"Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don't miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out." Col. 4:6 The Message BibleIt was one of those rare occasions this past week, when by some miracle of lunar eclipse I was able to leave the house with NO children and run a couple of errands. The quiet was amazing and I hummed to myself and ambled through a couple of stores, taking my time and drinking in the refreshment of it all.
When I reached the third store, something interesting happened. As I was walking from the parking lot to the doors of the store, a mother and her teenage daughter happened to walk alongside me. They were nicely dressed, hair done, make-up on. The daughter made a statement about a car that she liked and then she and her mother instantly entered into a heated debate about cars and gas and insurance. They talked loudly over each other, neither one listening, their tones frustrated.
I entered the store and headed toward the department I needed, smiling at a toddler playing with a large beach ball. Her mother shrilly yelled at her, telling her to 'put that ball away, put it away right now!' I headed toward the aisle I needed and a father and his preteen son were squaring off over a possible electronics purchase. And then I noticed the shift in my outlook.
All that conflict, that verbal sparing, the sharp tones, the sniping and snapping, shoplifted my light-hearted mood. Parents speaking harshly, children responding in kind. Children speaking with disrespect, all to receive disrespect back from their parents. It was a downer. It was irritating.
It was convicting.
My crew feels a strong sense of responsibility when we are in public. People are naturally interested in the numbers of kiddos we are transporting through the grocery store. People ask questions about the number of kids, about the ages, about our grocery budget. It comes with the territory and I don't generally mind. But I am also keenly aware that we are somewhat under a microscope, that people may take a natural curiosity and apply it as a genralization to all large families. We want to represent the Lord well. And in public, we generally do pretty well.
But it's what happens when others aren't watching that really counts, doesn't it? When I'm fatigued, frustrated, stressed, tired or just plain ol' obeying my flesh, my tone can degrade, can become shrill, can become angry. And then the rest of the crew joins in my failure of leadership and begins sniping at each other...and then we shoplift each other's joy. We can take a light-hearted, fun day and undo it with a harsh answer.
So I'm just confessing here that I need to clean up my mouth...again. I need to traffic in patience. I need to traffic in kindness. I need to traffic in setting the standard, 'cuz when Momma shoots off her mouth, everybody seems to shoot off their mouths. I need to set the same standards at home as I have set in public. I need to make myself a little 3 x 5 card to stick above the sink: "The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation...." That Apostle Paul...he always seems to have my number....