Monday, April 5, 2010

The lasting power of words

Courtesy of Mississippi State University "Writing on the Wall" project

Twenty six years ago, my wife and I moved back to our hometown with our two small children, then 4 years old and 6 months old. Julia initially accepted a part-time position teaching at a local university.  We hired a young woman from our church (the church secretary's daughter) to babysit while Julia was teaching and later found another excellent woman, also from our church, who kept them in her home.  Even 26 years later, we are still friends with this wonderful woman and our sons love her.

 Like many other parents, we regularly volunteered in the church nursery to help the nursery director, herself a single parent of 2 sons.  During one particular service where we were assisting her, Miss Sandi as she was called, launched into a tirade about the evils of mothers who worked outside the home, knowing full well that Julia was a "working mom."  We both stayed busy with babies and elected not to engage her or interject into her comments.  In her most condescending voice, Miss Sandi declared to all of us working in the nursery that day that, "I'd sooner take in laundry, than let someone else raise my kids!"

Wow  . . . what a callus thing to say!  You probably won't be surprised to know that that was the last time that we volunteered to work with Miss Sandi in the nursery.  I was waiting at a traffic light this week when Miss Sandi walked across in front of me and I could still picture that moment and hear her hurtful words even 26 years later.  Julia didn't deserve her scorn.  We were not letting someone else raise our kids.  Julia was then and always has been a great mother to our sons, both of whom have grown up to be outstanding young men. 

That's the thing about words . . . once they're said, they're said.  We can apologize for them, we can correct them, (neither of which Miss Sandi did) but we can't erase the fact that they have been said.  I've spoken some words that I regret, too, and some of them have been as misguided as the ones Miss Sandi said that day, or worse.  Even if I have later apologized for them or set the record straight, I still remember them when I see a person whom I offended by something I said, and I cringe.

It's good that God is not like that.  "He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west."  Psalm 103:12 NLT.  When we ask, He forgives us so completely that it's as though the sin never occurred.  I need to take some lessons from Him on that. 

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