I stood there staring at the garbage can in our kitchen. The can was so full that tinfoil was poking out through the hinged opening. You couldn’t have pushed in a used napkin much less squeezed in an empty soda can.
How many times had I told my 15-year old to take out the garbage can when it was full? 100? 200? It felt like a 1000. I felt my body tighten. My teeth clenched.
“Jon!” I hollered, “You have 30-seconds to get down here…MOVE IT!” I’d been a U.S. Marine for 20-years so I’d learned how to say something like I meant it.
“Coming, dad!” I heard footsteps thudding upstairs. He was moving quickly. In a matter of seconds he was in the kitchen, wide-eyed. He knew something was wrong.
My voice was loud. Angry. “How many times have I told you to take out the garbage when it’s full!” Without pausing I added, “Tell me how it’s possible that you cannot see that trash is literally flowing out of the garbage can!”
“Well, I…” he started. But I quickly cut him off.
“I feel like I’m parenting a first-grader! So how about I start treating you like a first-grader because you’re as irresponsible as one!” “When are you going to start remembering to do what I’ve asked? You ALWAYS forget.”
He winced. His shoulders dropped. That last comment hit home. I was in Marine-mode now and was just about to fire another round of words when I heard it….
“Do I talk to you that way when you mess up?”
Though there was no one else in the kitchen, I knew exactly Who was speaking.
“No, Lord. You don’t.”
“In the 100, 200, or 1000 times you’ve forgot to do something that I’ve asked you to do, did I yell at you?” He asked gently.
“No, Lord. You didn’t.”
“Remember when I told you that you should always speak the truth in love. Just like I do with you?” He softly added.
“Yes, Lord. I remember.”
“Well, this would be a perfect moment to practice it. I love you so much that even though you forget to do this from time to time, I wanted to give you another chance to try again and succeed.”
God knows me and I love that about Him. He knows that I’m not the perfect parent. He sees me in my life and is able to apply to my heart exactly what I need. Exactly when I need it. And right now what I need is a reminder about…words.
Our words are powerful; the Bible is full of that message. Encouraging and affirming words—words of life—have the power to give hope, to strengthen others to keep growing in righteousness. Encouraging words act as water and sunshine to our children’s souls to help them grow strong.
Encouraging words add “weight” or value to a child; like adding coins to a weighing scale. Nowadays, we determine the value of a coin by whose picture is inscribed on it. In Old Testament times, however, the value of a coin was determined by putting it on a scale. The greater the weight, the higher the value.
Our words have weight. And the more encouraging words we give our children the more weight we add to their confidence and self-esteem.
“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose” (Prov. 18:21).
Words matter. We must deliberately aim our words at our children’s hearts in such a way as to give them strength, hope, faith, life, and point them to our love and the Father’s love for them.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I apologized to my son for my angry tone of voice. It’s not easy for me, as a dad, to apologize to my son (thank you Lord for the grace to do it!). We discussed his responsibility of emptying out the garbage when needed. Instead of a one-way monologue, we had a productive two-way conversation. Problem solved…for now!
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