Leave Her Alone!

Have you ever walked in the painful shoes of the reproached? Or stared down the barrel of rejection–the pointing fingers forcing you to the margins? Has your heart received the bruises of ridicule?

Of course it has!

At some point in life most of us have been the proverbial new girl sitting alone in the cafeteria, mocked for our uniqueness,  blamed for our genetics or shamed for our desire to belong.

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It was the first day of high school. The bus carried twenty-five of us loggers’ kids from our woodsy little community called Trail (no kidding) to the nearest high school 18 miles away. There was the usual mix of excitement and trepidation. I stared blankly out the window as I ticked off telephone poles and hoped I’d find my locker, master its combination and get to my classes on time.

Third period. I walked into the music room for choir, took a seat in the multi-rowed semicircle and hid behind an armload of books. I soon became aware of snickering coming from a group of boys sitting directly behind me. My face warmed. I held my breath, praying there wasn’t some wardrobe (such as it is when you’re wearing your mothers clothes) malfunction or a similarly mortifying faux pa.

“I smell bacon!” He blurted out. The words lodged in the back of my head where they were aimed. I froze. Again and louder he repeated, “I smell bacon!”  A rally of cruel laughter broke out and then a harsh nudge was delivered to my shoulder.

“Oink. Oink. Oink.”

I wasn’t overweight but I was well-developed. (I had once been mistaken for the substitute teacher in 7th grade.) But we girls, we newly emerging women–we can’t be thin enough or pretty enough or anything enough. I received those words as believable commentary on my body and vowed to alter myself.

You see, I had spent the entire 8th grade in my coat, refusing to take it off in class because of the naked shame of abuse. Though Mrs. Sawyer chided, reproached, rolled her eyes, clucked her tongue and even turned up the heat–her obsessive attempt to get me to shed my pea coat armor had failed.

I carried that “pig” indictment around with me the better part of that year as I cut carbs and applied more makeup. In the springtime one of those boys offered an apology–of sorts. “It was because your clothes smelled like woodsmoke.”

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She too had been chided. Ridiculed. Judged. The derision leveled at her didn’t come from a bully collective but from her own–her family, friends and faith community. Mary was an ardent follower known for her single focus and extravagant worship. Her devoted stay at the feet of Jesus once evoked the ire of her sister. The costly aromatic oil she poured on the crown of her King stole food from the mouths of the poor–or so the leaders in her faith community asserted.

But Jesus, on his way to ultimate betrayal, came to her defense and spoke words that reveal His posture toward all we who have ever been maligned, marginalized, maltreated and misunderstood.

“Leave her alone!”

Can you picture it? Though He keeps His love turned on, He doesn’t mince words in silencing her critics..

He speaks into the scene of those places in our lives as well, both past and present, where we are in need of defender, protector, and advocate. With the baritone of authority He similarly quiets the voice of our fault-finders–of whom we’re often numbered among.

Another translation says, “Let her be.” Can you hear it, dear friends? Can you hear the timeless words of the One who never lets you out of His sight or misses a single beat of your heart? He speaks up for you.

My prayer is that this truth sinks into your soul like healing balm; that it crowns your head with the fragrant and costly anointing that makes you His. That you remember His words when other voices threaten your peace…and your place.

 

The Rolodex

Satan knows we’re not likely to believe all his lies about God but he can almost always count on us to believe that the self-loathing thoughts pinging around in our heads echo His sentiments about us.

It’s a Roladex.

It holds all the references to our failures and blunders and hurts and offenses.

All our disappointments, doubts and distortions.

It records each relationship that ended poorly, each conversation that escalated, each unmet goal and every mangled outcome.

When we’re tired, when we’re busy — when there’s a lot of noise and precious little margin, when we’re not paying attention, when we’re not intentional, when it’s been too long since reading or kneeling–the Rolodex spins. It spins at a traffic light. It spins in the night when sleep won’t come. It spins when phone calls aren’t returned or when that text doesn’t come. It spins when hurtful words are lobbed. It spins when we’ve been overlooked or passed over. It spins when God feels silent and a very long way off.

Each card contains an indictment and wherever it lands there is an account that brings a shutter, a grimace, a flash of regret.

An accusation.

A lie coated in emotion.

They are the disqualifying words collected from our living that bring shame and they kill dreams. They mimic and mock and masquerade. They shove us down, trip us up and hide the light from our eyes.

And sometimes we think they are God’s words. God’s ideas about us. God’s rebuke. And if God feels this way about us surely those clothed in flesh must agree. So we pull back our hearts and we isolate and we lean against the wall, never entering the dance or joining the chorus.

We feel defeat and discouragement and disqualification.

Those cards contain a score, or so we believe, that will cause us to give up and forfeit our destiny. Or they’ll cause us to mount the pony of perfectionism and try just a little bit harder — one more time — to fix it; to become better, more acceptable, more useful.

We’ll buy one more book, see one more therapist, get in one more prayer line — we’ll seek one more opinion and sometimes we pull up stakes, move away and try to start over.

It’s chatter. It’s noise. It’s a deafening cacophony intended to disorient us from the real truth about who we are in Christ.

Our deceiving-killing-thieving-destroying enemy capitalizes on the noise to divert us from Truth and Grace.

Last night after a delicious meal we all settled into an overdue visit and shared hearts. Somewhere between the second cup of coffee and the realization of how late it was getting, he said he hadn’t known how to describe it, this barrage of berating that often comes over him. He said it leaves him beat down and exhausted — defeated and discouraged.

And he didn’t know how to feel all this and feel connected to others at the same time. So he pulled out. Pulled away. And pulled up a shield.

Bitterness, cynicism, fear and negativity became the tell-tale signs that his Rolodex spun him out of community. Out of connectedness.

I tell him that for too many years the spinning has been going on in my head too. I tell him that for many years I prayed that God would remove the errant contraption from my head. Then I tell him what my Father once reminded me of in the wee hours of a tearful morning.

Sometimes I don’t remove but I will always displace.

We want the obstacles removed from us and we don’t want the ongoing job of displacing the lies with truth. We pray for a spiritual procedure as complete and immediate as extracting a bad tooth.  It seems instead that God is in the business of displacing rather than removing. I tell this beleaguered man sitting across from me that my Rolodex spins too. But now when the spinning lands on a card that indicts me I take time to displace it with correct information.The old information is no longer pertinent. The card gets plucked and discarded a new card with the correct data replaces it.

The truth displaces the lies.

Sure, it’s a nuisance but one by one those lie cards are displaced with truth cards.

God’s not mad at us. He’s not irritated with us. He’s not frustrated by us.

He hasn’t changed His mind about us.

But could it be that He is waiting for us to change our minds about ourselves. We are recipients of grace. We’re not perfect. We’re going to make mistakes and get it wrong and fall down trying. But Love reaches out and pulls us to our feet. Those faux pas and failures are simply things we do. They are not representative of who we are. They are not detractors of our worth or the determiners of our value.

Sometimes our toughest battle is believing that what God thinks of us trumps what we think of ourselves. All that matters, all that qualifies is the grace of God that rewrites our script and cancels out all indictments we’ve incurred. Coming to peace with this in our own lives equips us with grace to accept it in others.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship….  Eph. 2:8-10

The Rolodex will spin. But card by card, we defuse it’s potential to drive us into a hole or push us against a wall or force us to pull up stakes altogether. Or worse yet, to attempt our own self-improvement regimen.

One by one, card by card we purge the inaccurate info and receive the Grace required to see ourselves rightly.

It’s a choice.

It always comes down to that.