Sunday, December 30, 2012

Twister Tongue Tied

What's up with this photo?
(This article appears in Christian Home Magazine, Issue 94. Check it out!)

     I'm always getting my words garbled. Once when my second son was an infant, I handed his wet diaper to his older brother. "Here, buddy," I said. "Go put this in the fridge please."

     Yes, I told my son to put the Pampers into the fridge.

     My two year-old took the diaper, headed to the kitchen, then stopped and turned around. "What yous said?" Nate asked in confusion. (Apparently even toddlers know that dirty bottom pants do not belong on the shelf next to the milk.)

     I blame it on sleep deprivation whenever I tell the story. 

     Unfortunately, I don't have the excuse of a restless newborn who allows me only a few hours of sleep anymore. Nevertheless, just a few days ago, I got my toddler dressed, handed him his dirty underwear, and said, "Here, buddy. Go put this in the potty."

     Two year-old Thomas just stood and stared at me with a furrowed brow.

     "Go put this in the potty," I repeated, holding the dirty underwear out for my toddler and wondering why he wasn't obeying immediately like he should.

     Eventually, Thomas just wrinkled his nose and shouted, "Ewwwww!" At that point I said something like, "Thomas, I told you go to put this in the ... Oh." (Embarrassed pause.) "Never mind. Go put this in the laundry bin please."

     And he did.

     Thankfully, I'm not the only one in the family getting twister tongue tied. In practicing good manners, my boys have so many responses pre-programmed into their little systems that the results can be quite amusing when they get their auto-replies mixed up. For example:

     "I love you," I told my son a while back.

     "You're welcome," he mumbled, never looking up from his book.

     Or, more recently, Thomas accidentally hit his brother with a toy. "Thomas," I reminded my toddler, using my manners-police sing-song voice, "what do you need to say to your brother?"

     "I forgive you," Thomas replied factually.

     Poor Thomas got even more confused when he accidentally bonked his dad a few minutes later. (We were all having our morning blanky time, which is unarguably the most dangerous part of the day if you are a tired parent with three active, very awake little boys in bed with you). "Thomas," I told my son in the same instructive tone, "you just hurt Daddy. What do you need to tell him?"

     "Yes, sir," Thomas said, frowning because he wasn't sure he got the answer quite right.

     "No," I coaxed, "you hurt Daddy. What should you say now?"

     "Yes, ma'am?" my two year-old tried again.

     "No, Thomas," I repeated and decided my son needed a little more coaching. "You need to apologize to Daddy."

     "Oh," said Thomas, still looking uncertain.

     "Apologize," I prompted.

     Thomas looked at me. He looked at his recently-bonked dad. Then finally his blank expression turned jubilant; he remembered what he was supposed to say. "Dear Jesus, Amen!" Thomas shouted enthusiastically and gave his not-so-injured father a vigorous hug.

     It's comforting to know I'm not the only one getting my words all garbled up. I think Moses and I have a lot in common. I could have written Exodus 4:10 myself: "I have never been eloquent ... I am slow of speech and tongue.” Yet God gave Moses the boldness to confront Pharaoh and lead the Israelites to freedom (if freedom is what you can call forty years of wandering through deserts and eating tiny dew-drop wafers).

    Similarly, I love what Paul's accusers in Corinth note about him: “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing" (2 Corinthians 10:10). Are you saying that the same man who wrote that enemies of the gospel should go castrate themselves was just a ho-hum kind of an orator? That is speaking amounted to nothing? (I've also read actual historical documents that say Paul was bald, bow-legged and unibrowed. How's that for an impressive speaker's resume?)

     Of course, it's a typical Sunday-morning pastime to pick on poor Peter, the disciple who is known for constantly sticking his foot in his mouth. As kids putting on plays for our parents, my friends and I always wanted to be Peter because his was the funniest role. Whoever played Peter would deliver his lines, put his finger on his chin, and then say, "Hmmmmmm" in a convincingly thoughtful way. (Peter never thought before he spoke - or so we heard our pastor say - so we concluded he must have done all his thinking afterwards.)

     It's an encouraging truth that even though my kids and I get tongue-twisted as often as some of our favorite Bible heroes, God still can use us in spite of our linguistic imperfections. When I think about God's power to use someone as unimpressive as me, it just makes my soul want to cry out, "Yes, Sir."

     Oops. I mean, "Thank you, God."

What about you? When have you gotten your words mixed up? (Feel free to leave your comment below.)

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