Today I learned the lesson of speaking with grace. While waking the aisles of Sam’s Club looking for whatever items we were to buy that day my husband and I handed out a few newly put together “truth tracts” that we had made to people that we passed by.
As we were strolling along handing out the tracts when we come across two ladies and their children. Well, I didn’t get too good of a feeling all the sudden, but without really thinking to much about it we approach these women and I ask their permission to present their children with some tracts: one being “David and Grace Rollercoasters Slides and Swings” and the other “Staying Pure.” Upon their approval I hand the little ones the child’s story and the older child (which looked to be about 10 years of age) the purity tract and then carry on our way. All the while I couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad was about to happen, which of course, it did.
“Um, no. I think you’re just a little bit too young for this” and we can only assume took the tract out of her child’s grasp.
Needless to say, we were a little surprised and confused by the woman’s reaction, but knowing that our intentions were clean and that it was really none of our business whether certain individuals liked or disliked our tracts, we simply continued on without looking back and allowed the woman to deal with the situation as she saw fit. After all, she was the mother and could decide what was best for her child to read or not. No questions asked.
A few minutes later, we were still trying to shake our minds free of the whole ordeal as we purchased our groceries in the check-out line and had almost made it out the door when we paused and happened to turn back. We saw the same woman that we were speaking with just moments before approaching us from behind. Only this time, she was without her children, walking full speed in our direction with a flushed face and wearing what looked like a scowl of some sort across her cheeks. It was in that moment that we knew that she was about to let us have it, which was exactly what she did.
“We have had the voice of God in our house for quite some time now,” she reprimanded us loudly and for everyone around us to see. “And you don’t just come up and give this to an eight-year old girl!”
It was then I realized why the woman had become so upset. I immediately felt ashamed and then angry for the mistake that I had made (innocent as it was), but in that moment all I could focus on was how little understanding and ungracious this woman was being. “I mean come on!” I said to myself, “It was just an honest mistake! Yes, eight-years old is a little too young for the comic, but you didn’t have to sic us like a couple of conniving fools!” And so the anger within me began to build in so much that, instead of apologizing and explaining the situation to the woman calmly I hurriedly took back the tract that had been thrust out in my direction and looked for the quickest escape route.
It wasn’t until 10 minutes of venting, an argument with my husband, several apologizes and a little Bible reading later that I was finally able to step back from the whole thing and really understand what had been my biggest mistake. It didn’t have to do with the girl and the reading material (although I continue to feel bad about that) or even that I had become angry.
My biggest mistake was that during that morning my speech had been almost entirely void of grace. You see, it’s not enough just to put tracts on cars, tell people about Christ or even say a few common curtsies of greeting to a neighbor in passing. If my speech is without grace at any time in my life, it means that at that moment I am not behaving in the way that is godly.
Colossians 4:5-6 tells us to “walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time” and to let speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that we may know how we ought to answer every man.
That angry woman (although she had every right to be upset) was not walking in wisdom or in love this morning, but that’s not to say that I acted any better. Today I didn’t answer that woman with grace and so redeem the time that I had with her. Instead, I wasted my opportunity today to shine God’s light into her life because I was too busy being hurt, angry and downright selfish.
I can only hope that maybe some day that woman will read this and understand that I am deeply sorry. Not only for the mistake that happened with her child, but for my mistake in missing what was likely my only opportunity to to speak to her with grace.
P.S. The next time I have to choose a tract to give to a young girl whose age I can’t quite pin down, I will air on the side of caution and probably give her “The Best Way to Be Pretty.”