Pause. Now Breathe.
The Lord has been working on me with the way I react and respond to situations that arise. Teaching me to be mindful of the words I use and the tone of my voice. One big incident I keep feeling led to share is when driving our big twelve-passenger van. We have had this van for years. Since it has become our only vehicle now, I have been forced to learn how to drive it. Talk about stepping out of my comfort zone. I was very intimidated.
My Husband and I were driving home from bible study class one rainy night. He was busy complimenting me with how great of a job I was doing and how I have improved and looked more confident and comfortable while driving.
While driving, a situation came up that I had to step on the brakes hard to make a quick stop. When this happened you could hear a box of nails fly forward. I asked my Husband, "Why are the nails there?" in order to understand why they were in the van. His reply was, "Because when I drive I don't slam on the brakes."
Ouch. He just went from complimenting me to insulting me. My old self would have been reactive and lashing out in return for his cutting remark. Instead, I paused, took a deep breath, and proceeded to ask the same question again being mindful to ask in the same tone as I did before. "Why are the nails there?" He then stated a little annoyed by my asking again, "Because I needed them to help on a project at church." My response was, "Okay, thank you."
I paused before proceeding. Then, talking in a calm manner, I shared with him. "The first way you responded felt very cutting and hurtful. Just a moment before you were complimenting my driving and the next you were insulting my driving."
We both were silent on the remaining drive home.
This incident reminds me of a bible verse:
"From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so." James 3:10 ESV
If I had just reacted in this situation, instead of taking a pause and a breath to expel the feelings of hurt bubbling up inside me, I would have missed this extraordinary learning experience for myself.
Through the years of studying God's word, I gleaned wisdom that is found in Proverbs on how to respond as He would have me respond to this situation:
"The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." 12:18 NIV
"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." 15:1 NIV
"Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim." 15:4 MSG
"Kind words are like honey— sweet to the soul and healthy for the body." 16:24 NLT
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit." 18:21 NKJV
"Watch your words and hold your tongue; you’ll save yourself a lot of grief." 21:23 MSG
I am also reminded:
"Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone." Romans 12:18 NLT
So I pause. Take a deep breath. Now breathe out.
I want to be a bearer of good fruit like it says in the bible:
"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!" Galatians 5:22-23 NLT
I have a great desire for peace. Especially in this chaotic world we now live in. One of the best ways to help bring about peace is to be mindful of the choice of words I use and the tone I speak it in. Our reactions and responses set things into motion. We have the power to choose what type of fruit it will produce, life or death, not only in us but in others also.
The following morning after this incident I grabbed a magnet and cleaned up the mess of nails in the van. I did cause the box to fly forward with the abrupt stop. My Husband came out while I was cleaning and offered to help. He also apologized and said he learned a lesson too through our interaction that night. He thanked me for offering him grace, gentleness, and kindness in the way I handled and responded to the situation. I have noticed a change in him since then in the ways he interacts with others. He is gentler with his tone and pauses to think before speaking.
I think we can all bring about a change in the way we interact with each other.
So pause. Now breathe. Expel those bubbling up feelings. Choose kindness instead.