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?

God in Muddy Boots

 Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high,
  who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
  he seats them with princes, with the princes of his people (Psalm 113:5-8).

“Mom, can you tie my shoe?”

I kneel down, slightly off balance, and whip the laces into loops and knots.

“Mom, can you wash my hair?”

Bending over a daughter with her eyes pinched tightly shut, I scrub with shampoo and rinse the suds away carefully.

“Mom, can you show me how to play this on the piano?”

I stoop to press the keys, one hand pointing to the music, the other playing notes, showing melody, showing tempo, showing dynamics.

“Mom, can you hold my hand?”

Tilted to one side, I lean over to entwine our fingers and we swing our arms together to the rhythm of our pace.

“Mom, I’m hurt!”

Dropping to the ground, I clean the wound and press on the miraculous Band-Aid that instantly heals all hurts whether or not blood is involved.

Life with children is a life bent low.  It’s the ministry of kneeling down, stooping over, leaning, and bending to wipe, scrub, heal, hold, read, listen–to love.  So often, it’s the movement down to hug a child and lift her up.

God bends low to reach His children, too.

He could have sat, poised on His righteous throne, holy and unresponsive to our need, drumming His fingers while waiting for us to reach up to Him.

But He didn’t.  Seeing that we could never be righteous enough, He came to us instead, abandoning glory to take up the humble life in human flesh.  Jesus Christ, our Savior, our Sacrifice, is the great Love of God as He bent low in order to raise us up.

And He continued that ministry as He healed and forgave.  Finding Peter’s mother-in-law sick in bed with a fever, Jesus “bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her” (Luke 4:39).  Petitioned by a leper for healing, Jesus “reached out his hand and touched the man” (Luke 5:13).  Confronted by an angry mob prepared to stone a woman caught in adultery, Jesus “stooped down and wrote on the ground” (John 8:8).

Jesus could have simply spoken words of healing and forgiveness over anyone.  He had the power to heal with words alone, and sometimes He did.

But other times He chose to make it physical, and it so often required Him to bend low, to stoop, to reach out.  How else can a perfect and holy God touch us who are broken, sick, or dirty from sin?

Jesus didn’t mind the mess.  He touched people even when they were religiously “unclean,” when it was against the rules for them to have contact with other humans because they were so tainted that they’d stain the holiness of others.

This week, at an end-year celebration of a Bible Study group, a woman shared what she learned by studying David’s life.  She described putting on her muddy boots, the sweat pants she doesn’t care about and the raggedy t-shirt that means nothing to her and thinking nothing of getting down into the dirt.

Jesus got down in the dirt with people.  In the same way, this woman said, God didn’t mind getting down into the dirt with King David and He’s willing to do this for us, as well. 

God is not waiting for us to get cleaned up, to overcome, to fix it all up, to climb and clamber to success.   He isn’t put off by our faces smudged with dirt, our hands caked with mud, our fingernails lined with soil from trying to claw our way out of the pit we’re in.

Instead, David tells us:

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand (Psalm 40:2).

In order to lift David up, God had to reach down low, stretching a hand deep into the darkness to pull the shepherd-king on out to safety and firm ground and light and life.

For those who find themselves in the pit now, remember that God will reach low to you and He will lift you up.  You cannot be so deep in the darkness to be beyond His ability to save you. You cannot be so covered in dirt that He’s scared away or disgusted.

God puts on His muddy boots at times to wade in and rescue us.

Then He calls us to engage in this same ministry of bending low to reach others.  We don’t walk by friends in caverns and potholes and chasms, pretending that everything is all right or hoping for another bystander to reach down and rescue them.

We don’t turn up our noses at the dirt on another’s face,  refusing to stoop down to hold their hand and pull them up.

God wants us to be willing to kneel, stoop, bend, lean, and drop to the ground in all of the humility and love that naturally flows out of people who have been saved themselves.

It’s the ministry of a mom.  It’s the ministry of a child to an aging parent.  It’s the ministry of teachers and a ministry to the wayward and the lonely, the lost and the hurting.  It’s the ministry to the broken and a ministry to the least of these.

It’s the ministry of bending low to love another just as God has done for us.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King