If I had only known what was ahead in a myriad of situations when she told me this, I would have had her words tattooed on my forehead.
She said it over and over.
“You just have to bite your tongue.”
My grandmother was way up in her eighties and passing on her wisdom. For a time, I let those pearls of insight glide right over me, but then as the years went by, more and more, I saw what she was getting at.
When in preparation for a trumpet-piano duet a few days ago, my nephew picked “Are You Able Said the Master.”
I opened the book, and scanned the first line. “’Are you able,’ said the Master, ‘to be crucified with me?’”
Even before my fingers could strike the keys, those words from my childhood struck my heart. I thought of a tense relationship, where I struggled to reign in my tongue.
Sometimes it’s easier to get on an airplane and fly to Timbuktu in service to God than keep your mouth shut, to nail those words that want to fly out of your mouth right to the cross.
To bite your tongue.
That practical James said it, “Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger (James 1:19-20 The Message).
Maybe that’s what I should have tattooed on my forehead.
To lead with ears not mouth.
But God, by His grace has given us the power. When I think of my grandmother, I think of a woman who epitomized grace and peace under pressure, a woman whom I never heard utter a cross word.
She set the bar high, and she’s up ahead now calling back, “You can do it, too.”
And by God’s grace, I can.
With or without a tattoo.