Their names were Dan and Ernie. I had never known a lady named Ernie … but it seemed to suit her. Angela was the little baby’s name. They had just begun attending our church. As the preacher’s wife, I attended all ladies functions. That is where I met Ernie.
Usual questions were asked. Where are you from? How long have you lived here? Then somehow the topic of when and where they were married came up. Looking at Angela and hearing the date of the wedding, my mind said, “Oops.” But the conversation moved on. Maybe I was the only one who heard it.
Days later, the ladies of the church had a luncheon. Of course I was there. But Angela was sick, so Ernie could not attend. Since she was new to our group, she became the topic of conversation. I related what I knew of the answers to … where are you from? How long have you lived here? Then came the question about how long they had been married. It was a sin to lie.
So I just stated facts. Anyone who could do elementary math would know the wedding date was not soon enough for Angela’s age. In my mind, I was just answering the questions. No one gasped or threatened to kick Ernie out of our church. When the conversation moved on to other topics, I totally forgot Ernie and her wedding date.
Two nights later the parsonage phone rang. A tearful woman’s voice on the other end of the line said, “How could you? And why did you? It wasn’t anyone’s business.” Ernie had been confronted about the wedding date. Was that the real date or had Lois made a mistake? I was Lois.
Now what should I do? It didn’t make any difference to me when Ernie was married.
“Ernie, I was just stating facts. I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“Are you really that naïve? Do you not know that the whole church is now talking about us? Why did you feel the need to let everyone know that we had to get married?”
But I hadn’t felt that need.
The phone call did not end well. Ernie was still crying … and I was upset beyond belief. I was so careful to never hurt anyone. And now look at what I had done with a careless slip of my tongue. She had called me naïve. What did that mean?
I looked it up in the dictionary. It didn’t seem like a compliment to me.
1. Lacking worldly experience and understanding
2. Characterized by a lack of sophistication and critical judgment
3. Ignorantly simple
4. Sometimes foolish, simple, childlike
It was a hard lesson to learn … but I learned it well. My words had badly hurt another human being. I didn’t ever want to do that again. Even if to me I was just stating facts, those facts might become harmful when heard by the wrong ears.
Dan and Ernie did not leave our church … but they avoided me. I followed their progress over the years as they had three more children and then felt called to be Wycliffe Bible translators. They took their four young children and traveled to a jungle to help spread the word of God there.
The natives didn’t care when their wedding date was.
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