Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Middle Matters

Acronyms abound in our high-speed society that has little time or patience for full word phrasing. Caught up as I am in the whirlwind pace of life in today’s world, I’ve succumbed to inventing several of my own to use when communicating with those I love. Thus most messages to my sons end with the four-letter “YMLY”, which stands for Your Mother Loves You and is a fitting end to anything I happen to say.

Lately I’ve noticed that this habit has caught on with other family members, and its use is continually expanding. Messages written on the white board in the kitchen now end with a series of capital letters that identify the author, and more attention is usually given to deciphering the code at the end of the note than is directed to the message itself. A recent posting to my son was written in handwriting that clearly belonged to my husband, Jim. But did the “YFPFF” sign-off at the end stand for Your Forgetful Parent Feels Foolish?… Yesterday’s Frisbee Players Fling Farther?… or maybe Young Freeloaders must Pay For Food? Wrong on all counts, it was eventually translated into Your Father Plays Fantasy Football…with a healthy “DUH!” at the end for emphasis. It’s simply become a game we play amongst ourselves to add a little laughter to the day.

But communication is not always a laughing matter, especially when the message comes from God. Suddenly it’s important that we get it right. God is the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last… and suddenly I remembered an email that circulated on the internet a few years ago that claimed that words with rearranged spelling were legible as long as the first and the last letters were in the correct position. It read as follows:

Aoccdrnig to rescheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, olny taht the frist and lsat ltteres are at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by ilstef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

(Do you smell smoke? The spell-checker on this computer just went into overdrive!)

There are some who would suggest that the same is true of our spiritual experience in this world, that if we have a beginning with God somewhere in life (our salvation experience) and end our physical existence here on earth in a right relationship with Him, that the intervening years are of little importance in the grand scope of things. Yet I’m a firm believer that the middle of our spiritual lives matters to God.

It’s in those middle years that God speaks through us and our testimony is written on His behalf. Therefore we need to live our lives in those years in a way that leaves no doubt about God’s message of love, salvation, and His desire to walk with us hand in hand. How exactly that message is spelled out will vary with the individual, according to the gifts and talents each has been given, but it’s imperative that we don’t leave its meaning to chance or confuse those reading it with actions that inconsistent with the thoughts we are trying to convey. We don’t want people to have to guess at what God is trying to say.

It’s interesting that further analysis of the way we interpret misspelled words revealed that people had a more difficult time recognizing a word when letters were moved several positions out of place, instead of just one or two. Multi-syllable words were harder to read with misspellings than shorter ones and readers were slower to get the meaning of a sentence under these conditions.

Isn’t it interesting that the same can be said of us? The farther we move away from our spiritual center, the more difficult it is for others to read our message. Likewise we risk losing it altogether when we make it too complicated. The love of God is easiest to understand when simply expressed and underlined with a consistent lifestyle.

My messages to my kids always end with my signature sign-off, but it turns out that God’s messages to His could be signed in a 4-letter acronym, as well…simply “LOVE“.

It doesn’t get any easier to understand that that.

“For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another,”

(1 John 3:11 NKJV)

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Hudek

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