I have struggled for a year with how to tell parts of my story without doing anything that would be displeasing to Christ or cause anyone to stumble. Increasingly, I have felt that satan would love to keep me paralyzed in that place of fear for, if I stay fearful, I will never share how Jesus can heal even those wounds caused by other Christians.
Christians. Those claiming Christ. Church people. What the world likes to call “hypocrites” but who, at their core, are simply humans who often act…well…like humans. And in the church we too often ignore it all thinking that the world does not see right through us.
But they do which makes their criticisms of us often justifiable.
My husband was sitting in his church office one day when a father came to see him. (Not a priestly father; an earthly father.) What he said that day has haunted me often. “Whatever you do, don’t trust my children. They are actively seeking to destroy you. And if you repeat this, I will deny I ever said it.”
The statement itself doesn’t really haunt me because it was not a news flash. We were already very keenly aware of what was taking place. What does haunt me is that a dad felt strongly enough about what was happening that he needed to give warning. A dad who had to warn about his own offspring. Heartache. I have prayed so often that I will never have to be that parent in my own child’s life. I also pray that I will be brave enough to be exactly that parent if the need ever arises.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” I have chanted that little phrase on the playground myself and, as I think back, the chant came only when someone’s words had nearly killed me. It’s really one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves and our children. We teach it with the best of intentions. I taught it to my daughter hoping it would help take the sting out of ugly words directed her way. The chant I really should have taught is “The words of the wicked kill; the speech of the upright saves.” (Proverbs 12:6) Or “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18) I should have been saying, “Abi, be salvation and healing. Your words are that powerful.”
“Actively seeking to destroy you.” Five of the most hurtful words I have ever digested. Those words of warning coming to us from a father about his adult child convey that what was taking place was way beyond simple gossip. It was intentional. It was evil. There was a plan. We deserved warning.
In their world, the plan succeeded. And after the successful plan we were even offered shelter in their home; much like the kiss of Judas following his betrayal. For, you see, humanity is humanity all down through history. When sticks and stones haven’t been able to get the job done, there have always been tongues and words and betrayals followed by attempts to cover up the sin.
And this is where I have struggled with the sharing of my story. The fear of being labeled as bitter has kept me from sharing a lot of what I have learned. For me, the fight against bitterness has been very intentional and the road to forgiveness has often felt like two steps forward, one step back.
Today I have a peace about sharing this part of my story because while the plan succeeded in the eyes of some; for me, it was a miserable failure. I am increasingly coming to the place where the pain has been worth the lessons learned. Most of the lessons in this chapter of my story have been about my words and how I choose to use them.
I can bless or I can curse. I can encourage or I can discourage. I can build up or I can tear down. I can choose to say “I’m sorry, I was wrong” or go on pretending I was justified in using damaging words. I can be a hurt person who hurts people or I can be a hurt person who helps people. The choice is mine.
I lost my dad to Alzheimers many years ago and then lost him again to death nearly two years ago. I never have to worry that he will go tell my pastor that I’m actively seeking to destroy him. But that fact doesn’t get me off the hook, for I have a heavenly Father who faithfully convicts me and reminds me that while sticks and stones can break bones, words also do heavy damage. He requires better of me and I want to do what He requires.
My story will continue to unfold as God gives me permission. In the meantime, how are you doing with your words today? We were created to be salt. Be salvation and healing. Our words really are that powerful.