Want What You’ve Got! (bully)

Person, Homeless, Bullied, Hiding, Alone, Sadness, Male

maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com

When I was in elementary school – fourth grade, to be exact – I was bullied by a kid named Chris. Chris singled me out early in the year, choosing to call me names other than the one my parents had chosen for me: Burrito and It.

The fact that I can still remember Chris’ face and the names he called me hints at just how deeply I was wounded by his childish and unrelenting teasing. People would tell me – especially well-meaning adults – that boys only tease girls this way because they like you…

Really? I didn’t believe it then. Still don’t.

In high school a bully named Clyde chose me from a pool of classmates. His stares violated my personal space for months – usually followed by whispers to his friends, their stares joining his, and then laughter or inappropriate comments. Or both. He so rattled my self-confidence that I actually sought help from the school counselor to make it stop (which is a big deal in high school – seeing the counselor meant that you were either in trouble or wimpy). I don’t remember it helping – in fact, I think it made things worse. After nearly failing a semester of chemistry with Clyde in the room, one of us had to go. I can still remember how his cruel oogling pierced my fragile self-image. Obviously – scars remain.

Joseph knew what it was like to be bullied – he had endured it all of his life. It probably didn’t help that he was Daddy’s favorite, sporting a colorful testimony of his father’s affection that day as he joined his older brothers in the fields. Joseph was dropped in a deep hole and sold as a slave to travelers by those who ought to have been looking out for him instead. Betrayed by those closest to him, Joseph began a life-journey that he did not choose and that he did not want.

Fast-forward to the scene described in Genesis 50 – Joseph, reunited with the family bullies, has just buried his father. Afraid that their now-powerful and influential little brother may be ready for payback, the clan begs Joseph not to retaliate. In a decidedly poignant foreshadowing of God’s redemptive plan, Joseph responds to his brothers with these words:

“It is true that you planned to do something bad to me. But really, God was planning good things. God’s plan was to use me to save the lives of many people. And that is what happened.” Genesis 50:20 (ERV)

Joseph had learned what our Savior Jesus knew as He hung, dying – a victim of brutality – bullying unto death. Jesus’ words, as recorded in Luke 23:34, are a glimpse into the truth Joseph spoke years before:

“Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.”

They think this will shut me up. It won’t.

They think they can get rid of me forever. They can’t.

They think they are doing this to me. They aren’t.

Let’s be clear – there is a bully at work here – but the enemy of Christ, of Joseph, even the enemy of me isn’t Chris or Clyde or jealous siblings or military powers or church leaders. These folks don’t know what they’re doing! Mistaking the power they wield as their own, these bullies think they are causing harm and inflicting pain.

The bully – the enemy of God – has been rallying troops of broken, hurting, insecure people since the Story began. Jesus knew, Joseph discovered, and I’m slowly beginning to understand that while bullies participate in the work of the enemy, they aren’t him. My battles aren’t against people any more than Jesus was put to death by the power of some nails and a couple of pieces of wood. The person calling me names and reaching out toward me with ill intent is a piece of clay, just like me. Only, I choose to be shaped by the hands of the Potter rather than worked over by a craftsman whose commitment to his workmanship ends when it’s usefulness does, too.

No one Wants What They’ve Got when it’s a bully who’s dishing it out.

Joseph didn’t. I surely didn’t. Jesus didn’t, either. He even asked God to let Him pass on sipping from that cup.

But in the hands of the Potter and the Author of our faith, backwards is the new forwards! God is planning good things, and evil intent can be appropriated and used to shape a vessel that holds Living Water in quantities generous enough to quench the thirst of the whole world. Or fill the tummies of an entire famine-inflicted nation.

So – Want What You’ve Got, bullies and all, and wait for it…

Because no matter how things look today, God’s intentions are very, very good.

Daily Questions: Who are the bullies in your life today? Are you down in the trenches – or down in the dumps – struggling with an enemy you can see with your eyes? Think again. The world thought that the enemies of Jesus got the better of Him on the cross, but the real bully was waiting for Him on the other side. The resurrection proves that Jesus fought that battle and won! Choose today to want the eternal security you’ve got in Christ; stop giving so much power (and credit) to the bullies in your life! They really don’t know what they’re doing!

Advertisements

The Rescue (a PINK Tuesday post)

Save Me

Image by JamesReaFotos via Flickr

 

“The fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith.”   –John Stott

It’s been this way since time began.

 

The fact that you are still reading tells me that nothing has changed… SUFFERING a LOSS raises questions and doubts and fears and anger as it CHALLENGES our ability to cope and adapt and recover.

But the good news today is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

You are not alone in your suffering.

You are not alone in your loss.

We don’t need to look beyond our own circle of friends & family to find others who are suffering losses, too. Our stories and their stories inevitably are marked by people, places, experiences and situations where what we once held dear is no longer ours to hold.

Consider the scriptures.

Story after story about people who not only experience the mountaintops, but the depths of grief as well:

Adam & Eve

Because of a choice that they made, they lost their fellowship with God AND their home in the Garden. Later in their story, they lose a son – or, perhaps they lost TWO sons – as the one killed the other in a fit of jealousy.

Joseph

The one with the coat. Lost his family at the hand of brothers who hated him. They sold him into slavery. Told his father he was dead. This same Joseph, trying to live a godly life as a slave, is falsely accused of sexual harassment by his boss’s wife and thrown into prison for years. NONE of these losses, by the way, were a result of Joseph’s choices. He had no say. They just happened TO him.

