Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.” Psalm 139:23-24
Dentures…not exactly what I meant to say. So as a public speaker I have had plenty, and I do mean plenty, of misspeaks. Since I wasn’t sure misspeak was a word and given today’s story, I decided to check it. Yup…it is a word and yup…it sure does fit. A misspeak is when you fail to express yourself insufficiently, clearly, or accurately. They probably invented that word just for me—or at least people like me. My most famous misspeak will remain a guarded secret. Even though it happened very publicly I would rather it not be shared again publicly until my funeral.
Misspeaks can be quite funny. I had so many at a church I previously pastored that when it was time to move on, they came up with a book of “Dewayne-isms.” And fortunately for me most of mine have been funny…just like the one that prompted this story. I was speaking about the fact that Jesus told His followers up front that a life that included following Him was going to be hard. He put it like this, “In this world you will have trouble. But be of good cheer because I have overcome the world.” There you go…crystal clear. Too often though you will hear Christian speakers making some pretty big promises on God’s behalf. It usually includes the fact that if we choose to follow Jesus…the rewards are enormous. It is about then that I list a few. They usually include things like you will never get sick. You will always have a job and never lose said job. Every promotion at that job is a guaranteed thing and on and on and on.
Right before I end the list, I always throw the kids in. They will all be handsome and attractive, be superstar athletes and never, ever need braces. Well, that is what I meant to say but instead of saying braces, I said dentures. So flying out of mouth came, “And your kids will never need dentures.” Ok, I know and you know that dentures is not even close to braces so where it came from…who knows? But it took about one second for the crowd to catch it and have a good laugh. Of course I corrected it right away and even added a bit to add to the unexpected humor. We all had a good laugh, and I can only imagine the next time braces or dentures come up in a conversation, someone just might say, “I remember when…”
Misspeaks—it is a love/hate relationship and as I said often quite funny…until it isn’t. I suppose you, like me, have said things we wish we hadn’t. It’s the kind of thing that happens when you say something and you instantly wish it hadn’t. It’s the kind of thing that we call a slip of the tongue but then you wonder, “Where did that come from anyway?” And these misspeaks can sometimes leave a scar—the size of Texas. Jesus said one time that these kind of misspeaks come from the heart. He said, “It is out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” He was saying that often our words reveal what is lurking in the heart.
Now these are not the funny things we say like dentures and braces, no, these are those unkind and hurtful things we say about people…even those and often those…close to us. Typical topics can include weight, appearance, fashion, cooking, housekeeping, oh, and the need for dentures…I mean braces. You might be wondering, “How do I prevent these things from happening?” Well, speaking of housecleaning, maybe we need to do some “heart-cleaning.” The best way to keep the tongue under control is to keep our heart under control. There is a scripture in the Old Testament that says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.”
Boom…there you go. We need to ask God to give us a day-by-day heart checkup and if He finds anything that doesn’t belong there…ask Him to take care of it. Often that will include leading you down a different path…a better path…a right path. One thing I have learned about God is that He really does want to help us do the right thing…including managing our hurtful misspeaks. If you are like me and sometimes struggle with what you say, just ask and He will help you…every time…anytime. He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne