Words Worth Forgetting

No sticks or stones have broken my bones, but words have surely hurt me. And I’ve never broken bones with sticks and stones, but surely I have hurt with words. Maybe it was easy in kindergarten to chant them away with a catchy limerick, but, it becomes harder as we grow and find that there are meanings — well and not — attached to most words, whether hurled in anger, served softly with a sob, uttered in exasperation, sighed in resignation, delivered with blunt accusation, wrapped in hope or enunciated with grace.

Words are too often the weapon of choice.

Words said to you.
Words said about you.
Words said by you.
Words said by you to you.

It is not easy to sort through the fling of words that come our way in our dangerous days of distress and place them in their proper place, separating the barb-infested words of reaction and rejection from the life-giving words of truth and compassion. Sometimes they come so mixed together they created their own shade of chaos, an odd mixture of pain and doubt and encouragement and love. Some of the words that sound mean really mean well . . . and some of the words said to mean well have little meaning.

The journey into and out of sexual brokenness is a jaunting one with little peace for anyone involved, especially the broken one, but also those on whom the pieces fall. Both the into and the out-of are both time and soul-consuming.The shattered and the shattered-upon both find themselves seeking either solace or separation, with words being the weapon of choice. We must always say something, especially when we find ourselves ill-equipped to do something. We want to be heard or to hear. I understand, having suffered sadly at the sound of silence.

I grew up in a family that accepted transition as a stable state of being. If I begin with the little frame house on Texas Street — the first house I really remember — I can close my eyes, unfold the memory map, and wind my mind down the roads of yesterday through tiny towns and sprawling cities, spooky old houses to paper-thin-walled apartments, rolling yards and willow trees to parking lots so close car headlights almost touched our front door. Sometimes we lived among people who cared — like a grandmother down the hall — or ones who just stared, like the woman in a lawn chair smoking in the dark outside the door next door. Sometimes we had stuff: matching colonial bunk beds and nightstands . . . and sometimes we had borrowed beds and crates. We culled our things based on the size of the U-Haul and the amount still owed when it was time to move on . . . and we moved on, leaving a bit of “this” behind in alleys everywhere. Detaching was as easy as attaching.

Pity me not, for I am rich with memories far greater than the mass of stuff I might have stored up in their place. Some of the memories are painful, yes, but when sifted with the others — like swirling together shades of paint, it is a color I can live with on the walls of my life.

It is the splash of clashing color here and there, left uncovered, that bothers me. I have painted around them, left them on a to-do-list, waiting for a better brush perhaps, or a taller ladder to stand on, or thought I might re-do that wall in that color and let it become me. No.

We should gather up all the reckless words that are splattered on our walls of consciousness like rocks along a creek bank and chuck them in, listening to the plunk as they hit the water and slide to the bottom, invisible. You would think forgiveness would do that. Forgive and forget, for words will never . . . desert me. Like all those old addresses, we should leave these stone houses behind and not live there anymore, but instead, the words refuse to relinquish the view when we are panning the horizon for a new road.

We have done this . . . they have said that. Which will linger? The deed or the description and declaration of it? Even if it is possible to move permanently into a pattern of purity, the sting of description will cast its shadow on that land. Whether we were proclaimed by those who struggle with “lesser things” as just weak and self-serving . . . or were dismissed as an apostate beyond redemption for having succumbed to repetitive sin — the crop of our addiction — the words and labels affix themselves. The cruel eye-jabbing by some Christians who become absorbed in the failings of others — “You’ve sinned against all Christianity for all eternity” — pierces the heart and builds a wall the sinner never could.

If we let it.

I think one of the most difficult steps a struggler takes is learning to listen . . . and not. Listen to God. Listen to those God sends your way to speak on His behalf. Listen to the Holy Spirit speaking in your stillness when you close the shutters to the outside interference. Listen to God’s Word. Listen to those who have walked your path and know the pull and pain . . . but are finding victory and want to share it.

Don’t listen to those old echoes that Satan whispers into your hopeful thoughts. If I allow all the things that have been said to me and said about me and predicted of me to swirl around in my mind, they become like a whirlpool and I am swiftly drawn under, away from God’s truths to Satan’s lies. It really doesn’t matter whether the words were thrown our way in justified anger, reactionary pain for the hurt we caused, or just in the releasing of the air of Christian superiority from the supposed unfallen, they all pile up like stones to ground our souls from soaring, tethering us to the past.

Even if you have been dismissed by some as beyond hope . . . and find yourself the target of their judgmental silence . . . the tendency is there to hang on to the words they once used in misguided motivational efforts to shock or shame you into freedom. Echoes, stored for later reverberation. Preserved syllables that slip out to form an obstacle course for hope.

Here are words to remember . . . which have hopefully been said to you:

Jesus loves you.
Jesus redeems.
Jesus restores.
Jesus forgives.
Jesus knows.
Jesus hears.
Jesus wept.
Jesus paid.
Jesus can.
Jesus will.
Jesus has.
Jesus is.

