A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
In Indiana, mustaches are illegal if the bearer has a tendency to kiss other humans. Why did Kansas pass a law, “If two trains meet on the same track, neither shall proceed until the other has passed”? Obviously, they wanted trains to stop running into each other. Was there a better way to say so?
According to an Olivet Nazarene University report, in New Jersey it is illegal for a man to knit during the fishing season. In Ohio, it is illegal to get a fish drunk. In Georgia you can’t put an ice cream cone in your back pocket on Sundays. In Alabama you can’t wear a false mustache that causes people to laugh in church.
Lawmakers evidently have trouble crafting laws that can’t be misconstrued. My father wanted me to avoid that problem. He taught me, “Don’t just write clearly. Make it impossible to be misunderstood.”
He had asked me to write an advertisement for the Christian newspaper he edited. I thought the ad was pretty good. But my father handed it back to me with a frown. “Libby, it isn’t enough to write so people understand you. You must write so it’s impossible for them to misunderstand what you mean.” Those lawmakers of ambiguous laws with unexpected consequences should have listened to my daddy!
This was indelibly impressed on me when I once spoke at a women’s conference in Virginia. A newswoman’s report on my speeches in the newspaper the next day distorted my messages so badly I was ashamed. Sure, the reporter filtered my message through her hatred of Christians. But shouldn’t I have made my message impossible to misunderstand?
The Old Testament Prophet Habakkuk felt like God was unfair not to punish the wicked rulers who were torturing His people. He asked God, “Will you let them get away with this forever? Will they succeed forever in their heartless conquests? I will stand my watch And set myself on the rampart, And watch to see what He will say to me, And what I will answer when I am corrected” (Hab. 1:17, 2:1). The LORD replied,
Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
“Write my message so plainly,” the Lord says, “that whoever reads it will know how important it is, and so hurry to tell others.” Thank God that He gave us His Holy Word, so that we can know His clear plan for salvation and daily living. May He give us minds to hear it, understand it, and convey it to this needy, broken world, in words so clear they can understand and come to know Him who is life eternal.
God will give us the words, but we must be diligent and honest as we use them.
Ecclesiastes 12:9-11 tells us to make the message of God’s loving grace to be like a nail driven into a board so firmly it can’t be unloosed, maybe like a ring shank nail. “Because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs. The Preacher sought to find acceptable words; and what was written was upright; words of truth. The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd.”