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Holding Back
Photo: Billy W
She could have said something. She could have said a number of things. In fact, she could have gotten really upset and yelled, and I wouldn’t have blamed her one bit. I’ll call her Mary (to protect the innocent), and she was in charge of our kids club at church. I have to admit (now that I am much older), that I wasn’t always the best listener and this particular experience proved that.

Our club had gone on a camp out, and I was excited to be around the rest of my friends. We kids busied ourselves with pulling the gear out of the vehicles, setting up the tents, and arguing about who was going to sleep in which area of our canvas condominium. As usual I was jabbering away and not paying attention to anything that the adults had to say.

A campfire was built and supper was soon ready. We ate our food with gusto, and I was assigned my chore after the meal. I made an attempt to look busy, only half-finished my assigned duty, and then took off to be with my friends.

Mary came after me. “Mike, you didn’t finish your chore,” she said calmly. I mumbled something like, “yes did.” She then explained to me that I hadn’t, and finished with, “Mike, you have a hard time listening to people when they tell you something.” She was right. It seemed that whatever anyone said to me, went in one ear and out the other most of the time. After doing my task the correct way, the rest of the camp settled down by the fire for singing and S’mores. We had cut long sticks, and were roasting marshmallows to top the chocolate and graham crackers. Mary again spoke to me. “Mike, your marshmallow is too close to the fire. If it catches on fire it could be dangerous.” I wasn’t listening.

Measured Response

I stuck my marshmallow back into the fire, and within about three seconds it was ablaze. Thinking that I would put the fire out quickly, I pulled out the stick and waved it wildy back and forth. The wad of flaming goo left my stick, flew through the air, and stuck to the front of Mary’s shirt. By then the fire was out, but the hot, sticky marshmallow must have hurt. At the very least, I had ruined a nice shirt. And all because I wouldn’t listen.

Mary didn’t speak. She could have told me how I didn’t listen and she had paid the price. She could have scolded me in front of my peers. She could have sent me to bed without any S’mores. She didn’t. She picked up a camp towel, pulled the blackened marshmallow mess from her shirt, and went into her tent.

Proverbs 10:19 says, “…the wise measure their words.” 

When Mary returned from her tent, no more words were said about the incident. I got the message loud and clear. I wasn’t listening, and it hurt someone that I cared about. But in holding her tongue, she had made it clearer to me than a thousand angry words.

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By Michael Temple. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the THE MESSAGE / REMIX®.

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