A couple of years ago, our Sunday School lesson was from the book of James...on the power of the tongue. Our teacher asked, "what are some words we should never say?"
Someone piped up first thing, and mentioned a certain racial slur. They didn't say the word...we all knew. And we all agreed we should NEVER use ANY racial slurs. Our teacher asked, "what else?"
One class member spoke up and said, "well, I'll tell you one we can't use, and it just burns me up..." and then she said it...the word. I'm not gonna write it out. I can't. I won't.
It's an intellectual slur, directed at people like my son. We call it the "R" word.
She said, "I am so sick of the PC police telling us what we can and cannot say. I believe in calling a spade...a spade."
Oh no, she di'int. Oh yes...she did!
I felt ALLTHEEYES on us. And, here's the thing: we had been in the class for probably 2 years at this time. They knew us...they knew the make-up of our family.
She went on, "it's a 'medical term,' ya know. We tell our kids not to say it, and, when they do...they get in trouble in class. Teachers can get in BIG trouble if they say it. People can lose their friends, jobs and reputations for saying this word...and it's just ridiculous."
My heart was about to beat out of my chest. I knew my face was red. Jim was looking down at his Bible. She continued..."the reason this word is upsetting to some people, is that we've given it too much power. By making it taboo, we've created this big 'thing' about it, so that now kids want to say it...just like they want to say all the cuss words."
She said that people have t-shirts saying we should get rid of this word (I have one)...and stickers and rubber bracelets saying we should get rid of this word (yep...have those, too). She said it made her "thankful" when she heard kids call each other this word...because it "lessens the power of it."
Ummm...no it doesn't.
I thought I was going to jump out of my skin. Everyone was nervously looking around at each other, and at us. I think I asked Jim if I could respond, but I didn't wait for his answer. When you have a son like mine, and he comes home from school saying that someone called him that word, and told him that he had a messed up brain...well. don't even talk to me about the power of a word, unless you've experienced something like that with one of your own kids.
Experiences like that either cloud my judgment...or enhance it. TAKE YOUR PICK.
I would like to say that others in our class spoke up in defense of the defenseless...except no one did. I feel like there was a way that others could have spoken up that day...and it wouldn't have been judgmental for the lady...and it would've been encouraging to us. I don't know...I just pray that God would give me boldness to speak life, if I'm ever in a similar situation. Because there are millions of words in the English language. Why would we choose to use hurtful and divisive words when we can choose words that can encourage and heal?
But, no one spoke up. It was more than a little disheartening. BUT, it was a lesson to me that sometimes we will stand alone, and that's okay. And that there are times when we should speak up ("speak up for those who have no voice..." Proverbs 31:8), and times when we should hold our tongues.
So, I told the lady, "I completely disagree with everything you just said." I stated my thoughts in a calm and restrained way, even tho I was about to have a nervous breakdown. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done...because MARTY DOES NOT LIKE CONFRONTATION.
Jim and I walked out of that class feeling even more burdened. I begged Jim to let us leave that class and go to a different one. He said, "no." And every day leading up to the next Sunday, I would ask again, "pleeeeeease?" And, like Tom Cruise in "Top Gun," he'd emphatically say, "I'm.not.leaving.my.wing-man."
Actually, he'd say, "we are NOT LEAVING THIS CLASS."
Week after week after week
In the end, it was all...okay. The lady came to our house, and apologized if she hurt our feelings. I will never agree with her point of view. Like, ever. She will likely never agree with mine. But I forgave her, and neither one of us harbored ill-will toward each other.
Seven months later, Jim and I had to switch to a different class because of a scheduling issue with Joshua.
But it was on God's timing...not ours.
I've been dragging my feet on posting this, praying for the right time...and IF there was a right time. It's not my intention to bash any person or any church. I love my church. I think Christians should be in church. But just because we're in church doesn't mean we are perfect. In fact, far from it.
Church is a place where we go to worship God with others. It's where we go when we realize we can't do life on our own...that we need the support of community. It's where we go to learn more about Jesus...and to develop our relationship with Him; where we go to prepare ourselves for the trials that come our way...and to learn ways to share our faith.
I just wanted to show how one negative comment can overshadow 10 positive ones. And to show that, even in the one place we hope to find grace and support, we sometimes don't.
Christians aren't happy all the time, and churches are full of hurting people. Many times, we don't know the burdens they carry, or the ones placed on them by others. Our church is full of many wonderful people, and yet the negative words of one person stay with me...and remind me that we are gonna fail each other. We are.
But God never fails.
"Everything He does reveals His glory and majesty. His righteousness never fails." Psalm 111: 3