Raising humans is hard stuff. Mainly because you wind up spending most of your time furiously arm-wrestling that hereditary selfishness which was passed from Adam to the nameless generations of goofballs, through you and right on down to them. You spend years training them to use their manners and ask for things politely, only to watch them clank their fork down on the plate, down their whole glass of juice in one, (complete with raucous gulps) slam the glass down and belch so loudly the neighbors scoff and shake their heads in horrified disapproval. Then, while you’re still reeling from such a Viking-esque display of barbarous impropriety, that same child looks at you and says, “Hey, Dad. Juice. Here. Now.”
Wait, how did this happen?! You’re thinking to yourself, “They’re so cute, and we’ve been so consistent! How is it that they still don’t always use the so-called ‘magic’ words?” That’s when you, the parent, decide enough is enough. You bow up and take your stand... “No girl, I don’t get juice for people who rudely demand things.” Boom! Deal with that! The challenged child (hopefully) backs down, says I’m sorry and politely asks for the juice.
The question I’ve been asking myself lately is this: “Is it a big deal? It is really all that important that our kids say “Please” and “Thank you” about everything? Are we teaching them a true and valuable lesson, or are we merely passing down a meaningless convention? Well, I actually think it matters, and here’s why: The word ‘Thank’ actually comes from the word, “to think.” It’s like saying, “Hey, someone did something for you. Think about that... you should express your gratitude.” Please and thank you are ways of expressing the fact that you are at someone else’s mercy... it’s humbling and good. It’s as if certain words actually temper and steer your attitude.
This morning I read a really cool verse in Hosea chapter 14. He says, “Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to him: "Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips. Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount war-horses. We will never again say 'Our gods' to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.”
Wow. Not only are we supposed to go to the Lord, but we aren’t supposed go empty handed! We’re supposed to take words with us... take words that temper and steer our attitudes. We’re supposed to go into His presence asking for forgiveness! We’re supposed to go in asking to be received! We’re supposed to express the fact that other things in our lives we used to trust in can’t save us! We’re supposed to admit that only He can fill us up! When we go to meet with Him, we ought to go armed to the teeth with certain words that will guide our hearts into a place of worship and trust. We ought to live all day with words on our lips that express that fact that we are at His mercy! If we take words with us on purpose, we’ll prime the pump for the kinds of hearts He’s looking to find!