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Deplorable? Really?

Deplorable: “de·plor·a·ble (dĭ-plôr′ə-bəl) adj. 1. Worthy of severe condemnation or reproach.” This old word has suddenly popped back into the national news. It is one of those words that is seldom used but seems to fit so many situations.

My first collision with “deplorable” was in high school when I presented a verbal book report in English class. I had chosen “The Fall of the House of Usher,” a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. One of the quotes I selected to feature in my class presentation was by the character Roderick Usher who said, “I shall perish, I must perish in this deplorable folly. Thus, thus, and not otherwise, shall I be lost. I dread the events of the future, not in themselves, but in their results.”

After I had finished, my teacher asked me to define “deplorable.” Whatever creative answer I gave her was light years away from being correct. This set in motion a tirade of teacher-speak about how can we give a proper report on a book if we do not even know what the key words mean. She then assigned me to research “deplorable,” and “folly,” and to present my findings to the class next session. I have come to deplore the word “deplorable.”

The next time I encountered the word “deplorable,” was when I was a freshman in a Christian college (SAGU). The class was titled “Introduction to Bible,” and was taught by a saintly woman, about 60 years older than us. She was gentle soul, unless you moved something. Her motto was a place for everything, and everything in its’ place. One day, she was called out during her lecture. She told us to quietly study our notes until she returned. After about 2 minutes, the fun began. Then one young man (not me, really), suggested that we all turn our chairs around so that when the professor returned, all she would see was our backs.

It seemed like a great idea until she returned. She was aghast, hurt, and maybe even righteously traumatized. We had trampled on her classroom management skills and upset the functionality of her classroom. She walked to the back of the room that was now the front, and silently glared at us. I remember thinking that this would be a great time for the Return of Christ, but I was not sure how many of us would be Caught up. Finally, with trembling lips she pointed a long, boney finger at us and said, “This class is ‘deplorable,’ and you are dismissed.” Actually, it was a pretty classy response to a bunch of dunderheads.

On the down side, I already knew what “deplorable” meant so I sensed the full blast of her wrath. Even today, I rarely use the word because it never brings back a happy experience. So, when I heard it again by a Presidential candidate, a loud gong went off in my brain.

In the Bible there were several deplorable people. Certainly King Ahab and his sweetie Queen Jezebel have to win an award for being Mr. and Mrs. Deplorable. Together, they killed God’s prophets, established idol worship in God’s kingdom, and berated God’s messenger Elijah. Hands down, Ahab was the worst king Israel ever had (1 Kings 16:33.) In describing Ahab for future generations, the Scripture says: “Ahab’s actions were deplorable. He followed after the worthless idols exactly like the Amorites had done—the very ones the LORD had removed before the Israelites.” (1 Kings 21:26 CBE) The King James Version used the word “abominable” and the NIV uses the word “vilest.”

Later in my studies, I came across the word “deplorable” again. This time, it staggered my mind and brought me to tears, knowing that God loved me at my worst. It was the great missionary David Brainerd that was quoted as saying, “The all-seeing eye of God beheld our deplorable state; infinite pity touched the heart of the Father of mercies; and infinite wisdom laid the plan of our recovery.” God in His Mercy and Grace found a scoundrel like me, and provided a Plan of Salvation and Redemption through His Son Jesus. Thank you Lord for reaching out to me.

It gives new meaning to the old song “At the Cross” by Isaac Watts, that says: “Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?” Indeed, “deplorable worm” at that.

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