Words from the Past

Recently Nana Rylander surprised me.

She brought me an article I wrote in the Herald Democrat. Since I write something for the paper once a month or so, I didn't think much of it initially; although why would she bring me a copy of something I just wrote? Then I noticed the paper was somewhat yellow and rough to the touch. Then I read the date: April 4, 2004. Nana and I didn't even know each other then! I was serving at Trinity UMC in Denison at the time, and I wrote a response to the conservative commentator Cal Thomas that had appeared in the paper a few weeks previously.

To no one's surprise if you have been a part of a United Methodist congregation the last several decades, the issue of Mr Thomas' article was a question of homosexuality. A UMC pastor from Oregon had publicly announced that she was gay, and she was suspended from her office by her bishop pending a hearing. Mr Thomas said, "Methodists would be well advised to seek a denomination where God and not man is the supreme authority." Yeah, that comment made my stomach turn. One: committed Christians don't leave their church families when they face challenges. Two: a person's sexuality has nothing to do with God's authority. Anyway, you can borrow my copy of the article if you want to read my full response. Or I'll see if I can find it online and post it on Facebook.

I'm thinking about this article today because our words tend to stick to us and follow us around. Our views change and evolve over time, and that's fine. But as I tell my kids all the time, with social media and online engagement, nothing you say or do is gone forever. Even if the post automatically disappears or you can back later and delete it, there's still a record of it somewhere. And just when you're filling out that job application or a college admissions officer is reading your essay, something pops up on a Google search and you're sunk. Spoken words, like gossip, do the same thing. Just because a stenographer isn't following you around doesn't mean your words in the hallway or on the phone won't appear somewhere else.

The psalmist declares, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable and pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14). This week, let's all consider the words we say, the social media comments we share, even the condition of our hearts-- those things that go unspoken. Are those thoughts and words glorifying God or serving to only make ourselves feel better? How would they be perceived by someone who disagreed with us? Are they lifting up or tearing down?

Because you never know what someone will cut out of the paper, or screenshot with their phone, and present to you in 2034 and say, "Hey I found this in my bedside table drawer or in my ancient iPhone X files!"