I Take It Back!

Frustration is being on the line with an automated phone system; starting to enter requested information; pressing “#” instead of “9” or “5” instead of “4”; and then having to listen to the computerized voice rub it in that “that is not a valid selection” or “we have no record of that account.” Particularly when you make the mistake near the end of a long string of numbers and realize it the instant you do it. You wouldn’t think it would be that hard to program in a “cancel that last digit” option, would you?

It would be even better if our mouths could be programmed with a “cancel that last sentence” option. Many of us have known the agony of saying something we would give anything to take back. It doesn’t have to be anything as tragic as the person who shouts “I hope you never come back” in a moment of blind anger, and learns two hours later that a car crash has made that “hope” reality. Sensitive, perfectionistic types can hate themselves all week over saying anything remotely embarrassing–or over saying too much, period. No matter that everyone else who heard it forgot about it in fifteen seconds; it plays over and over in the speaker’s head, taunting her with “You made a fool of yourself; you always make a fool of yourself; you must be a fool.”

Granted that Jesus Himself said “men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Mt. 12:36), in context He seems to have been thinking more of words nourished by consistently evil thoughts than of the occasional “foot in the mouth.” Not that the tactless or impatient remark doesn’t have roots in embedded sin (most of us would kick ourselves in the teeth considerably less often if our regular thoughts were more loving and unselfish), but sometimes tormenting ourselves over “having said that” is worse. It implies that we should be strong enough to always do the right thing on our own; moreover, it suggests that punishing ourselves is a better option than seeking God’s forgiveness, and that our perspective on the seriousness of our actions is more valuable than His. It’s strange how many things we judge “too unimportant to bother God about” but important enough to seriously bother ourselves about. A true understanding of God’s grace means that we accept our need for Him in all situations, and understand that He wants to be deeply involved in every aspect of our lives.

Even pressing the wrong phone key can be an opportunity to let Him teach us patience–and, just maybe, build up some immunity to the torture of future guilt trips.

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