by Anita Miles
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
At the end of August 1996, I found myself standing alone in the hall of Tri-County Technical College in Pendleton, SC. I was 16 years old and that day was my first day of college. I stood waiting for a class to dismiss that was in session in the classroom my schedule said I was supposed to be in. After many years of homeschooling, the nervousness that I was feeling that day was absolutely bone rattling. It was the first time I had graced the halls of any higher learning institution alone and I was feeling ready to bolt at any minute. The anxiety I was experiencing of the unknown, had my teeth literally chattering. It was Day 1 of all those dreams in my head, but all of a sudden the doubt and fear began to overshadow them. Every single second, I was inwardly trying to convince myself that it was going to be worth it if I would just stay.
Just about the time I was ready to change my mind, a kind, taller gray haired lady stepped up beside me. She greeted me and asked my name. I answered her question and offered no further information. She continued to probe and prod me about my background and education. I answered her directly, but didn’t elaborate much on anything. She thought I looked too young to be there and have already graduated, so she was extremely inquisitive about my age and education. She was intrigued with the fact that I was a 16 year old homeschooled student. She was a retired high school algebra teacher from Seneca, SC and I was her first student of this nature in her history of teaching. I shortly learned that I was waiting to enter Mrs. Sue Dickerson’s College Algebra class. And she was Mrs. Sue Dickerson.
Within a few minutes, a pile of students clamored into the classroom for our seats and she passed out a student information form to fill out. I realized the extent of my nervousness when I couldn’t even write my signature in a legible form because of the trembling. She walked around the room giving her greetings and welcoming everyone when she got to me and realized how shook up I really was. I can still feel her steady hand grasping my shoulder telling me everything was going to be just fine and I would get past that feeling. Her genuine compassion was priceless to me that day.
I walked out of her class that day headed to class #2. I don’t know where it went, but somehow, very quickly and without my notice, my bundle of nerves had just kind of melted away. I always shudder to think of how the rest of that day would have gone had I not encountered Mrs. Dickerson. Her ability to speak strength into me that day has always been mysterious to me. She gave me courage when I thought I was completely out of it. That was 1996. Mrs. Sue became a treasured friend that I have kept in contact with since that day. Every Christmas I get an updated picture of her growing family and she vice versa.
There’s a certain scripture that goes something like this…. ”A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” Every time I read this scripture, I see her sweet face. I feel her firm grasp on my shoulder. I hear her kind words.
Have you ever had anyone who spoke life into your anxious or sorrowful soul because they had a word that was fitly spoken? I’ve found those experiences to be life changing.
Over the past year or so, I have been grieved beyond comprehension to watch all of the chaos unfold the way it has in our world. I work as a registered nurse in a very large healthcare facility and the whole process has been traumatic - to say the least. At random times last year when this global crisis was getting all fired up, I would check my social media accounts and very quickly came to the point of being completely heartsick with some of what I would see and read. There were a lot of words that were unfit for the times. I know I referenced this in a previous post on kindness, but I made the decision during that time to somewhat unplug from social media and the constant barrage of opinion and conspiracy because I felt like it was counterproductive to my own recovery. I had a hard time reconciling in my mind such anger, division, and discord among people that I had trusted and some who claimed to be devout Christians. I wasn’t in a place mentally and emotionally that I could separate the wheat and throw out the chaff due to my personal experiences with my own sickness and line of work.
I won’t linger on those facts nor call out anyone in particular who feels the need to constantly have their opinions heard. I know that it’s easy to do these days with the current availability of given platforms on the world wide web. In doing so, may I remind us that there are many, many people that we know (and don’t know) who are hurting and suffering to degrees right now that we haven’t seen before in our generation. People are having to deal with experiences, emotions and hardship that they’ve never even imagined. I humbly ask, if we are truly in pursuit of virtue - that we consider this. And that we also consider Who we represent. We are ambassadors of Christ and we are representing His Kingdom. Let us not stubbornly and willfully pollute the waters of the Well of Life that is the ONLY source of hope that we have in this generation to the point that no one wants to drink from the same Well.
Words that are fitly spoken in our times of crisis are truly like apples of gold in pictures of silver. They glisten. They shine. They offer broken people healing. They offer hurting souls solace. They offer the worried and afraid a sense of calm.
I am calling on us to be better at this as Christian women. The world is confused enough. It doesn’t need our constant input of adding fuel to the fire. I firmly believe that God is not the author of that. My heart is absolutely broken into pieces at the magnitude of grief being experienced by our Christian community and our nation right now. God has called us to “weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind one towards another.” Romans 12: 15-16 Let us always be kind - not antagonistic.
And let our words be used to heal and in building up the kingdom, not turning people away.
In a world that is packed full of division and anger, I want to be a Sue Dickerson. She was a beautiful, beautiful soul who gave nothing but kindness and courage to a kid out of place and scared to no end. 25 years later, the power of her gentleness and her words that were fitly spoken are still a milestone in my world. I have a horrible memory but there are some things that just can’t be forgotten.
Whether I like it or whether I don’t, my words will be weighed against the balance of eternity. I want them to be fitly spoken and offer the hope that only Christ can give! I ask that God gives our friends the comfort they need in these trying and devastating days and for Him to wrap them in His peace that surpasses all of our understanding…
There’s a lot of power in our words. Right now is not the time to forget that.