't see him at work! Yet, he is like the bit in the mouth of the horse, pulling back a little until we sense his presence and begin to be aware of his influence. He is definitely like the rudder on the ship, slowly, but surely moving us toward the direction he wants to see us headed. We don't own the rudder or the bit - but we are influenced by them if they are in place in our lives! A ship without a rudder is like a man or woman without direction - aimlessly walking, purposeless in their speech. A rudder pointed in the wrong direction will run us aground. Therefore, we need someone other than ourselves doing the "steering" in our lives. Just sayin!