Just a few steps more and I would be outside and down the steps with the reeking bag of wet garbage. It was the one thing marring an uncharacteristically serene afternoon. It was rare to have the house to myself. Even when my own four children were away, the house was usually filled with people. We live close to LSU, and our home was the home away from home for our older children’s college friends. Rather than issuing keys at registration, we simply kept the doors unlocked and allowed free access to the house and to the refrigerator.
I was halfway down the back steps to deposit the bag in the trashcan when the bottom dropped out. Literally. Decaying fruit pits, banana peels and blood-tainted meat wrappers cascaded down the stairs and across the patio. The damp coffee grounds clumped throughout the mess added the final touch.
Before the cans rolling across the patio had come to a proper rest, I loudly dropped a one-word expletive.
“Mrs. Bettejean?” A shocked voice punctuated the now silent back patio. I slowly turned around to see one of my favorite young women standing at the top of the stairs. She had entered the side door, come through the kitchen and found me just as I responded in a ‘not very lady like’ fashion to the smelly mess.
Her fond illusions of what maturity and spirituality looked like were crushed amidst the smelly heap at my feet. After all, one really should expect your best friend’s mother to always be prim and proper and since she was the woman who led your Bible study and mentored your spiritual life, to always speak with King James reverence.
In truth, the incident merely confirmed her suspicion that I wasn’t perfect. We laughed together. She teased me. (She still teases me.)
I have thought often of that day and what I learned. It’s not exactly what you think. I certainly learned to think before I speak because we never know who may be within hearing. But I am not as concerned about profanity as about the many other words I speak. I have gossiped about another person and trashed her character. I have whined over seemingly unanswered prayer and trashed God’s reputation. I have failed to provide encouraging counsel to a friend in need and trashed his will to hope.
How much better it is when I speak words of life and love. When I cover the faults of another by refusing to repeat them. When I make God famous by telling of his unfathomable nature. When I offer a reason to hope by reminding someone of the promises he has given us.
I don't think I ever told my sweet young friend what I learned about avoiding trash talk that day. Perhaps she should hear it from the Apostle Paul who says it so much better than I.
Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it. (Ephesians 4:29 Amplified version)