Letter for Wednesday 29th July:
My Dear Friends,
The story is told of the man who feared that his wife wasn’t hearing as well as she used to - and he thought she might need a hearing aid. Not quite sure how to approach her, he called the family doctor to discuss the problem. The doctor told him there is a simple informal test he could perform to give some idea of the extent of the problem. “Here’s what you do,” said the doctor, “stand about 40 feet away from your wife, and in a normal conversational speaking tone see if she hears you. If not, go to 30 feet, then 20 feet, and so on - until you get a response.”
That evening, the husband stood about 40 feet away away from his wife, and in a normal tone he asked her: “Darling, what’s for dinner?” Hearing no response, he moved closer till he was about 30 feet away from his wife and repeated: “Dear, what’s for dinner?” Still there was no response. Getting more and more concerned, he stood about 20 feet away from his wife and again asked: “What’s for dinner, dearest?” Again, sadly he got no response. Next, he placed himself about 10 feet away, and asked: “What’s for dinner, darling?” Again there was no response. Finally, he walked right up behind her and said: “What’s for dinner, dear?” At that, his wife completely lost her temper and turned to him shouting: “Jim, for the FIFTH time! Its CHICKEN! CHICKEN!”
It is a salutary lesson to remember that the problem is not always with others; sometimes the problem lies with ourselves. Every Saturday the football terraces are full of people who are vehement critics and yet would make a very poor show of the game themselves. Indeed, I once heard a game of football described as twenty thousand people in need of exercise watching twenty two people in need of a rest. We are, however, so prone to see the faults and failings and weaknesses in others; but so blind to our own imperfections. We are so quick to point the finger; and yet so slow to any form of self-awareness.
Jesus, you remember, once asked: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye, with never a thought for the great plank in your own?” (Matthew 7:3). The old Jewish Rabbis warned people against judging others. “He who judges his neighbour favourably will be judged favourably by God.” They taught that kindliness in judgement is nothing less than a sacred duty.
Liz joins me in sending our love to you all,