A few days ago I reminded myself of an armadillo, all curled up in a ball protecting my tender underbelly from harsh words and careless actions of another. Now, I wasn’t literally laying on the floor curled up in a little armadillo ball, but I had emotionally curled up, leaving only my protective armor exposed. I had felt vulnerable but wanted to appear strong, so I donned my armadillo like armor and pretended indifference while giving voice to the unkind thoughts that had been swarming in my head. My words hurt the other, like they were intended to do.
As I walked away, armadillo armor still engaged, I spent a few minutes vindicating my behavior by creating a mental list of the other person’s wrong doing. I double checked this list for accuracy then measured the other’s actions against my own. Of course, I found myself cleared of all wrong doing because the other’s actions were so unbelievably ruthless. At this point I’m feeling pretty good about my armadillo-armored-self and continue on with my day in a cloud of denial.
Now, the problem with dwelling in a cloud of denial is that the sun, which reflects God’s glory, burns right through it, leaving me exposed. Exposed to my own bad behavior and the damage it has causes in an important relationship. It’s painful to have my cloud of denial burned off, in fact at first I’m resistant to the light and remind myself about the guilt of the other. But the sun grows brighter and the cloud of denial thinner. Finally, my armadillo armor melts and my cloud of denial is gone leaving my unkind words gleaming so brightly I can no longer deny what they are. They are sin.
Dropping to my knees I asked God to forgive me for deliberately hurting His child, and for being resentful, and for hiding in my cloud of denial. I remembered James 1: 26, “if anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” This verse is disturbing because it’s talking about my armadillo armor and my cloud of denial. Sometimes when the light of God shines through His Word, it hurts! But it’s a hurt that molds us into better people. It’s a hurt that molds us into better friends, neighbors, family members, moms and dads, and spouses.
I really don’t want my religion to be worthless, but it’s so hard to hold my tongue when others are not. I want to make them be kind, to change their behavior, but I can’t no matter how hard I try. And that’s the key, it doesn’t matter what others are doing because I can’t control them or change them, I can only control myself. That’s what God asks us to do, to control ourselves. In 1 Peter 3:9 it says, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. The Bible doesn’t say repay kindness with kindness, it says repay evil with blessings! Wow, that’s hard but not impossible because God is there to help us learn how to control our own armadillo armor and cloud of denial.
Ephesians 4:29 – Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
Proverbs 12:18 – The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
James 3:10 – Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
Proverbs 15:28 – The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.
Debora Shelford Hobbs