The man approached me as I was standing in the back of the auditorium. I was exhausted as another long Sunday concluded with the evening service. It was rare that Barney (we’ll give him that name) ever talked to me other than with impersonal greetings. I don’t know what prompted the words that were to come out of his mouth that evening, but I wish that he had ignored the prompts.
I’VE DECIDED TO FORGIVE YOU
Barney paused, looked me in the eye and said, “I just want you to know that I have had hard feelings against you. I’ve decided to forgive you.” And then, he just walked away. No explanation, no further details. His voice had been quiet, but his words shot an arrow through my heart.
THIS WAS A MAN I BARELY KNEW
I stood there, silently stunned. What had I done or said to offend Barney in such a way? Should I run after him and beg him for more information? This was a man I barely knew other than from high school years ago. I didn’t know the adult version of Barney. Should I just let sleeping dogs lie? Would further conversation just escalate whatever was going on in his heart?
WAS I JUST COLLATERAL DAMAGE?
In high school Barney had always been a little socially awkward, blurting out whatever he was thinking. Eventually he had married a woman who was known to be emotionally volatile. Maybe I had said or done something that got his wife cranked up and Barney had received the fallout? Was I just collateral damage?
HE WALKED AWAY WITH A SMILE
Whatever the reason for his remarks, it appeared that Barney had relieved himself of whatever was burdening him. He walked away with a smile; free at last. I didn’t share his elation.
BE CAREFUL LITTLE TONGUE WHAT YOU SAY
I wished Barney had meditated on these lyrics before he approached me that Sunday evening:
Be careful little tongue what you say
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love
So, be careful little tongue what you say
EMPTY VESSELS MAKE THE MOST SOUND
Careful words come out of a careful heart. Where exactly was Barney’s heart? There is a proverb: “Empty vessels make the most sound.” There may have been no trustworthy spiritual cargo in Barney that Sunday evening. Years later, I wish I had gotten the courage to run after him and ask, “What were you thinking?” But then, making no reply to Barney may have been the best reply.