When my then six-year old daughter was once upset with me, she wrote a note and handed it to me before walking quickly to her room. In typical childlike script were the words, Mom Is Menu. As I chuckled out loud and asked why she wanted to eat me, she attempted to grab the note from my hands while arguing, “That’s not what it says!” When further pressed, she admitted that what she meant to write was the statement, Mom is mean. And while this altercation has become a longstanding joke within our family that has literally turned into a “scrapbook moment,” the truth is that her words were meant to hurt not to humor me.
Let’s face it, we all have moments that are less than stellar. Moments when we lash out in anger and inadvertently say things we do not mean. Things meant to inflict hurt. Unfortunately, our misplaced (or misspelled) words have the power to stick with us. Once we realize the silliness of our frustrations, it is not only embarrassing, it can also be infuriating. Because as much as we may want to, we can’t take back our words. Once spoken, they are out there for good (or bad). And the impact they make can be long-lasting.
On the flip-side of this childlike lesson, there is another note-writing incident involving another one of my children who was also six years old at the time. (Six is apparently a significant age for note writing.) My son came home from school and excitedly took a note from his pocket. “Mommy, will you read this to me?” he asked as he handed me a crumpled piece of notebook paper. “It’s from Michael, but I had a hard time reading his handwriting. What does it say?”
I opened the paper and began reading out loud, “Dear Joshua, I ha…” I paused mid-sentence and looked into those expectant blue eyes staring back at me. “What, Mommy? What does it say?” he implored. And with a hesitant voice, I quietly finished reading the words, “…I hate you. From, Michael.” The look on my son’s face was devastating. “Why would he write that?” he asked sadly. And as we talked about what might have happened to bring about such a note and came up empty-handed, Joshua declared that he wanted to write a note back to Michael.
Needless to say, my mother’s heart had kicked into the protective Mama Bear mode. “YOU want to write him a note!” I thought, “I want to get my hands around his scrawny, little neck! On second thought, let’s make it his fingers so I can break them and he can never write another nasty note ever again!” You know, all the kind images that race through a mother’s mind when one of her own is threatened. While Joshua went off to write his note, I overcame my temptation toward child abuse by sequestering myself in my bedroom and praying, instead.
When Joshua returned asking me to check his note, I was surprised to open it and read the words penned from his heart:
I love you.
“Can I give this to Michael tomorrow?”
“Yes, honey. You most certainly can give this to Michael tomorrow,” I choked through my tears.
The next day, I smiled with pride as the teacher approached me with tears reminiscent of my own as she learned of Joshua’s loving response to a hateful situation. Interestingly enough, the two boys became close friends throughout the remainder of the year. Funny how love works that way.
And that’s the truth of the matter. Love works.
Perhaps that’s why Jesus encouraged us to utilize it so often. Love works. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love your enemies. Love one another as I have loved you. Love and keep on loving each other as brothers…
Romans 12:10 puts it this way, Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (ESV)
Can you imagine what our world would be like if we really took that verse to heart? If we loved each other and exerted ourselves to outdo one another in bestowing honor upon every individual we met along the way instead of grasping for our own recognition and power? If we responded to the hate notes of our lives with letters of love. I can’t imagine but that it would put an end to envy, strife, and dissatisfaction while upholding things like harmony, peacefulness, and blessed contentment. Beauty would take its rightful place, and hatred would be banished… if only we would allow love to have preeminence.
Unfortunately, in our need to express ourselves or maintain control, we tend to run and scribble the first thoughts that enter our minds. And we wind up with notes that we wish we could take back. Notes with misspelled words that read HATE instead of LOVE.
It’s time to stop the childlike scribbling and allow childlike love to take its rightful place. It’s time to respond as Jesus would have us respond in 1 Peter 4:8: Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Love is what turns the Michaels and Joshuas of this world into friends.
Because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Who do you need to cover with love today?