Category Archives: family

Overcoming Adversaries

The kids were naive. They didn’t understand how their joking could hurt my son. Calling him names that highlighted a post-surgery physical challenge had become a past time for them until he mentioned it to me. I addressed it immediately with their parents. The name-calling never happened again and thankfully my son’s physical challenge resolved after five months, after the healing of the surgery was complete.

Lots of hugs and prayers helped him acknowledge the hurt but not be overtaken by it. My husband and I embraced the opportunity to instruct our son how to forgive and not identify with “labels”. That was only part of the work. We also needed to forgive these kids, who would continue to be a regular part of our lives. My son’s experience made me reflect on my own childhood and being called names like “Oreo girl” by my black friends or having a white teacher ask me if I put toothpaste in my hair to make it so shiny. Unfortunately, a few times I used my hurt to wound others. Calling them names made me feel strong. Whether we have been the victim or we are the reformed bully, God has healing and restoration for each of us.

Honestly and vulnerability can heal families and communities. We should acknowledge how our own opinions, habits, and words have hurt someone but we realized it and changed; how a challenge suppressed us but we rose up and out from it; how life tested us, but we overcame. We must find moments of victory or overcoming that can be used to encourage someone else. We must humbly acknowledge a time or an instance where “we were the problem” and consider the process through which we became so self-aware, that we allowed someone else or divine power to change our hearts and minds.

We must believe that God is good and wants good for all people, even those that we call evil. He doesn’t want to bless their evil intentions and works, but he wants to endow them with the ability to know right from wrong and to discern light from darkness. He ultimately wants them to have a story to share that will bring life to those around them. This is why Jesus told his disciples to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who spitefully use you.” (Matthew 5:44)

Sometimes conflict with someone continues so long that we believe God doesn’t hear us or can’t change our oppressors. Maybe we are hurting so much that we just don’t have the compassion to pray for them. If we can envision Him hugging us or weeping with us and if we recall our own failures, our graciousness will arise.

Robert Frost wrote these words in the poem “The Star Splitter”,
If one by one we counted people out
For the least sin,
it wouldn’t take us long
To get so we had no one left to live with.
For to be social is to be forgiving.’ 

“Lord, we try to escape pain, but we can’t. We hope that those who love us will never wound us, but they will. Unfortunately, at some time we will also hurt someone willfully or by mistake. Have your Spirit tend to our wounds and humble our hearts. Move us to forgive our adversaries and ourselves. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Our Greatest Cheerleader

“That’s great, Tina!

My fingers ran clumsily over the white keys of my mother’s piano. I was lost in a childish reverie of imagination. One minute I was a concert pianist and the next, I was a daughter whose silly playing was lulling her dad to sleep.

My dad sat behind me in my mother’s rocking chair, rocking and dosing, in no rush to leave, which surprised me but warmed my heart. My daddy was content to hear me play on the piano even though I’d taken lessons for a short time.

“Oh, play that again, that was nice!”

This memory is etched in my soul. I treasure it since so many memories of my childhood years had to be healed by God’s compassion. As a child, I didn’t see my dad relaxed and content very often; his time was usually spent on projects or sports or shouting and it’s the latter that makes this single moment a gift from God.

Silhouette of little girl leaping in the sunset.

As children, it is appropriate to want a parent, a favorite teacher or any regular caregiver to be our greatest fan. We are born needing affirming words. Studies have been done showing that babies respond differently whether they see a frown or a smile.

There are times when the people most vital to our care cannot give us what we need. It’s a painful reality that often shapes our emotional development and taints our self-image. My gift, this memory that God brought forth during a season of emotional healing, showed me that my dad had a tender place in his heart for me.  Some people don’t have a memory like this to hold on to and for years they scratch their hearts wondering, “What was so wrong with me that I couldn’t be loved or wanted?”

For many people, over time the mystery unravels and family secrets are brought to light and the scratching of the head becomes a nod of understanding that heals the ache a little. Understanding can help begin to close the door of pain, but the void remains. We need to be affirmed and encouraged. We need someone who takes pleasure in our existence.

For me, the road of healing opened my eyes to a screen that exists between my tangible temporal reality and the unseen eternal reality. I needed to see the unseen. Though the screen I saw the fears and insecurities behind the shouting. I saw parental heartache when material displays of love went unreceived by a bitter and hurting teenage girl.  What brought the most healing was when my eyes saw a figure reaching his arms to the little girl within my soul, urging me to come to him and be held so that his divine love could make every bad memory fade away. I saw scenes from my childhood home where this figure stood in a corner of a room, weeping and praying and agonizing over the pain felt by the humans in the room. His nail-scarred hands were chained – human pride and resistance had shackled his ability to deliver and rescue. I also recognized this figure as the man hanging on a cross in a book in one of my grandmother’s bedrooms. For years, my spiritual eyes would look behind the screen and see the figure with the outstretched arms encouraging me to come to him.

Finally, one day I saw behind the screen again and the little girl that was me crawled up onto his giant lap and buried my aching head into his bosom. My tangible pain was washed away by my new eternal reality. Isaiah 53:4  Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…

Psalm 28:6-7 Blessed be the Lord, Because He has heard the voice of my supplications! The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him.

Jesus is our biggest cheerleader but most of us don’t know it. He’s there in the darkest scenes of our lives, trying to show us that he is not the author of those scenes but the desperate rescuer trying to break through the darkness. He’s the one that brushes the dirt off of our knees when we fall and when we fail he reminds us to come to the throne of grace to find mercy and grace to help when we are in need.  When we long for affirmation and encouragement, we have to ignore the silence of our parent, the teacher or the caregiver and hear him say, “That’s great son!” or “That’s great, daughter!”

Psalm 27: 10-14
When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the Lord will take care of me…
 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living. Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

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