So what do we say to our children; we who certainly lack perfection; we who become weary; we who are quickly frustrated; we who battle with selfishness; we who never experience days of complete contentment with everything and everyone around us? What do we say to them when we say goodbye for a short time? What do we say when we put them to bed? What do we say when they lie to us? What do we say when they do something wrong, or irresponsible, or irritating, or whatever? What do we say to them when we are bored with them, or tired of them, or do not know what to do with them?
There are many lessons we can draw from 9/11. As we near the 8th anniversary of this “act of war and atrocity, we will have another opportunity to hear numerous opinions of what we have or can learn from this specter of humanity’s evil, as well as the “good that can come out of such horror. Peggy Noonan, former President Reagan’s speech writer and a contributing editor of the Wall Street Journal, in the past has reminded us of a particularly poignant lesson we all can learn from this tragic event.
Ms. Noonan wrote that she was awed by the messages emanating from phone calls or left on answering machines for those not at home. These calls and messages came from people about to die, and were sent to their loved ones. Many others had no opportunity to make that “last call, or say those final words. Noonan was struck, however, by the substance of the calls and messages that got through. What she wrote was, “Life was reduced to its essentials. Time was short. People said what counted, what mattered…there is no record of anyone calling to say, ‘I never liked you,’ or, ‘You hurt my feelings.’ Amazingly—or not—there is no record of anyone damning the terrorists or saying ‘I hate them.’ Essentially, the messages were what Noonan entitled her editorial, “I Just Called to Say I Love You.
Her excellent point was that, “Crisis is a great editor. No one said anything unneeded, extraneous or small. This is analogous to the advice of Solomon in Ecclesiastes: “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words…Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore, stand in awe of God. (5:2-3,7)
Now, you say, this speaks of words said to God, not to our children, or to those we love. Still, we must remember, all words spoken by us are spoken before the eyes and ears of an omniscient and omnipresent God. He is all knowing, and He is everywhere. We must remember this, and stand in awe. In other words our actions, our thoughts, our words must be tempered by our awe of God. If this is believed in our head and in our heart, then we might edit Noonan’s premise to say, “The awe of God is a great editor, even more than crisis.
James tells us with fearful precision, “The tongue is a fire; a world of evil among the parts of the body…No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:6,8) The tongue can do inestimable damage. Coupled with the amazing recall of the mind, words spoken years before can be remembered over and over, and in some cases, never forgotten. Have we considered who it is that are the recipients of our words? As parents we have responsibility for immortal beings, our children. When considered in its full context this is an amazing thought, too difficult to fully comprehend. Nevertheless, it is true.
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