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Sticks and Stones

Though in my thirties now, I still remember the sing-songy sayings of childhood. Remember “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back!”? That and other childhood songs make little sense, really. Everytime I sing that lullaby, “Rock-a-bye baby” I cringe a little. What clever idiot thought that up? And what kind of mother thought that was soothing?!
Rock-a-bye baby in the tree top, when the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall and down will come baby, cradle
and all.
WHAT?! We are singing about the tragedy of some sick person putting a baby in a cradle at the top of a tree and then clattering down to the ground when the branch breaks?!

Even more than that bit of nursery rhyme richness, the phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Who thought that this expression would be beneficial to teach children? Okay there are some lies that are fun, aka Santa, the Easter bunny, those fairytales can enrich children’s lives (I suppose until the day they find out its all a crock.) but why should we teach such impressionable lives that words don’t hurt. They do. Someone throws a stick at me and breaks my arm, I get a cast and in 6-8 weeks all I have is an itchy, albeit smelly, skinny arm. But, when someone wounds my heart with words, I have an unseen scar that alters me, sometimes slightly, sometimes profoundly.

We comfort our little one’s when they fall down. We kiss the boo-boo and put a Barbie band-aid on it, wipe away the tears and encourage them to be a little more careful. But, what happens when our loved one’s are wounded with “mere” words? What if we were the one’s whose tongue lashed and scarred?

What if we bear the hidden scars?

Do we put a band-aid on it, hoping it’ll just go away? Do we let it fester, infecting our very soul, blackening our hearts? Maybe we continue to numb it, deaden the pain, the nerves? Or even just stay busy, distracting ourselves, stuffing the pain away deep inside, “No one will know…”

This past weekend I was wounded. I was on my guard, waiting for an attack on one side, but failed to be ready for another. So….Should I put up protective barriers? Build myself a cozy fort and hide out? Should I go on the defense, stock my ammo, wound for wound? No….I recognize the hurt behind the attack. Yes, I forgive. Forgive? Yeah. It hurt. Still does. But past hurt, present hurt, something else there facilitated the war of words. I recognize that. What i also recognize is my profound need for God’s grace in the moment of barrage. When I calm down, talk and recognize motives, grace comes along for me, but I fail miserably in the heat of the battle. Does that mean that I should back down, be trampled on? No way, but I must carry a shield of grace with me. At all times. I never know when I will be attacked. Could be for valid reasons. I could be an easy target. I could even be someone’s projected view of their hurt and pain. Doesn’t matter. I stand up for truth AND love in battle. The battle of life. This world with its broken promises, false expectations, and retaliatory remarks. When in battle if I cry, “I’m hit, I’m hit!” I get up, I seek the tourniquet, the banner of God’s love and grace and I get back in the game. Laying around licking my wounds and holding on to the fear never helps. Hiding the wound without the salve of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness? That only means that at some point the infection of our hurts spreads, slowly, eventually incapacitating our ability to function normally, then….we wound others. Why? We are afraid to face our own pain.

I am praying for God to arm me with love and truth. I need His preparedness in the heat of the battle. I quote it often, Jesus said, “In this life, you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.”

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