“That is so stupid, Barbara.”
Where in the world did that thought come from? I asked myself quietly, but knowing exactly why that phrase came. Words buried in my memory surfaced as I peeled a mango one morning this week. Tears mixed with sticky juice as I rested my knife…
The last of many times time my mother pronounced that judgment was August 2001, less than three weeks before 9-11-01. I had flown home to Tennessee from Vienna, Austria, with a strong prompt to see my mother. We enjoyed a good visit that morning, and I was helping with lunch.
I was peeling apples, letting the peels circle on the counter. (I’ve always loved making a long strand of peel—even at my age!) She swooped them up, made the first statement, and snapped, “How stupid to move them twice?”
Words… just words.
Funny… what we remember. That was the last time I was with my mother. She died suddenly the following Christmas Day. Through the years that one statement can still bring hurt, especially when I pile vegetable or fruit scraps on the counter. And I still do.
I am not sure I could have shared with her how those words impacted my sense of security in who I was. Did I even know as a young girl or a teenager how it would affect me for years? I do know it is critical the words embedded in young hearts.
I write this blog today for all of us who are more at home with those we love than we have been in a long while. We had four children—I can only imagine if we were quarantined when they were all teenagers! Would I have said things they would remember with pain for the rest of their lives?
I have prayed for years that my children would be blessed with a terrible memory when it comes to ‘hearing’ hurtful words from the past. Words said in times of impatience or exasperation with little ones. And if they do remember, I sincerely hope they forgive me—again and again. I desire Now… to speak words of affirmation, encouragement and love to somehow offset the painful memories caused by my words then.
In defense of my mother, I grew to understand that she was denied a strong affirmation base from her childhood. She had no collection of books from Christian family authors. It was a common word, perhaps, she had heard often. I don’t think she believed I was stupid. But it has taken a life time of learning I am not.
Each time those words whisper pain, I forgive her, and I smile, knowing the truth of God’s grace. And I am thankful for the gifts she has given me. Perhaps, as I forgive, I need to be reminded that my words to others should be kind, never judging. God, in His mercy, has shown me that I am created in His image.
Words… just words.
“He who guards his lips guards his life.” Proverbs 13:3a
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
I love this one, “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15: 4
There are multiple verses in Proverbs concerning the tongue, our speech, our witness, truth… Ninety eight verses are marked in my Bible on the pages of Proverbs with a T; I am sure there are many more unmarked. (There are thirteen on this one page—the four faded T’s on the right are on the next page.)
We can all embrace these words during this time of confinement “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, my Father…” Psalm 19:14
Father, my prayer is that my words be as gold to Tom as long as we are in this house… just the two of us, NOW. We can each pray that our words be uplifting, encouraging, truthful… in this NOW to our children, to our spouse, to our parents, to ourselves…
Don’t you marvel at Proverbs 25:11… “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”
Note: My personal journey of listening to the Lord’s whispers will be published this summer— in it you will glimpse how I came to understand the truth of God’s words. Whispers on the Journey