From the back of the car, three kids sang with megaphone voices.
“Keep your tongue from evil, keep your tongue,
Keep your tongue from evil keep your tongue.”
The melody echoes in my memory, the scene still sharp.
Blonde heads swayed right and left along with the rhythm of Steve Green’s song. Little bodies jerked to the beat, bang, against the seat belts, splat against the seat. Cornfields, green and tall surrounded our view front, back and side like the Atlantic Ocean we’d flown over, as far as the eye could see.
From Italy to Iowa.
Or was it Indiana?
No, I do believe it could have been Illinois.
Home Ministry Assignment for the global Christian worker is nuts, and we were in the middle of it, in the car more than out.
In three months we travelled the USA. We talked in churches, schools, at family reunions and with anyone who would listen. Our kids ate food foreign to them, slept in different beds, and met more people than many meet in a lifetime. We shared our lives, hearts, laundry and the flu.
Giggles grew from the backseat, a tidal wave. Like children on the shore, they knew the trill of what was coming.
Wait for it…wait for it…anticipation mounted.
“Now grab your tongue and sing it again with me,” the tape instructed.
Little fingers grabbed their slippery eel tongues.
“Theep ur pung thum ethil theep ur pung,” they shouted.
Slimy-drooly, ecstatic admonitions splattered the air as they mutilated Psalm 34:13’s wisdom, “keep your tongue from evil.”
Mouths opened wide. Heads arched back. They hooted and howled.
Ah yes, I loved teaching my children Scripture songs because they needed them so much.
The song ended. They wiped their wet dripping hands against shirts and pants, then peeled into another favorite right from the pages of the Bible.
“Do everything without complaining, do everything without arguing,” they sang. Phil and I sang along. We grinned at each other sideways, a pontifical understanding passed between us.
Miles to go, fights to be fought.
I loved that Steve Green tape.
“so that you will become blameless and pure, children of God.”
Their voices reached pinnacles as high as the tower of Pisa.
“Without complaining without arguing, do…do EVERYTHING.”
What a great verse for kids, I thought, satisfied and pleased at the quiet ending.
And then it began.
“She touched me.”
The road stretched ahead like the Israelites’ 40 year walk around the desert. In spite of a pillar of fire, even though God parted the sea, the children of God grumbled. It would have been a great verse for the Israelites.
“She looked at me.”
It could have been a great verse for James, John and their mother as they walked with Jesus and argued about who would have the best seat in the kingdom.
I pursed my lips.
Ok. Great verse for me.
Especially in the middle of life in chaos, when circumstances like a vise squeezed tight. I was tired, a missionary wanting validation and desiring to appear saintly at the estimated arrival time of about 20 minutes.
“Do all things without complaining and disputing…” Paul says in Philippians 2:14 (NKJV).
Goggysmos. The Greek word sounds like what it means. Muttering, complaining, grumbling. MacArthur calls it “an emotional rejection of God’s providence, will, and circumstances for one’s life.”
The backseat filled with goggysmos commotion about to drive me around the bend.
But in the original text, the word is internal not just external, a secret debate, a secret displeasure, like the video conversation that had my emotions spewing words inside my head. The conversation only God heard.
Disputing is dialogismos, much like our English word “dialogue.” It’s inward reasoning, an internal debate, questioning, perhaps even criticizing God.
The situation behind me had erupted rapidly. Front seat adult-land was heading in the same direction.
It’s a baby step from spewing the inside outside.
“So that you may become blameless and pure“… children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” Phil. 2:15 (NKJV).
It is a process to become. As then, today I still have so far to go.
Because life happens. My heart easily embraces the inward grumbling and complaining which leads to my tongue spilling evil onto others.
The book of James says the tongue is a world of evil, humanly untamable, and full of deadly poison. Proverbs 18:21 teaches that death and life are in the power of the tongue, and Ephesians 4:29 commands the believer to not allow corrupt communication out of your mouth.
In other words, to be blameless, pure, without fault, and shine in the world, I need to get that goggysmos sounding dialogismos thinking snipped in the bud.
Long ago our children sang a song. Now I’m reminded of the lesson. I am grateful for the whisper in my heart convicting me of these truths, because it means there is hope. What I cannot do, Christ within me can.
My mind traces those little eager faces in snapshots of remembrance, and I tell myself, “Theep ur pung thum ethil theep ur pung.”