The things you learn in a foreign culture...like this throw-away comment on the bus ride to town that yielded incredible insight into the Maltese, on the way to the prayer house:
"Paul dealt with a poisonous snake on the island after his shipwreck. Since then, no snakes on Malta are venomous."
"Yes. But the venom of the snake went into the Maltese mouth."
Some laughed; some of us thought that was a pretty awful self-cursing sort of thing. Taming the tongue is no small feat, and I'm sure not where I want to be with it, but I would hate to identify myself as someone with a venomous tongue. But the Maltese carry a certain pride in their sharp tongues, directness, and ability to argue.
Talking with an equally-shocked friend later, we decided we wanted to be people who do not speak the fire of hell but the fire of heaven: healing, purifying, refining words. A visual immediately came to mind, refined during the bus ride, as I passed the many houses covered with the now-familiar grillwork of the Mediterranean windows--grillwork that now appeared to be snake-like, covering windows so no light of understanding could get in, just the lie of a debasing identity about themselves. I wondered what it would take to dismantle the self-cursing proverb. What would remove the venom from the Maltese mouth?
A quick acrylic capture:
Ran out of time to finish - was trying to remove the 'snakes' from one side of the painting, to represent the heart choice of how one speaks. (Heart also incomplete in the middle.) But I hope you 'get the picture." :)
(Text: "The tongue also is a fire."--James 3:6)