Monday, February 14, 2011

Bark and Babies

Frustrated that squirrels were systematically chewing all the bark off her Japanese maples, a lady wrote to an expert for help. "What's going on?" she asked. "The pests don't even eat the bark; they spit it on the ground. They're killing my trees!!"

The expert, in a calm voice that came through the newsprint, soothed the tree owner, assuring her the damage is most likely superficial even though the maples may look seriously wounded. Then she surmised - only a theory, mind you - that expectant female squirrels are the culprits, and, they are gnawing the bark off to relieve their labor pains. Well!

The more I considered this sad situation, the more I pitied those poor lady squirrels. They don't have the benefit of Lamaze instruction. They don't enjoy the option of screaming for an epidural - "AND I MEAN RIGHT NOW!!!!" They can't even grovel for any of that fake pain-reliever, Demerol. And those cowardly daddy squirrels who could be coaching have probably holed up somewhere, smoking cigars until it's all over. These ladies have to go natural-baby-squirrel-birth all the way. So they attack trees.

Now before you laugh out loud, just think for a moment. If you've delivered a baby, don't you remember certain stages of that experience when you might well have chewed some bark had it been handy? Actually ripped it right off a tree?! Then spat it on the ground and dared anyone to say anything? It might be immensely satisfying to add this component to the baby-delivery saga. Maybe we ought to request a few potted trees in the labor and delivery unit.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

That Unruly Tongue

If there's one thing my mom and dad would not tolerate, it was bad language. Perhaps they'd been warned by their respective parents that if they wanted to die early in life then just say some naughty words aloud. Whether or not my grandparents' took that perspective I can't say; I know my mother and father did. Especially anathema in our home was dragging God's name through the mouth lightly. "My Lord!" was a commonly heard expression with some, but it better not slip past any lips in our house!

I never heard my dad use one curse word, unless you count "Dast it!!!" That seldom-used expression exploded from him only when something or other was tromping on his last nerve - accompanied by purplish face and clenched teeth. Usually an ornery car was to blame. My mother let one "bathroom" word slip one time when she was extremely provoked (on purpose) by my father. Something to do with him pretending to run into a tree as we motored into the church parking lot.

My folks' aversion to smutty and irreverent talk did not prevent me from indulging in that sort of talk when I was a teen. Some sort of statement to my world, I suppose, about how I was not under anyone's thumb - certainly not my parents'. I was a grown-up, sophisticated lady, er, girl, with her very own potty mouth. I still blush with shame remembering my stupidity.

Eventually, praise God, the stupidity receded somewhat. When I married, I trashed the expletitives, even developed an outright aversion to them. I suppose I thought that since I now considered myself an adult, I ought to act like one. I was free!! Later a more compelling reason harnessed my tongue: if I claimed to be washed in the blood of the Lamb then shouldn't I behave as though I were washed in the blood of the Lamb?

"Hallelujah, my tongue problem has been dealt with!" That's what I thought all those years ago. Ha!! I had only imagined my tongue was at last well-behaved. The Lord let me know quickly that He also had something against g-o-s-s-i-p (which I was still committing). And saying hateful words to my husband. And hurtful things to my children. And illegal use of sarcasm to slyly disparage another person. And judgmental slurs from my superior self's mouth about those not as perfect as I. Not to mention putting a stained glass slant on my words at times (even when I didn't feel that way) so as to sound properly spiritual to others. Oh, me.

Is it a revelation to you that my struggle to allow the Holy Spirit to taste and approve my words before I let them dribble or explode from behind my teeth is still going on? I think not, because you're a people too. I'm resigned that my training process may continue for awhile. Maybe even until my dying day. I fervently pray, however, that the Spirit will grow stronger and more masterful; that my tongue daily become less connected to me, and more attached to Him. I believe that will happen.