Choosing Words that Heal

proverbs 12

As a girl, my dream height was 5 feet 8 inches.

I didn’t quite make it.

When I eventually made it to oh, about 5 feet 6 inches, though, I thought that was a nice, comfortable height, not tall, but not short either.

Then in my early 20’s, a doctor measured me for the first time in years.

Turns out I’m only 5 feet 4-1/2 inches.

That rocked my world a bit. That’s short.  Not extremely short.  But short.  It’s not tall or even a comfortable in-between.

I walked in and out of that doctor’s office exactly the same, but my perception of myself changed, and it felt a little disheartening.

Now, I have one daughter built long and lean and another daughter built more like me.

This is difficult.

My daughter complains about her lack of height all the time.  How she’s the shortest.  How EVERYONE in her WHOLE class is taller than she is.

I’ve navigated this body image issue for years, but it’s a tempestuous journey.

I ask her—So, you’re built like your mom.  Is that terrible?

I remind her she’ll grow.  It just takes time.

I tell her God made her beautiful, just right, totally lovely.

But this is the tender part of her soul, the soft-skinned place where Satan wreaks havoc and she’s easily bruised.

Any hint whatsoever about her size sends her into a 5-minute diatribe and withers her spirit.

A friend tells me what she said to her own daughter and I hold onto these words of wisdom until just the right moment.

It’s at church.  My daughter launches into another session of, “What’s wrong with me and why am I so short?”

I step in close, look into her eyes and say the words I’ve been storing up:  “The best things come in small packages. Diamonds come in the tiniest of boxes and yet they are a treasure.”

She blinks in surprise.  She never expected those words, this new thought to take hold of her heart.  It changes everything.

I haven’t mocked her or ignored her. I haven’t reasoned and rationalized.

I’ve cradled the most tender part of her soul in my hands and shown gentleness and unfailing love.

This is what we need to give and to receive from those we love most: our husbands, our children, the dearest friends whose secrets weaknesses we’re privileged enough to see.

They entrust us with their messes, weaknesses and failures.

We know their most honest struggles and their most common sins.

We know when the gray hairs arrive and when the scale numbers rise.

We know the flaws and the blemishes.

We know them at their grumpiest and saddest.

We know the things they dislike most about themselves and the things they wish other won’t see.

In fits of rage and bursts of anger, right in the most intense point of conflict, we have to choose:  Use our knowledge as a weapon and wound them where they are most sensitive….or lay it aside, choosing to protect the most tender parts of their soul.

Proverbs says:

Rash language cuts and maims,
    but there is healing in the words of the wise (Proverbs 12:18 MSG).

Our words can wound or they can heal.

Let us be healers.

We are the ones who can say: I  see you.  I love you.  I think you’re beautiful.

Jesus made that choice.

He was abrupt and forthright when necessary, confronting pharisees and those who lacked faith with blunt firmness.

But when he cradled a broken heart in the palm of His hand, it’s what He doesn’t say that is striking.

A sinful woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed Him with ointment from her alabaster box.

The pharisees criticized.  Jesus could have done the same.  Instead, he defends her, saying:

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little (Luke 7:47).

Her sins—her many sins—are forgiven.  He didn’t list them.  He didn’t drag them out for public examination.  He  protected her honor and gave her dignity.

He did the same for the woman caught in adultery and dragged out for public stoning.  She was likely thrown onto the ground naked, exposed, humiliated.

Jesus saw the weakest, most vulnerable moment of her life.

Instead of capitalizing on it and sermonizing about her sins, he covered her shame with His gentleness and grace:

Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more (John 8:11).

When we entrust our hearts to Jesus, weak as they are, sinful as we are, He covers us with His gentle grace and unconditional love.

He sees the ugliest parts of our soul and says, “I love you.  I forgive you.  You are beautiful to me.”

How can we show this gentleness to those we love?

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