Everyone loves summer. Perhaps it is because summer is when people are most likely to vacation. Summertime is a season where people can relax, enjoy the outdoors, explore and have fun. Summertime is carefree, with long lazy days. And the weather is beautiful, sunny and hot. But sometimes, the summer can be difficult. For some, the summertime can be what they most dread. Or maybe it’s just me.
A few summers ago, I took my kids to an enormous park in a seaside village not too far from where we live. They were having the time of their lives, exploring, running, laughing, experiencing so much joy. I sat in the summer sunshine enjoying them enjoying themselves. Until a few little words knocked me right off of my joy train. I can’t even repeat the words that were spoken, but they cut deep into my soul.
When you have a disability that disfigures you, and causes your entire body to take on a different shape, it’s hard to live life normally. You try your best, but sometimes people stare and make comments that you wish you could forget. And sometimes, you just want to stay home to avoid it all. This day, it wasn’t just staring, or whispered comments. It was someone and their child mocking me and laughing at me as I walked around with my kids, using a cane. Ouch.
Words can cut deep. That old rhyme sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me is complete baloney. Nothing could be farther than the truth. Because words, once they’re said, can’t be taken back. They’ve done their damage. They’ve cut and wounded.
Proverbs 12:18 says, “some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.” I know that to be true because any time I’ve been cut by words, the encouraging words of friends are like a balm to my heart, where words cut the deepest.
But it’s easy to forget those words when you most often hear cutting words. Voices that tell you things you wish you didn’t have to hear. Words of the world. You’re not thin, so you’re not beautiful. You’re not beautiful, you’re ugly. You can’t do things most people can, so you’re worthless. You’re worthless, so just stay at home where we don’t have to see you. Those kind of voices. Those kind of words. Have you heard something similar?
Sometimes I get caught up in what these voices are saying. Sometimes I start to believe the words. It’s easy to do, when it’s often what you hear. Words are powerful, but sometimes voices come in a look or an action. Sometimes voices come in a thought that never reaches one’s lips, but is heard loudly all the same. When you hear these words and voices as frequently as I do, they become easier to hear and to detect. In a single day, you could hear up to a dozen different things.
Sometimes it gets to me, wears me down and makes me feel the way the words are telling me to. But, sometimes I remember that I have the freedom and the power to walk away and stop those words in their tracks. Because my identity isn’t in these worldly words. My identity is in Christ.
I live in a world full of people who are having identity crises. They don’t know who they are, and they’re desperately trying to figure it out. How fortunate are we who know who and Whose we are. And when we know who we are, the words and voices offered up slowly start to be lost among stronger, more powerful ones.
You are a child of God. Because you’re a child of God, you’re a daughter of the King. Because you’re a daughter of the King, that makes you a princess. God thinks you are beautiful. He has given you the privilege of suffering and has entrusted you with all that you need to combat the enemy. So fight, beautiful princess warrior. Fight.
These words from the King of Heaven slice through the hurt, and repair the wounds from cutting words in one solid movement. Like a dance, swirling me up from the ashes. He whispers words of love that put a new song in my heart. And I know I can confidently walk around in the world with my head held high, because He covers me in His love.
And those words of love? They bubble up inside of me, like champagne spilling over cups. They can’t stay inside because Love is more powerful than hate, more powerful than darkness. I can’t keep the words of love inside, wrapped up all for myself. Jesus speaks life into my soul, and He wants me to speak it out for all to hear. If ever I doubt this, I look at these verses which light the way:
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Ephesians 4:29
So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:4
Words can hurt. I know with each passing day there will be more insults, more disgusted looks. I know cutting words will be a lifelong companion. But I don’t ever want them to hold me captive anymore, because words of Love have set me free. So when words sting, I’ll look to the One whose words matter most, straighten my figurative crown, and move on. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me when I’m listening to the words of life and love instead.