Words to forget . . . which may have been said to you:

Uh . . . uhh. Not here. Forget those.

Some of those words may have been justified at the time; the shock value may have jolted you into a real desire for repentance. You may have needed to hear them at the time to force you out of denial, to face the falsehood and find a thirst for the truth. Maybe those words woke you up to who you were. But . . . if you are moving on, then repeating them to yourself now only takes you back there.

Don’t go.

Much like taking our sins to the cross, we need to load up a bunch of hurtful words and leave them there also. Words we said, either in defense or defiance, and words launched at us like heart-seeking missiles which we pretended to dodge, but which lodged deep inside us.

Here are some words I hope you have heard and will hear from a brother or sister in Christ and that you will never forget:

“I love you.”
“I forgive you.”
“I am here.”

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment! James 2:12-13

Mercy triumphs.

But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.” — James 4:6

Grace is abundant.

Christians, no matter how sanctified and justified, need to “practice” mercy and grace. We don’t come across these traits naturally. If we did, we would not need that still-small-voice inside us that occasionally puts a finger to our lips and hushes our natural ways so we can hear beyond ourselves and know that there are thoughts beyond our own which are better and purer, able to do more than point out faults . . . but indeed point to promises.

Stop for just a moment and try really, really hard to believe, first of all, that God loves you beyond all your imagining and enough to have created all there is and you because of that love. Then try to think of what He wants to say to you. His voice is greater than all the others that will rush in to fill the void of silent waiting. So, wait. Can you hear Him?

That’s grace . . . the fact that no matter what you’ve done or who has spoken of it and judged you for it and believes you can never move beyond it . . . He speaks the truth to you about it . . . and about you. And about what the two of you can do. About . . . even . . . this.

You have searched me, Lord, and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. — Psalm 139: 1-3

To God, we are not a passing thought, a momentary project. He does not move on. He knows not, “oh, well.” He searches us. He is familiar with all our ways. He knows us.

In a world where our words and words of others bind us or bury us, clinging together to form barriers between us, or hiding places where we become entrenched in shame or defiance, His Word tells us He loves us.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Romans 8:38-39

What a sweet, sweet sound is His Word about you.

God Bless,

Thom

(Blog reader discount: For only $12, you can purchase Surviving Sexual Brokenness and “Who Told You You Were Naked?”  directly from BridgeBack Ministries. If you struggle or any Christian you know struggles with sexual identity or addiction, I hope you will encourage yourself or your friend or family member with these books.)

Comments

  1. Christiane says

    magnificent reflection, THOM

    when I think of failings and forgiveness, I think of St. Peter’s three denials of Our Lord,
    and how it was that Our Lord ‘understood’ and Peter was given a chance to renew his affirmation of love for Christ, not once, but also three times

    Jesus took Peter out into the deep waters, and Peter’s life was changed forever . . . ‘depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man’ was what Our Lord needed to hear from Peter, and having heard it, Peter was never after abandoned by Christ . . .

  2. cb scott says

    Excellent post, Thom Hunter.

    But, I must confess “sticks and stones” have definitely been used to fracture my bones. But it was always words that brought it on.

  3. Frank L. says

    “”””The cruel eye-jabbing by some Christians who become absorbed in the failings of others — “You’ve sinned against all Christianity for all eternity” — pierces the heart and builds a wall the sinner never could.”””””

    While a few Christians may be categorized as above by trying to hold people responsible for their continued sin, false repentence, and down-right lying about changing when in fact there has been no change, I think it is unfair to categorize any, all or most people as such.

    The fact is, sometimes words hurt in the same way surgery hurts. I guess it is true my heart surgeon “hurt” me when he restored my ailing heart–but it saved my life.

    I’m not sure everyone who accuses others of using “hurtful words” to “break bones” is a “cruel eye-jabber obsessed with the failure of others.”

    Words, even when they hurt, can be an avenue of healing and restoration, not only for the one caught in and continuing in sin, but for others that are hurt by the collateral damage.

    I think we need to keep this in mind, also.

    • says

      Frank,

      I didn’t mean to convey that all Christians, or even most, are unable to use words of truth and deliver them with compassion with the surgical skill that helps the patient heal. Indeed, were it not for the Christians who stand on the truth, express it, live it and guide others to it, the carnage in the lives of strugglers would be much greater.

      I was talking about “some” words and “some” times. We just need to be very discerning about what we say to whom and for what purpose. The surgeon prepares very thoroughly before he takes up his scalpel.

      Thanks!

  4. Greg Harvey says

    Brought to mind that thing we do with kids about how much we love them: you know, you hold out your arms and say “this much” and then wrap them in a hug.

    How much does Jesus love us? As far as the east is from the west…because that is how far he removes our sin from us. Words I sometimes forget.