They gather in their pajamas as Henrik looks over from his pack’n’play, sitting themselves on the tattered rug from Goodwill with all the colors on it trying so hard to make our mismatched furniture look intentional.
We are in Proverbs, chewing on a few verses at a sitting. Digesting them together in the earliest of mornings or the dark of evenings; in all those holy times of beginnings and endings of days. Those are very real and very slow times.
“When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise.”
I talked about how words can be like swords flying out of our mouths (which made them giggle), and how they can deeply wound others (they sobered). I said that cuts on our skin heal within a week, but cuts on our hearts from words can take decades to heal, and even then, they might reopen and bleed again.
I talked about how words can be like giving each other treasures, beautiful gifts that each can store in their hearts, bringing them joy all their life. I told them some of my treasured words that were given to me, that shaped me and encouraged me. They smiled and told me about which words were given to them.
Then I told them words that had wounded me, right to the marrow. It was a teacher in middle school screaming at me that I was stupid, stupid, stupid because I messed up in following a list of computer lab instructions. As I related how she screamed at me and how quick I blinked not to cry, their eyes filled with tears.
My children wept for my wounds, right there on the colorful rug, right there in their jammies. It was as if they were sitting in that hard plastic computer lab chair, being whipped by words let fiendishly loose. They felt the sting and pain of them. They cried for the broken place in me that always cringes if I make a mistake, for the wound that keeps telling me that I’m stupid, stupid, stupid. For the ways I try to bandage that wound by trying to appear smart, smart, smart. Reuben crawled up on my legs, draping himself over me with a groan, whispering “You’re not stupid, Mommy”.
The three little blond heads tucked under my chin, I prayed for wisdom for all of us; that God would help us to think and discern before we let our words fly out. That He would ever remind us that words are powerful, for destruction and for building one another up. Their potential is all out of proportion to the ease with which they are uttered.
They are now tucked into their beds and the crickets are calling one to another, and I can’t quite wrap my mind around the holy moment on the colorful rug when my children wept for me.