The Friday Before A Beautiful Weekend

On Wednesday, I had the distinct pleasure of running into an old friend from high school. This was not one of those acquaintances where you check your pockets and turn away, acting like you forgot something important before you’re forced to speak and fake your way through a mutually uncomfortable exchange where neither acknowledges that you weren’t, really, friends in high school, anyway. No, not one of those at all. This girl was awesome then, and even more so, now. Sad news, though. It seems her husband lost his mind and left her and their two children. I can’t imagine what it feels like or how impossible it must feel to pick up the pieces of a shattered life.

However, I am getting the depressing opportunity to do just that – imagine what it feels like, as several marriages in my circle are in ruins. The relationship you once promised is forever is exposed as extraordinarily fragile and both are surprised at this fact, surprised at their heartbreak.
This husband got drunk on alcohol and his own success and, in a familiar echo of Babel, constructed his life as a monument to his new god, himself. This, of course, leaves little room for anyone else who is not a member of his tiny religion. Another soon-to-be ex-husband did the same thing. And another. And another. So many new denominations.
What I like to do with these posts is to tell some stories and connect them with an uplifting thread, but there isn’t any of that here. (My friend is fine. As fine as can be, while trying to make some sense of this wrecking ball to her family. But she’s letting God carry her, which is the best anyone can do, I suppose.) But sometimes, life just doesn’t make sense, it just punches you in the face and wounds us to our souls. Anytime we pretend it makes sense (through our bumper sticker cliches) or that it doesn’t hurt (through fake plastic smiles), we rob these moments of their holiness. Whether we feel the presence of the Divine or not, God is there, weeping, and the best we can do is to follow His example into that sacred space, hold each other as tightly as we can and let our hearts break together.
***
Now. Something different.
Today is the 3rd day where it’s really hot. Tomorrow, it won’t be, and we’ll have a ‘yard’ sale from 8-12 in the parking lot of the Bridge where there will be food, drink, pictures of my family on brand new paper, and ‘Sale’-ors will have the opportunity to buy a pair of the coolest pants this world has ever seen. I’ve never worn them. Instead, they hung, taunting me, in my closet for over 2 years – it appears they were bought in an overly optimistic mood. I’ll let them and their better-than-me attitude go for $2 (non-negotiable).
Then, Sunday at 10:30, we’ll continue our series called ‘Why We Do What We Do,’ and I can’t wait, because right in the middle, I’m going to share a passage/teaching that is working me over, transforming the way I see everyone, including myself.
I’m looking so forward to the weekend, because we’ve had 3 days of talking about how hot it is, some of us have had an awful lot of sadness and heartbreak, and we could all do with some laughter, celebration, joy, these chocolate chip cookies my wife made that are the best I’ve ever tasted, and BRAND NEW PANTS for $2!!
Love & Peace.

Words, Words, Words

Yesterday, on Judge Faith, 2 friends (or, rather, ex-friends) were on opposite sides of the disagreement, one suing the other for whatever. They had been best friends, eating, drinking, traveling, living together. Yet here they were, in a TV courtroom. So, what happened? It turned out that one had called the other a hurtful, nasty name, irreparably damaging the relationship.

Now, she may have been overly-sensitive, or thin-skinned, or any number of ridiculous labels designed to make the victim deserving of the behavior, but one thing is certain, we cannot deny the power of our words.

I think about this often, mostly because I have the unfortunate opportunity to witness all of the ways we destroy each other – and ourselves – with our words.
The rhyme we repeat to our children “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,’ is a filthy lie. As we all know, broken bones heal much faster than wounds inflicted with a sharp tongue.

Proverbs 18:21 says “The tongue has the power of life and death.” This is undeniable, regardless of any silly limericks we tell our kids to pretend otherwise.

In our house, the only curse words are ‘stupid,’ ‘fat,’ and others like them whose sole purpose is to shrink, to belittle, to make you small in the misguided hope that I might become larger.

Think of the words in our heads – if you would hear them out loud, directed towards someone else, you would recoil in horror. Yet it’s the tape that runs on repeat in our minds. Why is that? Is it any wonder we all suffer from depression, anxiety, insecurity? Is it any wonder we accept all sorts of verbally abusive behaviors from those who would lie and say, ‘I love you,’ with the same weapon that has just pierced our souls?

Last week, I spoke at a correctional center, and as I walked around the room, looking in each man’s eyes, my heart broke over and over. You know the look I saw – one of deep shame, guilt, sadness, and pain. They’ve been told over and over that they are something less until it’s the only thing they believe. They wear this garbage they’ve been sold as skin. So, when I tell them the Truth, that they are human beings (not their pasts, not their charges, not their fathers, not their bad decisions), made in the image of a God who made them and loves them beyond all reason, I am looked at with suspicion. Can this new narrative be true?

In Rogue One, Chirrut says to Cassian, “There is more than one prison. I think you carry yours wherever you go.” These men can be released, but the prisons made of the stories they’ve been told are still intact, and still very present.

The Israelites were freed from their slavery in Egypt, but it wasn’t long before they were in despair, complaining, grumbling, slaves to their circumstance, chained to the stories in their heads that said they were brick-making machines – proving that it is always much easier to get us out of Egypt than to get the Egypt out of us.

What stories are we helping to create (for others, for ourselves) with the words we use?

Our words can tear down, or they can build. Our words can kill, or they can give life.
The Scriptures ask us to Choose Life.

What would it look like if we did?