"Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each one." ~ Col 4:6 NKJV
Just when we're ministering to others at church, right?
Or maybe not.
Three years ago, I desperately needed a break from homeschooling our four kids. I was running on caffeine and chocolate and little else. So, when a new charter school opened up close by, I swallowed my insecurities….you know, the ones that scream, “See? You are a failure. You aren’t capable of teaching your kids.” Yeah. Those insecurities.
Anyway, we took a leap of faith and enrolled them. While God has since called our family back to homeschool, one of the most important lessons I learned happened to be in the midst of that season of our lives.
That morning began with a quiet little voice in my ear:
“Momma, I need you to come see something. It's important." She whispered to me. It was 6 am. A time that I loathe, especially without coffee on a typical day, but the night before had been especially bad. The dog had rolled in something vile and smelled like death. We debated leaving him outside, but since it was below freezing and I didn't want to traumatize the kids by turning him into a dog-sicle, I sprayed him with Lysol and banished him to his bed. As if that wasn’t enough wild kingdom action, at some point in the night, the two psychopathic cats that co-exist with us decided that our face was the perfect wrestling ring.
The whole nocturnal adventure was topped off when the five-year-old wet her bed, and because I was too lazy at 3 am to change her sheets, she spent the rest of the night lying perpendicular between hubby and me, kicking me in the spleen.
I barely had my eyes open but knew from the tone of her voice that it was something serious.
I stumbled-followed her blond, nine-year-old head to the laundry room, where the dryer looked like it had gotten sick and thrown up clothes all over the floor. I rubbed my eyes, trying to figure out what the issue was. I mean, my laundry room usually looks like this, so it couldn't be the clothes all over the floor.
And then I saw it.
The load I had washed and dried the night before.
All of their school uniforms were covered in red and orange markings. Like some crazy graffiti artist had gone through every item in the dryer plying their craft.
I stood there trying to make sense of it, but I just saw dollar signs instead of clothes. Uniforms are not cheap.
Every. Last. Uniform. Shirt.
"What in the name of tarnation happened here?!" I said aloud, bending down to look inside the dryer, half expecting to see a tiny little dryer gnome looking back at me with a mismatched sock in one hand and a marker in the other.
"Please don't be mad." Said a tiny voice. I looked up from my hunched-over-the-dryer-surveillance pose and saw her face. Huge hazel eyes filled with tears and fear, trembling lips, and furrowed brow. "Mrs. Clayton gave me a special crayon yesterday, and I put it in my pocket and forgot about it. I'm so sorry, momma."
I'm not gonna lie.
I was angry. I was tired. I was decaffeinated. And then, somewhere through the fog, I remembered, "Let your speech ALWAYS be with grace."
I took her in my arms and told her it was ok. That I knew it was an accident and how proud I was of her for coming and telling me the truth. I spoke grace and watched her face change from fear to a little bit of pride.
I felt her soften in my arms and thought to myself, I can clean up a mess, but I can't as easily clean my frustrated voice off tender little hearts.
I may have chapters of scriptures memorized, but they do me little good when I can't live them out to my family, my first ministry.
I might be able to teach people about God’s saving grace in a Bible study, but I am nothing more than a hypocrite if I can't model that grace to my children.
I may minister to others in Sunday morning service, but if I can’t minister to my children's hearts, I’ve missed my calling.
In that quiet moment with my nine-year-old laundry vandal, God showed me that it’s easy to get caught up in what we think ministry is.
Praying with someone at church.
Standing behind a pulpit.
Teaching Bible studies.
Yet if I’ve missed ministering to those Jesus has put in my own house, I’ve forgotten what’s important.
I’m the first example of faith, the church, and Jesus that my children will experience. What am I demonstrating to them?
Jesus seems to like to teach me truths like this at 6 AM before coffee.
After a sleepless night with neurotic animals.
Through my children.
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. Col 4:6 NKJV
But especially to the ministry that God first calls us to.