Saturday was a great day. We got to meet our youngest nephew who was born on Friday evening. When we met him, he wasn’t even 24 hours old. He’s so new. So soft. So tiny. So beautiful. And he smells so good.
We’ve all been really excited about his arrival. And in preparation for our visit to the hospital to greet him, my two oldest children made him gifts.
Both gifts were precious.
But my sister was so struck by the thoughtfulness of the painting created by our daughter that she Tweeted about it:
There are so many things that could have been Tweeted in response to her Tweet such as:
1. Love her use of color and texture!
2. What an appropriate reference to scripture to honor a baby’s birth!
3. How touching!
4. Such a thoughtful gesture from such a sweet child!
But the first reply my sister received said nothing of the sort. No, instead, it took a shot at our daughter’s spelling mistakes:
Another similar reply followed shortly thereafter. And before I even knew what was going on, my sister had taken matters into her own hands when she replied:
“the misspellings are my favorite part! It’s a memory verse from school, not her spelling test!”
Well stated. So true. So I let it be.
But I didn’t sleep well Saturday night, and this Twitter thread was partly the reason. (The other reason was because it happened to be “spring forward,” which always occurs on Saturday night, and which always keeps me up out of fear that the pastor will inadvertently sleep through church.)
The Tweet left me unsettled. Heartbroken. Discouraged. Disappointed. And angry.
Not so much out of concern for my daughter’s feelings. She’ll never know about this Tweet (unless she starts reading this blog in a few years). But because it represents a larger problem that is so prevalent in our culture.
Simply put. Some of us are characterized by having a critical spirit.
And it’s not a secular problem. It’s alive and well in the church too.
And instead of taking every opportunity we’re given to speak life into others, to affirm them, and to lift them up, we often criticize them. We often cut them down. We often highlight their negative qualities. We often point out the flaws in their work. We try to make them feel bad about themselves. And we often succeed.
We do it to their faces.
We do it behind their backs.
And we broadcast it to the world by spreading it all over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, other social media, and the internet in the process. I can’t believe the things I read online sometimes, and I cringe at the thought that my children will likely be subjected to cyber bullying down the road. (From the experiences of many of you who have gone before me, I know it can be a very lonely road.)
It’s a huge problem for all of us. Not only because it’s demoralizing to put ourselves “out there” only to get beat up by naysayers and critics. But also because we’re setting a horrible example for our future.
For our children.
How are we supposed to teach our children to treat others with kindness and compassion when we’re so willing to treat each other with such utter disregard and complete and total lack of respect?
How will our children ever learn to encourage and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11, Romans 14:19) when we’re so inclined to see the worst in every situation and to be so critical of others?
How might our children seek to become the light and love of Jesus Christ in the world when we struggle to show common courtesies to strangers?
These are the questions that kept me up Saturday night. And these are the things I worry about when I see Tweets like the one attacking my nine year old.
Did she make some spelling mistakes? Yes, she did. Eight to be exact. I’m not concerned about that, though, because I know how she’s doing in spelling at school.
But if that’s what where we maintain our focus, don’t we miss the beauty of this expression of love from our child to her newborn cousin and his family?
You bet we do.
And don’t we miss the precious snapshot into the heart of a little girl that this expression of love affords us?
Because what I see when I look at this painting is a powerful expression of God’s creativity communicated through the heart and hands of a child.
I see a painting of a place I’d like to visit. Of a stream I’d like to sit by and the shade of a tree I’d like to enjoy.
When I observe how the watercolors, crayons, art pencils, and paper towels she used work together to create different shades of colors and textures, I see the fruit born out of resourcefulness.
And as I read the passage of misspelled scripture, I realize that this child didn’t copy this passage out of her Bible. If she had, she would have spelled everything correctly. Instead, I realize that she copied this passage from the depths of her heart. Where it resides. Where it’s living and breathing. Where it’s taking root and defining the person she’s going to become. And from where she will communicate God’s love to the world.
THAT’S what I see. What do you see?
“So then, let us follow after things which make for peace, and things by which we may build one another up.”