Alligator Mouth


And the king of Israel answered, “Tell him, `Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself as he who takes it off.’”                – 1 Kings 20:11

I read this verse in my devotional the other day, and at first it made me laugh because I like sarcasm, and this is one of those really neat verses in the Bible that has a really important lesson wrapped up in a sarcastic comment.  The king of Syria was boasting that he was about to wipe the floor with the army of Israel, and King Ahab (not usually one we would look to as a fount of wisdom) basically tells him not to count his chickens before they hatch.  The lesson in there is that we should not promise on a delivery that we are not certain we are able to make, or as my Dad often said to me, “Be careful that you don’t let your alligator mouth write checks your canary butt can’t cash.”

So, why do we do it?  Why do we puff ourselves up and say that we can deliver on things and then promptly forget about them and fail? (I place myself firmly at the front of the line in this.  Remember this is where I write to figure things out that I mess up regularly.)  I think there is a strong hint in the following quote:

“In a world where everyone thinks they are great or exceptional, we think that we can accomplish more than we actually can.”

Is that wrong??? I know that when you listen to the stuff you hear in schools and on the kids soccer fields today, you would hear a message that would validate the first part of the statement.  How often do you hear, “Everyone is a winner,”  “You can do whatever you want to do,” There are no limits!”  In a word, that is pure hogwash.

Let’s face the facts that we aren’t all winners.  *Collective sharp intake of breath courses through the internet.*  Every person on the planet is gifted in certain areas, and not in others.  There are things I can do very well, and others that I have done, currently do, and will continue to fail at.  This does not make me a failure.  This proves that I am human.  Sometimes no matter how hard we struggle to grasp the brass ring of success, we will find ourselves coming up with the plastic swizzle-stick of competence.  That’s not a bad thing – if we are giving out best effort.

The real lesson I am pulling from this is not being able to understand if I should try out for nose tackle for the Detroit Lions this year just because I wear the color blue as well as they do (maybe even better as I have been told it brings out my eyes).  It is that I need to watch what I say I can do so I can be sure to deliver on what I say.  Alligator-Canary lesson.

There was a very good question posed at the end of the devotional that prompted this blog.  Actually it is two questions, and I recommend you give a knee-jerk answer to the first and then ponder the second for a bit.  I’ll wait…

“Would people say that I do what I say I will do?”

“Who would be a good person to have give an honest answer to that question?”

Welcome back.  If you are like me, the answer to the first was a hearty yes!  It made me feel great to say it, and it was so easy!  I always want people to believe me when I say I will do something.  Who wouldn’t want to feel that way.  Why, there probably isn’t anyone I know that would answer otherwise about me!  Oh, you want names?  Sure let me work on that list for you.

Well, probably the best would be my wife. On second thought, she knows me too well, and hey, I should be able to be let things go occasionally with her, right?

My kids! No, that probably wouldn’t work very well either.  How many times have I had to cancel something with them that I had told them we would do.

My employees! Yeah.  We won’t go there…

My friends.  But which ones?  Well, when I think about it, I’ve let a lot of them down too after saying I would come through for them, but I didn’t.

When it comes down to it, that second question just flat kicks my canary keister.  Why?  I want to be a man of my word.  I want people to depend on and believe that the things coming out of my mouth are trustworthy things. I will do what I say I will do!  So why don’t I?

Time – Frankly, I am overdrawn on my time account more often than I want to admit.  In order to give time to the people I love, I have to pull time from the things that I promised other people I would do for them and vice versa.  The reasons for it are usually good – wanting to help, wanting to serve.  Too often thought the reasons are not good – avoiding guilt, making myself look good.  That leads to the next reason.

Image – Honestly, I want people to like me, and people tend to like you when you tell them you will give them what they want from you.  Great concept, but it always, and I do mean ALWAYS comes up short in the delivery.  You’d think I would be smart enough to avoid falling back into that trap. Still in process on that one.

Fear – Fear of failing.  Fear of guilt. Fear of myself.  Fear of what comes next if I don’t make the promise.

There are more things that enter into it, but I think those are my top three, and I would imagine that they would be right up there with a lot of people.  So, as my friend Lou would say, “What are you going to do about it?”

The best thing I can do about it is to ask God to help me with it.  Ask the Spirit to keep it at the forefront of my mind.  I tend to follow through more on the things I keep thinking about. I know, strange concept, but it’s true!  Looking to God for help should always be my first step.  He knows me and my weaknesses better than I do, and He wants to help.

I need to continue to watch my priorities too.  Sometimes it is the things I promise others, but at times it comes down to things that I decide I would rather do.  I need to look at my time as a more precious commodity and spend it wisely.  There are times to be on the go, but there are times that are best spent being still.  I need to get better at deciphering when each is appropriate.

I need accountability.  There are a few people I need to ask give me some feedback on that first question.  There are probably some that would love to get in that line!  I don’t think I need to go very far to find the truth in it though.  There are probably fewer than 10 people I need to ask, and their answers would likely be similar to my own.

I want to be better.  I’m going to work on that, and with God’s grace and help. I will get better.  I’ll never be perfect though.  May alligator part will beat out my canary part from time to time, but my prayer is that I will get things balanced out a lot better.  If you are reading this and have the same problem, I’ll be praying for your canary butt too!



Author: Tom Tanner

I'm a follower of Christ, husband, and father. Over the last few years I have been learning how to dig deeper into God's Word and letting it influence more of my life. As I learn, try, fail, and repeat in this process I am seeing God's hand more and more in my life and that of my family as well. This journey is long, hard, and at times a little lonely, but living a Relentless life for Christ has rewards that reach beyond me and my family. My prayer is that it brings God glory and leaves a legacy that will show His influence in my life.

I would love to hear your comments here or e-mail them privately to

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