I joke that I have “the spiritual gift of tripping”.
I can literally fall over my own two feet quite easily.
Coordination and balance have always been issues for me, from day one.
But here’s the funny thing:
The more dangerous the terrain, the less likely I am to fall.
I proved that in Guatemala a couple weeks ago.
We walked over some very uneven ground in the course of our adventures.
Cobblestone streets in Antigua. (Thank you, Google, for the picture.)
A very, very old stone building with sloping floors that is now a souvenir market. Tiny cubbies packed with things to trip over, break or otherwise mess up. (Again, thanks Google for the photo!)
And then the tour of the coffee plantation on hilly ground, through the woods on wet leaves. (Thanks, Tashia, for the picture!)
Didn’t trip in any of those places on any of those things.
Because I was alert.
And I used help when I knew I needed it.
The shoulders of friends on steep hills.
And simply being careful.
I also chose to not forge ahead on dangerous ground when I had the choice.
Like climbing over a wet, rocky path at a park.
I let the others who don’t have the spiritual gift of tripping forge ahead there while I safely enjoyed watching the waterfall. From where I sat on a bench.
Did I trip in Guatemala?
The first time, on very familiar ground.
Our hotel room had a threshold with a step up in front of it.
That I completely missed as I was going up it.
And the second time in a place that had absolutely nowhere near the amount of inherent dangers.
At a very modern mall, tripping up a ramp of all things!
Why those places?
Because I let my guard down.
I wasn’t paying attention.
I wasn’t careful.
And I paid the price.
Thankfully, both times the only thing wounded was my pride.
But in other places and at other times in the past, I have tripped because I wasn’t on guard and have paid a much higher price, damaging my foot and my knee in ways I still pay for to this day.
All of that reminds me of my mouth and my temper.
James, Jesus’ brother and one of the leaders of the first church, wrote these words to those of us who are Christ-followers:
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1:19)
Sometimes, I get that really right.
Often, I get that really wrong.
I can be very quick to NOT listen, and very quick to speak.
And, yes, very quick to get angry.
I love words.
And because of that, I can “zing” someone without giving it a second thought.
I can respond impulsively, out of emotion.
I can be quick to interrupt, quick to think I understand, quick to be formulating a response instead of really listening.
Often it is simply teasing that crosses a line.
But it can be more than that – it is sometimes emotions coming out sideways.
And I can let them flare and then act on them in a heartbeat.
Over my own words.
My own heart.
My own impulses.
When I let my guard down.
When I am tired.
When emotions are high.
When I allow me to be in charge of me.
When I am quick to speak and slow to listen.
I didn’t trip in so many places in Guatemala because I took it slow.
I asked for help.
And used the tools that were in place, like handrails.
I don’t trip over my own tongue and my own emotions when I slow down.
When I ask the Holy Spirit for help.
When I use the tools I have in place, like the knowledge of God’s Word that the Holy Spirit brings to mind.
And when I avoid places that I know are dangerous for me.
Because in relationships, it is so much more than my pride that is on the line.
I can do permanent damage to the other person.
And to the work of the Kingdom of God.
I will probably have the “gift of tripping” in this mortal body until God replaces it in heaven.
It is just part of who I am.
But because the Holy Spirit is at work in me, and because God has promised to complete the good work He began in me, I will hopefully outgrow tripping over my own tongue.
It won’t make God love me more when I finally get this one right more often than I get it wrong. It is impossible for Him to love me more because that is Who He is. As Micheal Card sings, God “cannot love me more and will not love me less.” But it will make me a better sister in Christ. A better friend.
And it will save all of us a bunch of bruises when we are each “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry”. Thank God He never stops working!