Job

Lost his children in one horrific accident. Lost his livelihood. Lost his health. All because of things going on around him that he had no control over. It wasn’t his fault.

David

KING David. The one we know as “a man after God’s own heart”. Lost his fellowship with the Lord, for a time, because of a series of bad choices that included sleeping with someone else’s wife and then having her husband murdered. David’s loss didn’t end there. Even though he married the woman he had gotten pregnant, she lost the baby. Lost a child. Another loss.

Elijah

The prophet. The one used by God to call down fire on a soaking wet altar, putting the competition in its place. Even Elijah suffered loss. Loss of hope. Loss of perspective. He suffered from depression. Depression that was undoubtedly linked to the death threats he had received from a very powerful woman. His choice? A chemical imbalance? Does it matter?! A loss nonetheless.

Finally, the Apostle Paul.

Wrote much of the New Testament. Spoke the message of Christ far and wide with boldness and passion. This hero of the faith found himself at the end of life, sitting in a cold prison cell, alone. Lonely. And he suffered from the loss of fellowship he had known – we know this because he wrote it in a letter to his friend, Timothy. We can read it in God’s Word.

What we ALSO read in God’s Word are words like these:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

(He must be really STRONG in ME – weakling that I am.)

And,

“In this world you WILL have trouble, but take heart – I have overcome the world.”   John 16:33

Our God makes it clear over and over again in scripture that He is close to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18).

He tends to our wounds.

He is our RESCUE.

But just in case words like these sound trite and churchy to you, know that God “keeps track of every toss & turn through the sleepless nights.” Each tear and ache is entered into His book (Ps. 56:8).

There’s a Hebrew custom – the jar of tears – have you heard of it? At funerals, a tiny jar is passed around and each mourner puts a teardrop into it. The jar of tears represents the hearts that are suffering the loss of the person who has died.

I believe that God not only keeps track of the tears we shed, but that His big heart breaks for us in our suffering. And there is nothing that we are feeling or have felt that He, through Jesus, hasn’t felt before.

God is ready to do something big for you today! He’s coming alongside you in your suffering, your grief, your loss…

“All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

God uses our experiences to prepare and uniquely position us to come alongside others who are suffering, too. The heading over this section in the Message Bible is “THE RESCUE”.

He rescues us, and then He gives us the opportunity to extend that rescue to others.

I see a rescue in your future, my friend.

Maybe it’s yours to be HAD.

Maybe it’s in your power to GIVE.

Either way, we had better get busy. There is SAVING to be done (praise the Lord)!

 

Security Breach (a PINK Tuesday post)

Computer Space (1971)

Image by Laughing Squid via Flickr

I’ve just received the fifth email warning today, informing me that my email address has been pirated by an ‘unauthorized person’ outside of the Epsilon system. Epsilon is apparently a massive e-mailing machine, but I’m awfully glad I don’t own their stock today as I open email #5 from yet another apologetic company.

“We are confident,” my emails read, “that the information that was retrieved did not include any customer account or financial information.” And I’m shaking my head now, asking no one in particular if that’s supposed to make me feel better – more secure, more safe – now that some dishonest hacker has information about me from FIVE different sources?!

Are you kidding me?

How should one react when their security has been breached?

In the case of Epsilon’s failure to keep my personal information secure, I’ve been instructed NOT TO REPLY to requests for login ID’s or passwords. In fact, it is advised that I do not reply to ANY email asking for any sort of personal information, because now that security has been breached, I just can’t know who I can trust. Better to remain skeptical of everyone, reporting suspicious activity to the ‘How To Report Fraud’ hotline, right? At least that’s what the sincerely apologetic emails in my inbox tell me.

Honestly, this is what I tend to do when my emotional security has been breached, too.

Don’t reply.

Hole up in my own little world.

Be a skeptic.

Doubt everyone.

Trust no one.

A breach in trust may warrant such responses! After all, there isn’t a Fraud Hotline when it comes to the suspicious (and sometimes malicious) activity of people. If I’m to protect myself from further breaches, I have got to be proactive by sandbagging and boarding up the windows and doors. There is no way that I’m exposing myself to the elements of betrayal and dishonesty again.

So I change all of my passwords and shut down my operating system. No one gets in.

Dr. Roland Summit, a leader in the medical field and faithful advocate of the sexually abused child, had this to say about the effects of such abuse in children:

“The uncertainty of sorting out enemies from friends impairs the emotional security of victims and their advocates.”[1]

Whether our trust has been breached dramatically through abuse or more subtly through neglect or broken promises, the result is almost always impaired emotional security. Can anyone be trusted now?

On this PINK Tuesday, consider the security breaches you’re reeling from.

Who has broken your trust?

Who has betrayed your faith?

Who has failed to live up to your belief in them?

Where have you fallen victim to emotional pirates, who have taken your innocence as plunder?

These are difficult things you’re dealing with. Lost friends. Broken marriages. Runaway children.

God’s Word for you and me, and our words for those who seek to hack into our joy, sound something like Joseph’s response to his traitorous brothers in Genesis 50:20:

“Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people.

Joseph lived his entire life sorting out enemies from friends.

He didn’t hole up in his own little world.

He fought the urge to become a skeptic.

He chose not to doubt everyone.

He overcame the temptation to trust no one.

In the end, he was able to redeem those who had breached his trust and discarded him, body and soul; to stand and say that God meant it all for good.

Will you?


[1]Murphy, Edward F.: Handbook for Spiritual Warfare. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1996, S. 467