A few weeks ago an elderly neighbor, one who has managed to make more enemies than friends in our neighborhood over the course of forty years, and who was concerned about a particular tree in our yard called the county to state her concerns. Now, we already had THREE separate tree care companies come out and reassure her that tree was not in danger of falling over. That was not good enough. She needed the county's reassurance. And reassure her they did. Their "urban forestry" manager came out and reassured her that the tree is not dead and not in danger of falling over. HOWEVER, he did notice a few dead branches that were in danger of falling onto the sidewalk, the county's property. SO, we received a certified letter from Mr. Urban Forester stating that the dead branches need to be addressed within ten days. Yay! At a cost of $500, this was not exactly what we had planned for the next two weeks.
Upset that she would do this after we have already taken beyond reasonable steps to assure her that she did not need to vacate her home every time the wind blew, I marched over to her home and calmly (honestly, I was very calm) told her we were not happy with how she handled this situation. Then, I went on to vent, ahem I mean explain, the story to a handful of neighbors, friends, and family members. I guess I had the unrealistic expectation that just because we were nice to our elderly neighbors and helped them as we could, that they would respond with kindness toward us. The mistake I made: having expectations about another person's behavior. Because those expectations were not met, I was disappointed and in turn behaved like a child.
Last night, we found out from a different neighbor that our elderly friend had been committed to a mental institution. Apparently, this past weekend, one of her children had come to pick up her and her husband and bring them to live in an assisted living place closer to where their children live. This did not appear to be her will and she "lost it" during the drive refusing to get out of the car or do anything requested of her. I am not sure about all of the details, but this resulted in her being placed, unwillingly, into a hospital where she can be observed. My silly rant about dead tree branches all of the sudden seems ridiculous and embarrassing. Had she been upset not about our tree but about the possibility of leaving her 'free' life to never again return? About moving far away from the home she and husband built never again to return? About facing the final chapter in her life? I do not know and will probably never know. All I know is that I regret how I handled the situation and wish that I would have kept it between our family, their family, and God.
The unfortunate thing about this string of events was that I knew better. Not only from a basic Christian perspective, but a perspective that had recently been reinforced. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Beth Moore simulcast event. The theme of the day was "kindness". Specifically, the foundational verse for the day's event was Proverbs 31:26 which states, "She openeth her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness." Beth even made jokes about the wording of the verse. God knew she would open her mouth! Why? Because that is how He made us. Verse 31 does not say "she may open her mouth", it says "she opens her mouth." I should never have opened my mouth to share the story about our neighbor, the tree, our expectations. There was neither kindness nor wisdom on my tongue.
God understands the destructive power of the tongue and our inclination to misuse and abuse it. James 3 is an entire chapter dealing with controlling the tongue. Verse 5 states, "...though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites." As a woman, verbal communication is a large part of how we connect and interact with those around us. However, we are also accountable for our words. Once they leave our lips, we cannot get them back.
Father God, I ask that you guard my lips and let only which is Holy and glorifying to you leave my mouth. Guard my heart and cleanse it. Take all which does not come from you and destroy it. Continue to refine me from the inside out, shaping and molding until I am pleasing in your sight. Forgive me for any harsh words or unkind thoughts and give me the self-control needed to speak only in kindness. In you Son and my personal Savior's name, I pray. Amen!
Note: For those not familiar with Proverbs 31, the entire chapter is written about the virtuous woman. A standard we all fall very short of, but one that we can certainly strive for.