"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
I experienced this a week ago. And of my own doing, by the way. I know that funny quote is often used as a critique of people's listening skills, but it real does go both ways and, on this occasion, it was absolutely my fault.
We were celebrating Rural Life Sunday. I asked everyone to bring a handful of dirt to church with them so that we could celebrate the earth and ask for God's blessing "on the land beneath our feet; on the seed planted there; on the animals that graze upon it; on the sun and rain that fall upon it; on the farmers and gardeners who till it and on shepherds, ranchers, beekeepers and botanists." We might not be able to go to everyone's farm or garden, but we could bring a piece of it here.
We all put our handful (and more, for some!) in a wheelbarrow at the front and I talked to the children about the importance of farming and feeding the world. "Don't let anyone ever tell you," I said, "that there's any job more important than a farmer."
Didn't occur to me until later that afternoon that it wasn't actually what I had planned to say. Bet they heard it, though: I repeated it twice. Bet everyone else heard it, too. Teachers, parents, accountants, business people. Wonder if they were thinking where I'd put them in the ranking I seem to have created. After farmers. Good one, Robin.
Please don't get me wrong, farmers deserve the praise. They feed the world. Literally. But I didn't mean to say "don't let anyone ever tell you that there's any job more important than a farmer." Literally.
What I meant to say was "don't let anyone ever tell you that there's any job more important than growing stuff." Because there isn't.
Farmers grow our food. Thank you for that. Teachers grow children's minds and bodies. Thank you for that. Children grow imagination. Thank you for that. Accountants and business people grow our economy. Thank you for that. Doctors and care workers grow our health. Thank you for that. Police and lawyers grow justice. Thank you for that. Soldiers grow peace. Thank you for that. Scientists grow our wonder. Thank you for that. Ministers grow faith. Thank you for that. Families grow communities. Thank you for that. Parents grow people. Thank you for that.
Somewhere there I'm sure I missed someone. I'm sorry about that, but I think you get my point. And, yes, I've been pretty free and creative with how I describe what some of them grow.
But a week after this happened, it was still on my mind because it was Mother's Day. So don't let anyone tell you there's a more important job than being a mother.
Now wait a minute, you know I did that on purpose. Because on Mother's Day - and, for some churches, it's Christian Family Sunday, too - we celebrate mothers and the gift they are in our lives. I'm thankful for my mother, that my partner is a mother, that my daughter is a mother and for all women who are mothers. And I'm thankful, too, that, from them, we may learn more about how to be mothers ourselves, caring and loving, giving and engaging. What a world we'd grow if we could all be what we believe is a mother. What a world we can grow, together.
We're hearing from the Gospel of John on Mother's Day. Jesus prays to God "the glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me" (John 17:22-23). Thank you for that.