Sticks and Stones may… but the Words will crush us?
Devotional Thought for the Day:
22 But now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem. What will happen to me there I do not know, 23 except that in one city after another the holy Spirit has been warning me that imprisonment and hardships await me. 24 Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the gospel of God’s grace. Acts. 20:22-40 NABRE
45 Why feel hurt by the unjust things people say of you? You would be even worse, if God ever left you. Keep on doing good, and shrug your shoulders. (1)
Some years ago, I sat in a room full of other believers having dinner after a long, brutal day of meetings. I was invited by a good friend, but neither of us was ready for what we would experience.
I would get up and leave, going back to my hotel room, dismayed and depressed. I can still hear the words echoing in my brain that were said. The group didn’t recognize that there were some they were criticizing in the room of a couple of hundred people. Or perhaps, they were so ecstatic, they didn’t bother with the thought, or even care.
The critique was vehement, the lies and comments betrayed a hatred and bitterness. And while not part of the other party, I was probably closer to those criticized than I was to those who accused. The critiques would still probably be applied to me, the attempts to demonize other believers stung and hurt. The fact that believers, those considered leaders in churches would be so cruel… was devastating.(2)
The words, and the faces of those who said that which seemed evil to me still stick with me to this day, and it was the first thing I thought of as I saw the words of Saint Josemaria.
People can be cruel, and it may be that it will be more than just words that they hurl at us. Paul would experience that over and over, and scripture is clear in describing the fear and frustration, the despair and the pain.
As I think back on pain of that night, I can rationalize that these people weren’t evil, In many ways, they sincerely believed the other side threatened their way of life, their faith. While they didn’t understand the others, their own pain and frustration released itself in the midst of victory. My instinct is that now that the years have passed, they wouldn’t recognize their own words.
But even realizing that, if doesn’t change the level of pain.
So how do you move past it? How can we simply shrug our shoulders and keep on doing what is good?
(Logically – do we have any choice?)
How could we choose to shrug our shoulders when it hurts? Even more troublesome, if we are called to imitate Paul as he imitated Jesus, how do we willingly enter times where we face such opposition, such belittling, hearing such negativity tossed at us, and survive?
The answer is simple to hear, hard to execute. We think of God’s presence, the fact that He doesn’t abandon us. We cling to Him, and being enveloped by His peace; we let the other things fade into dimness, compared to His glory. As Paul says, to be a martyr, a witness to the incredible glory of God.
The glory that is ours, that He envelops us in, even as He envelops Himself. This is grace, this is the place were brokenness heals, this is where we find the grace that enables us to endure all, simply to know, to witness and to bear witness to the love and mercy of God, revealed by the Holy Spirt, revealed in Christ.
It is there we need to head, where we need to live, there we find our haven, our rest. Safe in Him, the Lord God Almighty who has promised that nothing can ever separate us from God. This is the answer to the cry, “Lord have mercy”, and it floods our lives.
And on our way shrug, or accept the challenges that await us.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 260-262). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) I am not so naive as to believe that the other side would not have been as cruel