Words touch in ways we never forgetNovember 15, 2018
“He touched me.”
With what ears do you hear that sentence?
Do you hear the refrain of a comforting hymn or the revelation of a sexually-abused child? The seemingly simple phrase may call to mind for you the reality of the touch of God in your life but for many others it brings waves of nauseous fear-provoking terror when whoever he was touched her in a way that was violent, humiliating and shameful.
Here’s another line to consider: “Never forget.”
Many say and hear this as the commitment made to those who died on 9/11 and to the survivors of other terror attacks. But it is also the PTSD reality for many who have returned from war with deep soul wounds. Try as they might, they can never forget.
Words are powerful and sometimes they cut both ways, like a two-edged sword.
I remember watching a child physically recede from a group during a Vacation Bible School many years ago. The topic was Abba, Father. The lessons were all drawn from the good stories of God’s paternal character. The songs celebrated a good, good Father in whose house there were many rooms. He knew everything about you, where you were right now and where you slept last night. The MC celebrated that a “Bring your dad day” was planned for the end of the week. I watched as this one little boy grew smaller and more visibly sad with each enthusiastic announcement.
He didn’t have a dad. He’d never met his dad and the plan was that he never would. That’s why they’d moved here. To hide from his father. “That man,” as his father was referred to by his grandparents, had done bad things to the only person in the world he loved and trusted and admired. His mom was a very hard-working, unmarried woman. She was also a woman who, for the life of her child, had fled the abuse of her son’s father. She had stayed when she was the victim, but when he began to beat her body to get rid of the baby, she left.
Redeeming God as Father was going to be a lifelong challenge. And right now, for this 5 year old, the idea that his dad might show up at this church VBS was nothing short of terrifying. Father was a man to be avoided and a prospect to be feared. You ran away – not toward him – if you sensed he knew where you were or was headed your way. And if he was pursuing you with his variety of love, you hid. Father was not protector, but one from whom you needed protection. It is a perversion of reality, but it was reality for this little boy.
Think for a moment about how that child heard and processed songs and stories about God’s pursuant love that never gives up seeking us until we are found. How his little mind responded when God’s all-seeing omniscience was celebrated and when hiding from the Father was introduced as the original and ongoing sin of humankind.
Now, that doesn’t mean we stop referring to God the Father as just that. We don’t stop celebrating God’s character nor His characteristics. We don’t stop praying as Jesus taught us to pray, but neither do we put a stumbling block in front of a little one. As people of the Word – people who have been formed, reformed, transformed and informed by the Word of God – we must handle the Word rightly and use words well.
Think today about to whom you are speaking before you utter a word. Part of being an effective Ambassador is that you know to whom have been sent. You take the time to learn what they’ve been through before you begin talking about Kingdom principles, priorities and the King in ways that might unnecessarily offend or wound.
The Bible says that before a word is on our lips, God knows it. That means it is possible to hold our tongue long enough to know – and consider – what we’re going to say before we say it.
Let those who have ears to hear, hear.