Spell check

Working with little children, one tool we use for writing is called a “word book”.  If they need a word spelled, they at times can raise their hand, and I’ll come by and write the word (they have to find the correct first letter and turn to that page in their word book).

One little girl raised her hand to ask how to spell “Oklahoma”.  I noticed she was on the A page, and turned to the O.  She immediately corrected me.  The following dialogue is an approximation of our very unfruitful conversation.  🙂

“I thought Oklahoma was spelled with an A,” she said.

“No, honey,” I said.  “It’s spelled with an O.”

“I saw Oklahoma on a sign when we were visiting,” she said.  “It’s spelled with an A.”

“No, honey,” I said.  “It’s spelled with an O.”

“I saw a sign where it was spelled with an A,” she insisted, because she was sure she was right, not trying to be stubborn.

“Even if you did see it on a sign,” I said, “the sign was wrong.  It’s spelled with an O.”

I’ve never had that kind of persistent argument writing a word in a word book before!  Most children just trust me, although there is a little surprise for words like awesome, hour, one, and knock.  I’m used to a chuckle as children discover the oddness of spelling some very common English words.

I’ve never been accused of intolerance for teaching children how to spell words correctly.  I’ve never even heard of a lawsuit that the spell check programs on computers are bias towards certain spellings over others!

Why?  Because we instinctively know, there is a correct way to spell a word.  I can’t spell Oklahoma any way I feel like it.  Somebody might understand what I’m saying if I spell the word incorrectly (elementary teachers become masters at reading poorly spelled words), but that doesn’t make the spelling right.  It means someone has kindly overlooked communication mistakes to try to understand the message.

God is very much this way with us.  He is very kind to invite us to come into a relationship with Him however we are.  A drunkard doesn’t have to wait to have graduated AA, and a junkie doesn’t have to have kicked his cocaine habit.  We don’t have to fix our issues with rage, lust, idolatry, gossiping, selfishness or any other sin that controls us.  We can come before God in the very moment we’re in, however He finds us, and He will receive us because He does so through the merit of His Son, not by our right standing with Him.

That part seems more easy for our culture to understand.  The next part is what has often been lost in our society.

Even though God allows us to communicate to Him despite our sin, and He receives us into relationship with Him by the surrogate of His Son, He doesn’t let us stay in our sins without movement.

I don’t want my second grade students to enter third grade spelling was as wus and went as wint and get as git and should as shud.  I don’t desire this for them, because I want them to be successful in school and in their careers.  If fifteen or so years from now they fill out a job application with common words misspelled, I know that a lot of places will be disinclined to hire them.  I also know they’ll be more likely to be hired at lower paying jobs where language skills aren’t needed.  I don’t want them to be limited by their inability to use the correct English language.

In something like the same way, God doesn’t desire for us to be wounded by sin for the rest of our lives.  He wants us to live correct (holy) lives.  His requirements and expectations might sound uncomfortable for us.  But we need to trust Him that He means them for our flourishing, not for destroying us.  We have all the evidence we need to believe in His good heart, not just through the beauty in the created world before we unleashed sin into it, but most of all through His Son, who He gave to us as the most unfathomable gift of extravagant love of all.

Some times I have children correct misspelled words that they need to start getting right.  If I don’t have them ever go back and fix their mistakes, many of them will naturally resist spelling correctly.  It’s much easier to go with their comfortable spellings.  I at times have children react with tears, frustration, unkind comments, or angrily-erased-and-torn paper when I expect them to go back and fix the basic words.

Because I am merciful, and I have an idea of where they are in their spelling, I don’t have them fix every word.  If we’re writing about porcupines and I’m working with a struggling student, I don’t have him go back and fix porcupines and quills and predators.  But I might have him fix words like because and should.

God doesn’t work with us on everything at once–and we need to remember this when we see something that personally annoys us about a brother or sister in Christ!

God does, however, consistently and persistently work on us.  He is not content to let us be anything less than perfect, because He is a good Father.  He continues to work on us in this life to get us ready for our lives in Heaven.  We call this sanctification sometimes.  It’s making us more holy (correct) like He is.

God is intolerant of sin.  As His children, He does expect us to learn the correct (holy) way to live.  He doesn’t leave us ignorant or in comfortable pockets of sin.  Resisting God’s work may bring very unpleasant results, as He is more willing to let us experience misery than to let us indulge in sin.

However, God is always gracious in how He deals with us and He never treats His children as we deserve.  I think it’s helpful to know and remember that, unlike earthly fathers, the only reason God will ever punish us as our Father is for the purpose of holiness (correctness).  He doesn’t punish us for personal satisfaction.

I am often reminded of what God desires for us when I look at the little children I teach.  Most often, their hearts are eager to learn.  Even when something doesn’t make sense to them–like why we spell ‘enuf’ as enough–they usually trust me.  And you know what?  At seven years of age, that makes things a whole lot simpler.  I can’t always explain to a seven year old how different languages impacted English, but I can help them learn to spell correctly, if they will simply remember what I write in their book.

Which of you is a wise and well-instructed man? Let him prove it by a right life with conduct guided by a wisely teachable spirit. (James 3:13, Weymouth NT)


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