I heard another one the other night. A local high school band was performing a show they called "Letters Home." In the show, they played a recording of actors who were supposed to be a mother and a son, reading from letters written to and from Marine boot camp. One repeated phrase in the mother's letters caught me. She kept telling him "come home safe." This was the whole theme of her letters: "Come home safe."
Do you see how wrong her language is? Her son is preparing to be a warrior, a marine. His purpose in his job is to serve bravely, to fight bravely, to serve his fellow Marines and his country, even at the risk of his life. Her words to him are "Come home safe."
She does not urge him to bravery or honor or service. She does not call on him to be proud or wise or holy. She only cares that he "come home safe."
But he cannot do this. He has no power to make himself "come home safe." She is telling him to be responsible for something he cannot control. She is making him responsible for her happiness, because she wants him to "come home safe." The only way he can accomplish this goal is by cowardice, by hiding, by refusing to obey orders. The only way he can make his mother's wish come true is to fail of his purpose, to fail in his duty, to fail at the task he has been given.
But it sounds nice, doesn't it? Asking him to "come how safe" sounds so sweet and kind, but it is cruel and selfish. She is making him responsible for her desires. What if he is hurt? Is she going to condemn him when he comes home? What if he dies, has he failed her? That is certainly how it sounds. If he does not come home safe, she will be disappointed in him for failing her.
Why can't she wish him well without tying it to her feelings? She should want him to be a good Marine. She should love and support him in his mission, not harangue him about protecting himself as the greatest end she can imagine. She should help him get through his service, not focus him on its hoped-for end.
I have a son in the Army. He is in training but, one day, may be sent to a war zone. If so, I will not tell him to "come home safe," but to be brave, to trust God, and to serve his fellow soldiers. If he dies in faithful service, I will be proud of his service and proud that he would now be with Christ. He is a man and must act as a man.
Think about what you say to your husband and your children and your friends and even your enemies. This woman's language betrayed the ultimate selfishness many of us feel. The fact that they would put it in a show as something to emulate shows how much we have accepted selfishness by parents and have abandoned the idea of service.
What did you say this morning? Did you encourage your husband and children to live their lives in ways that would glorify God? Or just in ways that worked for you?
"Come home safe" is not the language of someone who thinks about what they say and about how it will affect others. But, then, how often do most of us think about what we say at all?