I immediately knew the older woman leaving me a voicemail had dialed the wrong number. “Hi Peter. It’s me, you mother,” the voice said. “I was just calling you to thank you for my birthday card. It was early. Is someone else sending things for you? You’re ALWAYS late.” She left a few more condescending comments and then said good-bye.
It made me laugh a little, but it also made me think. The stranger leaving a voicemail wasn’t being funny. Her tone wasn’t lighthearted, but accusing. What kind of relationship did this mom and son have? Unmet expectations? Unknown life circumstances? Past disappointments?
My mind turned to my own family. What kind of voicemails and texts do I leave them? As a parent, I’m very aware that my husband and I are the biggest influences in our children’s lives. Sure, they are surrounded by grandparents, coaches, friends, and small group leaders. We couldn’t raise our kids without these pivotal people. But at the end of the day, we are the ones who sit at the dinner table, greet them when they get up each morning, and sit with them when they’re sick. For better or for worse, our voices shape who they are becoming.
Our words matter deeply. Even if we no longer live in the same household, our family relationships last for a lifetime. And we’re experts on one another—we know just what to say that will hurt one another the most. So no matter what, learn to use your words wisely. Swallow the comments that you know will wound others. And when those unwanted words come tumbling out, apologize quickly and sincerely. The kindness and patience you show others will trickle down through the generations.
Jesus, You have blessed us with generations of family above and below us. It is a gift we often take for granted. May the words that fall from our lips build them up and bring them joy. Bring healing to our wounded relationships and repair our broken patterns. Help us to forgive and be forgiven. Amen.