Italics Don’t Lie (aka Terrorizing the Teflon)

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(Not to be confused with Italians, who may or may not lie, being human and all. Have you watched the acceptance speech of their newly elected prime minister? Makes you want to be Italian. If you watch one political video this year, make it that one.)

It has been well established that I am a bit flimsy on the following of instructions (or destructions, as my college bestie, Mooska, used to call them. She had cause. Read on). The best running jokes are the ones that are actually true, and there is a running joke in our house that if you need instant food made, you go to Daddy. I have actually made Viennese apple strudel from scratch but can consistently screw up a toaster strudel.

I have trouble following directions.

The first time I can remember having this design feature (which is how I choose to think about it) exposed was in high school. Mooska lived a brief walk from the high school and we would regularly pop over to her house for lunch (never skipping a class to do so, of course. What do you take me for…), which was invariably a can of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. Mooska’s family bought the fake cheese, the kind that comes straight from the cow wrapped individually in plastic for your peeling pleasure. Ah, behold our domestic goddess selves, shaking loose the congealed tomato soup with a satisfying SCHLOOP into a Teflon-coated saucepan…

Which is important. It was Mooska who first taught me, upon my ruining her family’s pan by scorching the bottom and then stirring it with a metal spoon that Teflon and metal are not friends. They are in fact like 2 gangs, snapping and dancing at each other in the night. Basically, my failure to follow the basic instructions killed Tony. Or Chino. Whoever we were supposed to be rooting for, I forget. He’s dead. At my wedding shower, she brought me a Teflon saucepan and a collection of silicon utensils, with smiling, albeit strict, instructions on the proper care and usage.

I was thinking about this, about instructions in fine print, or bold print, or shouted print, when I glanced up from my desk (ha, desk. It is a corner of my kitchen counter that I have bogarted. It is where the coffee, the gratitude journal, and the good pens live) and saw a hand-written note made during Vacation Bible School this last summer. It reads:

“For NO word from God will EVER fail.” Luke 1:37

It is written in preteen handwriting, and while I would hate to malign the character of the preteen who wrote this one, most girls around that age are fond of their italics. We may even tease them about a tendency to speak in italics — more to our shame, for they might have the right idea. The words we italicize are the important ones. And she nailed it, for the record. What is it about getting older that makes us think we are no longer emphasizing words, ideas, beliefs anymore? We are, you know. And we are probably the only ones who don’t notice.

What do you think about when you first wake up in the morning? What is the churning thought or feeling that pesters you like an insect when you are falling asleep at night? You are italicizing something. That moment before you let your kids out of the car for a playdate, or for school, or for walking through the grocery store, what are those final instructions that race through your brain and hiss through your teeth while you insist on eye contact from each child simultaneously, no matter how many bodies are in the car?

“If you do that thing in front of another person, you will go so long without a screen that you will start looking for ice formations on your ceiling!!”

“Make that face again and you don’t have to worry about it sticking that way — I WILL WELD IT TO YOUR FACE THAT WAY.”

Italics galore.

In the parlance of scripture, we call these italics fruit. You are producing some — it is not whether, but which. And it is worth taking inventory on what you are italicizing… what would your children say your italics sound like? Your husband? If we are reading God’s instructions, His italics (you thought I wasn’t going to get that tomato soup story tied in here, didn’t you? Yeah. Me too), then when ours don’t match His, it gets exposed. And thank God. Thank God that He takes the metal spatula of His Word, by the power of His Spirit, and rips through the Teflon of our self-righteousness and self-importance, taking us back to what we never should have strayed from in the first place.

  1. Ellen
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