It is early November, and autumn’s leaves blanket the ground. Each year, our elm canopy releases individual leaves to arc, spiral, or tumble down erratic paths onto the sidewalk, patio, and driveway behind the house. But this year, in October, the leaves, the fence, the plants, the patio furniture, and the concrete under them were shellacked in the sticky residue of a regional aphid infestation. Shoes gained another layer of leafy sole with every step—leaves caked on leaves only a few steps toward whatever the mission. Another step, more mess. Wiped on the ground, even more.

“A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul” (Proverbs 18:7). Sometimes we rush our words toward problems. We step lively into the action, placing one word after another on the way to fix a person or an issue, not realizing each pronouncement only layers on more decay.

It takes a thorough drenching in water to dissolve the honeydew, removing leaves from sole and path. As sticky and problematic as our words often are, with the right preparation they can also be helpful. “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook” (Proverbs 18:4).

Aphids quickly coat our words in proud, bitter, selfish falsity. Peace purifies them with gentle, reasonable, selfless mercy (James 3:13-18).

This week, may our words cleanse rather than cake, as we patiently receive and then pour out peace from above.