“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Colossians 4:6
It was late, yet even in my state of exhaustion, I opened the text message. The second I clicked I recognized my mistake. A message full of accusations and presumptions about how I had mistreated a friend and her family glared on my screen. This was the not the first time this had happened with this person. My faced flushed with frustration, I read the message to my husband with dramatic inflections, adding tones where I felt most attacked. I sat back in bed with tears, not of sadness but of anger, filling my eyes. I blurted indignantly that “hadn’t I been a servant, and I don’t understand where this is coming from.” I thought we had resolved all this, but it felt like we were back to square one. Wisely, my husband told me to hold my tongue, or rather my fingers, to sleep on it, and pray to see where we could reach a point of reconciliation.
Unfortunately, reconciliation was not possible. Other people were brought into the situation, making it even more complicated. I felt like there was a surface-level truce, but honestly, underneath I was seething. Anytime I was called upon to serve that family, I grumpily served, complaining behind their backs. I was angry and tired of being misunderstood. In public, I put a smile on my face. But God knew my heart, where bitterness was taking root.
It is easier to be transparent when we have been wronged, when someone else has acted in ways that were hurtful to us. Easier, but not easy. Other times, we want to push past the difficult things and move on, not sharing where we have wounded others in our attempts to wipe the slate clean. In my own life, I have been transparent about ways in which someone else’s words have been hurtful and times when I have felt less than. I have also been transparent about the sexual abuse I faced as a child into my teenage years.
It’s harder for me to admit when I’m inflicting wounds. It is hard for me to portray myself in a less favorable light. But I think Jesus recognized that this is a universal human flaw. He warns us not to judge others, otherwise we will be judged. And he asks a question, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank is in your own eye?” The bitterness that was taking root in me was bearing fruit: rotten, spoiled, and worm-infested. It manifested itself in ways that came off harsh, backbiting, and less than servant like. And the people it affected the most were my family. My husband and children saw a woman who taught about being a servant but acted less than that.
I have discovered in the last few years a love for radishes. I especially love the beauty of watermelon radishes, the colors it adds to my salad. I recently baked a piece of white fish in parchment paper, smothered with radishes, fennel, zucchini, and carrot. With some salt, olive oil, lemon slices, dill, and a pinch of pepper flakes, my fish was balanced, hitting all the different flavor notes inside my mouth. What surprised me was how sweet the radishes tasted. The earthiness of the radishes was still present, but the bitter edge that can be off-putting was gone. And I have since learned that it was the salt that did the trick.
Salt is probably one of the most important ingredients in a kitchen. It tenderizes meat, balances sweetness, and reduces bitterness in food. Most of us were taught in our home kitchens to use sugar to balance bitterness, but Samin Nosrat says in Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, “it turns out that salt masks bitterness much more effectively than sugar.” She continues that if you add a pinch of salt to grapefruit juice, “You’ll be surprised by how much bitterness subsides.”
Salt, both in the Bible and in history, was an important and valuable commodity. Without refrigeration, salt was used to preserve food. In the Bible, salt was a part of the sacrifices, symbolizing that the covenant relationship between God and man would last forever. Later in the Bible, Jesus encourages us to be “salt of the world.” By living the abundant Christian life, we are to enhance the world around us by demonstrating the goodness and mercy of God. Finally, Paul encourages believers, “Let your speech always be with grace seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” I believe this is the property of salt where it reduces bitterness between one another.
With my smile I was trying to use fake sweetness to cover up my bitterness. The result was insincerity and bad fruit. But when I stopped to really examine my own eye and asked God to change my heart, only then did the bitterness subsided. I recognized the goodness and mercy Jesus had towards me, and in applying that salt towards my life, I was able to let my speech and actions to be filled grace.
By no means do I get this right on a regular basis. I am all too human, full of flaws and imperfections. And the beauty of being human is that I don’t always have to get it right. I won’t always get it right. And in those places where I fail or have treated others unkindly, I can go to Jesus. It is His kindness that leads me to repentance. It is His grace that helps me be salt, and not saccharine fakeness. And if I am humble enough to admit my flaws and imperfections, others can see the work God is doing in me.
The situation with my friend was never restored. But what was restored was my heart towards Jesus and serving others. If I feel frustrated in serving today, I do a heart check and examine myself more honestly. This helps me to set healthy boundaries and lean into Jesus when I need to a keep a right spirit. And I am learning to be more generous with my salt, both literally and spiritually. Today, my pasta water is as salty as the sea, adding taste to otherwise bland pasta. And I am learning to be more generous and merciful towards others. In the hope that this is making me more salt in the world.