Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The lie of sticks and stones

"I see absolutely nothing good in you! 
There's NOTHING good about you AT ALL!!!"

This was said angrily through gritted teeth by one of my children's teachers at a former church when they were about seven or eight years old. 

My child came out of their classroom crying that Wednesday night and told my husband and I what had happened.  Although I could sense that the sobs and anguish were not fake, I determined to investigate before passing judgment.  After all, sometimes kids can come home from school or church bearing tales and they aren't exactly always what they seem. 

I very calmly went to ask the teacher about what had taken place, and get their version of the story.  Immediately before I even told them what my child had said, they were very upset and apologized profusely saying, "Pastor Deanna, I'm so sorry.  I did a terrible thing.  Please forgive me.  I was overcome with anger and frustration in the classroom and I wanted to get their attention so I stood in front of them, grabbed them by the arms and said those words.  I am guilty and I am so sorry.  I don't know what I can do to make this up to them or to you."

I said, "honestly there is absolutely nothing you could ever do to  make it up.  I want you to understand that God forgives you and accepts your apology, and so do I.  I hope my child will also forgive you one day for the horrible thing you just did.  But I do want you to understand one thing and understand it VERY well.  Although everyone in the situation will undoubtedly forgive you, I do want you to know that with people, words last forever.  Although my child will more than likely forgive you, words remain with human beings forever.  We can forgive them, but we don't forget them.  The Bible says that God forgets our sins, but most humans aren't given that capability.  That makes you a tragic memory in my child's history.  I tell you the seriousness of this in order that you realize although there is forgiveness, consequences remain in my child's life.  Please think about this everyday when you deal with children, because what you do makes a huge impact for good,  or for bad."

Yes, I was stern.  On purpose.  Did I forgive?  Yes.  Did our family continue to love that person and their family?  Yes, even to this day.  But I know my child would more than likely not forget those words.  And so I wanted that teacher to have a huge lesson so that hopefully somebody else's child would never be hurt by them. 

 "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never harm me."  What a lie.  How do I know?  I'm 43, and I still remember a lot of the words that were said to me.

If you think I was harsh, let's take a look at how Jesus handles it: 

Matthew 18:2-7  The Message

"For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, "I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom. What's more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it's the same as receiving me.  "But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you'll soon wish you hadn't. You'd be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck. Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time! Hard times are inevitable, but you don't have to make it worse—and it's doomsday to you if you do."

Sort of makes an angry momma look like a cream puff in comparison. 

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