An actress was playing a homeless bag-lady in a movie. One evening, as an exercise in understanding her character, she remained in costume after the day’s shoot was completed, and spent the evening on the street.
It didn’t take long before she noticed passers-by who looked in her direction and turned away. Mothers with children crossed the street. A bicyclist spat at her. As the street lights came on, she felt her spirit sink lower and lower even though she was only five minutes from her hotel room. The darkness of the street began to claim her soul. She wanted to shed her costume and shout, “This is not me!”
As she fought off near-panic, a young man raced down the street. “Good evening, ma’am,” he said, “How are you tonight?” He was at the curb before she had a chance to answer, but she noticed the clerical collar he was wearing.
The image remained clear in her mind long after the movie was released. Months later she recalled, “His voice lifted my head and made me stand tall. He thought I was a street person, yet he called me ma’am, as though he I was a teacher, lawyer or an actress. I will never forget how his words gave me courage. I can never again pass a street person without acknowledging his or her presence. I may not be able to give anything but dignity, but I will pass along that gift forever. That man was God clothed in clerical garb for me. I know I can be the same for another!”
Words are so powerful: in terms of the harm they do, and the help they can give. Strangely enough harsh words seem to have more impact. Have you noticed that you can feel hurt a lot longer after hearing harsh words, than you do feel good after encouraging words?
This idea is true for all of us but I am thinking especially of fathers. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” That word exasperate means “to irritate to the point of injudicious action.” It means to keep poking, irritating and frustrating until all restraint comes off. Exasperation causes our children react out of anger with us.
Fathers, we are supposed to have exactly the opposite effect on our kids. We are supposed to bring them up in the “training and instruction” of the Lord.
You might be thinking “My kids exasperate me!” I know. I’ve been exasperated myself. But then I picture a man, sharing a kind word with a stranger on the street. If I want to be God clothed in clerical garb to a stranger, how much more to my own child.
Being a dad is the most important thing we will ever do, men. Let’s do it with excellence.
Yours in Christ,
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