While in college at University of Idaho, I went to a small group Bible study for college girls that met in Nancy Wilson’s living room. In high school, a few of the things she had written in her books rubbed me the wrong way, but here, set in context and said face-to-face, they started making more sense. It was here in college from Nancy that I encountered what was somehow a revolutionary concept:

When the Bible says things like “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

God means it. It’s true. It’s what we are to strive to attain, and what we need to confess when we fall short.

There are no excuses, only repentance. There are times it’s more difficult, for sure, but then again, God’s promises are there for us:

[God’s] grace is made perfect in weakness.” and “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Closeness, such as between husband and wife, does not negate these scriptural commands in the slightest, even though we are tempted to treat those we love worse than we do total strangers. Somehow, we think it’s more “real” and “authentic” to let things rip with those who are obligated to put up with us.

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SC029: Convivial Means Obedience

One of Nancy’s oft-cited verses was “A wise woman builds her house, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.” The tongue, she taught, is a primary means for either building or destroying. We are always either building or destroying; there is no neutrality.

I heard these concepts often enough over the two years we were there that they stuck fast, and I really have worked over our whole marriage to not say something I know I’ll regret saying in the morning. Though I might feel an offensive statement is deserved or true or would make me feel better, doesn’t matter when I know that it’s wrong to say it. I’ve had some mental agony over that one for sure, but in general I am a reason-over-feeling personality, and I also have a hard time getting words out when I’m worked up, so those traits do work for me in this case. Still, it’s hard. But it is so worth it.

Now, applying that principle to my marriage has been something I have been aware of and striving toward, and, in all, doing well with. But, uh, “my house” I am building or tearing down with my own [tongue]? It includes my children.


Now, with them I have no problem spouting off. Somehow, my verbal handicap doesn’t apply with children. It dawned on me one day that this principle that I held as so vital to our marriage was precisely what I needed to be applying to my parenting, as well. Am I building or destroying? With that look, that comment, that sigh?

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.”

Yup. No getting around it. Build up. Build up. Build up.

Of course flattery isn’t building up. But usually yelling is tearing down. And when they come up for the upteenth time, “Mom?” — That sigh, that dropping of the shoulders: tearing down. My children are learning who they are from me, gathering information based on what I say of them and to them, and how I respond to them. While the general trend in America might be toward false, high self-esteem, that certainly isn’t the problem in this house. I am too critical and hard to please for that. I need to build, and build on a solid foundation. I need to treat my children the way my heavenly Father treats me. He has high standards, but He is not hard to please and He is not critical.

In One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp tells how the beginning of her transformation toward thankfulness and joy began with the dare a friend gave her: Write down a list of one thousand things you are thankful for. Ann then tells how becoming practiced in giving thanks opened her eyes to God’s grace.

Words are powerful. We are always either building or destroying; there is no neutrality. Will you dare to build with yours? Here's a simple tip to begin.

It is a good dare. A dare I knew I wouldn’t follow through with myself if I tried imposing it on myself. Then I started noticing verse

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

after verse

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

after verse

giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father xin the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

after verse

Do all things without grumbling or disputing.

and of course there are more.

God means it. It’s true.

The dare to not speak anything that isn’t for edification? It’s from God. The dare to give thanks in all circumstances, to rejoice always? It’s from God. Can we really roll our eyes at its immensity or impossibility when it comes to us directly from God Himself?

Growing in these areas, getting practiced in them, is sanctification, and it is hard, but it is God who works in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.

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