Back in the seventies, when I had long hair parted in the middle and weighed a hundred pounds less than I do now, I had a Plymouth Duster. It was a nice-looking car. Well, it was to me. It was some sort of pale green that I can’t really describe because I am kind of a lot color-blind to shades of green. It had mag wheels and a big sticker in the back window that had the ‘Plymouth’ logo. It was equipped with the best speakers I could put in it from the now defunct ‘CMC’ stereo center. Those speakers were enabled to give me permanent hearing damage from a big power amp I bought from the same store. It was not equipped with air-conditioning. But the wind blowing in through the windows was barely noticeable with the decibel level with which Foghat was playing.
Most of the miles I put on that car were miles to nowhere. My friends got in the car with me and we went into town or the next town or the next to drive through the parking lots of where all the other people going nowhere were hanging out. Nowhere was a lot of fun unless the cops didn’t like what we were doing there and ran us off.
One day, on the way to nowhere, two friends were in the car with me. Their names were Robert and Charlie and one of them, I don’t recall which one, said, “Lets’ see what this baby’s got.” No, I didn’t have a doll in the car, he wanted to know how fast the car would go.
It wasn’t necessary to poke me twice. I smiled and reached for the stick and grabbed a different gear and floored the machine. There was a hill with a curve at the top and I didn’t let off the gas. The accelerated up the hill and as I rounded the curve, another car pulled out in front of me. I was certain there was nothing I could do to miss the vehicle ahead. The lady driving the car was looking at me, terrified and frozen, and had just stopped in the middle of the road braced for the impact.
I forgot all about everything. I forgot about the guys in the car with me. I forgot what day it was. I forgot that I was only seventeen. Nothing in my life mattered in that moment except for one thing, I had to stop this car.
I slammed both feet to the floor, with my left on the clutch pedal and my right on the brake. I turned the wheel slowly and let the car begin to drift sideways toward the car. Then, I just held on. I don’t know how I managed to do the things that I did in such a short period of time but somehow I did.
I remember the car sliding on the pavement as I looked out the passenger window at the face of the lady in the other car. My fingers were tight on the wheel as I hoped for the best. This time, the best happened. My car stopped as I looked the other lady in the eyes through the open windows of our cars. I saw the relief smooth the fear out of her face. Even a skinny kid like I used to be couldn’t walk through the tiny space between the cars. I decided to get out of there before that fear turned into the anger that I deserved.
I took off down the road as if nothing happened. Then I began to wonder where Robert and Charlie were. They emerged from the floor where they had taken cover. A little farther down the road I had to stop and be sick.
I’m pretty sure that was the last time either of those guys asked me what my car would do.
My message for today is short although the story was long. No, I’m not going to tell you how to drive although maybe some of us need to do a better job of it. I need to stop being reckless with what I say. Too often someone makes me a little angry and I hit the gas on my tongue not realizing that I should probably set some speed limits and stop signs up before I do. Someone does me a little wrong and a little voice in my head says, “OK, let’s see what this baby will do!” Off I go into a tirade that demeans and tears down as I give someone what they have coming. Someone mouths off and I take it as an invitation to see whose tongue can do the most damage.
Proverbs 12:18 Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.
One of the big things I have to tackle every single day is my war on words. I have to remember that none of the words I could possibly utter in anger will make anyone else a better person. I can only change the words I say. Will my words cut or will they heal?
Proverbs 12:13 The wicked are trapped by their own words, but the godly escape such trouble.
Following the rules of the road that God lays out for me concerning the things I say will help me avoid horrendous collisions. It will help me avoid and escape trouble. I need to remember this the next time I decide to put my foot on the gas and show others what my mouth can say. I may be placing myself in a trap. I may be headed for a wreck and people, including me, are probably going to be hurt.
God, please help me speak words that heal and leave the hurtful things unsaid. Amen.