Posts Tagged ‘apples of gold’

Jo 23I sat down for a moment at our local shopping centre, in order to respond to a phone text and, as I did, I noticed a lady at the other end of the seat. Soon after, a man sat down between us—and that was when things became interesting! Suddenly, the lady began talking to him—or rather at him.

‘Wasn’t it shocking, that attack in Parramatta on a young mother-to-be! What’s the world coming to? That’s just terrible. I bet the man was high on ice or something. And what will he get for that? Nothing much, probably—just a slap on the wrist! You wait and see. What sort of person would do that to someone else? It’s awful when a young woman can’t sit down with a friend in a café and enjoy a meal!’

She went on and on, her voice loud and indignant. Unfortunately, I suspected that man next to her had hoped for some peace and quiet, as he waited for his own wife to finish shopping. And that became clear from his response.

‘Oh … now I’m well and truly stirred up! And I thought I was going to have a nice, quiet, peaceful morning!’

He spoke softly and smiled as he said it. He even went on to agree with her. Yet I could tell he was irritated by the way she had harangued him. I hoped this lady would get the message, but she seemed oblivious.

‘Yes, and my daughter wanted me to wait downstairs in the car park for her, but I said no. I’ll sit here where I’m nice and comfortable. I’m not going to stand down there, breathing in all those fumes. No way! Then there’s all those people who go down there to smoke too! It’s terrible.’

‘Now I’m even more stirred up!’ the poor man said then.

Regardless, she continued on and on about other issues in her rather grating voice—so much so that I decided I was glad I did not share a house with the poor lady! But then I felt a little uncharitable. After all, she was obviously on edge about lots of things and maybe others had stopped listening to her.

Later, when I thought about this experience, I began to wonder how I myself come across whenever I voice my opinion on matters I feel passionate about. Do my hearers perhaps feel a little assaulted, as that man and I did? Do I take note of their body language and facial expressions to gauge their responses? Do I give them time to speak and share their own views? Hmm.

In Proverbs 25:11, King Solomon writes:

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

Or as The Message version puts it:

The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewellery.

Sometimes, we need to speak those challenging words to stir others to action or to stand up for what is right—especially when God prompts us to do so. But we need to be careful to say them in the right way, at the right time and in the right setting. Then they will hopefully be heard and valued, like those precious apples of gold in settings of silver.

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I wonder if you can remember a time when, like me, you have spoken in haste and rebuked someone harshly. Sometime we say things in the heat of the moment, don’t we, that we wish could take back – but it’s too late. Our words have done their work and pulled someone down instead of building him or her up. How much better it would be if we stopped and thought first before opening our mouths or typing that angry email or sending that curt text!

This week as I prepared to speak on a rather challenging passage of Scripture about confronting someone who has sinned against us (Matthew 18:15-20), I came across Proverbs 25:11-12 and was immediately captivated:

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold

is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear.

We all need those wise, careful rebukes at times, don’t we? None of us is perfect. But it’s at such moments that my pride often kicks in and I go into defence mode, trotting out all my excuses as to why I did what I did or said what I said. Instead, we are called to have a ‘listening ear’ when someone cares enough to confront us. Otherwise, we might miss those wise words of rebuke or challenge from God that could be life-changing.

I well remember several occasions over the years when someone rebuked me in a wise and godly way – and I actually managed to listen and take heed. I knew these people had my best interests at heart. And to this day, I remember their rebukes with gratitude and not with any bitterness, because these people took a risk and spoke truth into my life. Their words were indeed ‘aptly spoken’, as Proverbs puts it – true ‘earrings of gold’ that I treasure even more than my favourite pieces of gold jewellery.

In writing my recently completed first non-fiction book, I had to come to grips with this issue all over again. You see, this book is called Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey and is an account of my relationship with my special spiritual friend and mentor, Joy, over the past fifteen years. In that time, there were of course occasions when I had difficulties with other people – and Joy helped me work through these. But now I had to decide which of these, if any, to include in my book. If I left them all out, I would be writing dishonestly. And I might also miss an opportunity to help someone going through a similar situation. But if I included them, people might be hurt. So I tried to walk carefully with God as I wrote, checking my motives and looking for ways to polish those ‘apples of gold’ I felt it necessary to include.

But how about you? Could the words of rebuke you need to speak or write at times be described as precious gold earrings or ornaments? And are you developing that listening ear to hear and value the wise words of another who might seek to help you grow in God?

I know I’m still on this journey, but I hope I am learning how better to pass on those golden words, as well as develop that listening ear. And I hope and pray that’s your heart too.

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