Sticks and Stones and My Big Nose
I can still recall like it was yesterday. I was 12 years old, in the seventh grade, and eating lunch with my friends at our usual table, during what was usually my favorite part of the day. Attending a strict, private school meant that we often had to wait until lunch to get out all the pent up energy, must-share gossip, and otherwise pointless conversation that had been struggling to stay confined in our little heads all morning. That day was no such exception, as we noisily jumped into our daily gab fest, ignoring decorum and spewing our exchanges around bites of our lunch, while our mouths were packed full of (in my case) turkey and swiss sandwiches.
I don’t know how we stumbled upon this topic, but somehow, I began on a not uncommon bout of complaining about my appearance. Like most pre-teen girls, I found that I was daily unsatisfied with my looks. It was during that awkward transitional phase from child to woman, and my body was caught in the crossfires of a war that was breaking out between a continued hold of childlikeness and a pressing need for more womanly development. That particular day, I had landed on my nose. Oh, my sweet Italian nose. It’s sort of a trademark that I have grown to begrudgingly accept and enjoy as part of my uniqueness. Still, at that time, I just loathed the way it seemed to take over the rest of my face. I voiced such a complaint to my friends, more than likely in the hope that they would expel my woes of having a large nose as total falsehood. Imagine my shock and hurt then, when a boy piped up with this helpful gem: “Your nose isn’t big, Lissy, it’s just the rest of your face hasn’t grown into it yet.”
Ouch. I laugh my head off about it now, and hope for this boy’s sake (and the sake of his possible spouse now) that he has come into a more subtle way of remarking upon women’s looks. Still, there has to be something to the fact that I can remember now an incident that happened more than half a lifetime ago. At the time, it was bruising and hurtful and had me talking with my hand in front of my nose for a few days until I inevitably moved on to more pressing drama of the seventh grade world. If you asked me today, I could even tell you the name of the boy who delivered this nasal blow. Don’t get me wrong, I hold absolutely nothing against him. Lord knows if I had to think back on some of the thoughtless and cruel words I spewed at that age, I’d be under my bed in shame. Still, it’s astounding to me that this one 12 year old boy’s words were impacting enough to stay with me all these many years later.
What names have you been called in the past? Do you have a memory like mine? While I can laugh off my story as a silly tale of childhood, maybe something was said to you that had far more damaging implications. Names that were spoken over us at a young age can consciously or subconsciously affect our patterns and behaviors later in life for better or for worse. Somewhere along the way, we may have come to accept these words as truth, even if this acknowledgment was made without our permission. There may be things you believe about yourself even now, that were born in the stretch of an early life memory of pain. Whoever said that words can’t hurt us was, well, just plain crazy!
“It’s not about the names people call you, it’s what you answer to that matters.”
This is a paraphrase of a quote from Tyler Perry, and it, like that young boy’s jab at my nose, has stuck with me. I think in coming to terms with the words spoken over us, it’s not as important as remembering every word that was said, so much as it is remember the words from the people that matter. In other words, it’s not what was said that matters, but who said what that matters. Maybe you’re reading this and thinking that you’ve never even had someone in your life who spoke words of blessing and encouragement over you. Guess what? Someone, the One who matters most, has a lot to say about you:
“So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”
– Genesis 1:27
“Yet to all who did revive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”
– John 1:12
“But whoever loves God is known by God.”
– 1 Corinthians 8:3
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
– John 3:16
Wow. I can assure you that nothing (see: no thing) that has been spoken over you can compete with these words that God has spoken over you. They cancel out all other things that would try to rise against your security, because they are rooted in the ultimate authority and giver of truth to our souls – God Himself. When you’re tempted to give in to the pain of hurtful words that have been spoken about you, go to God’s word and remind yourself of what He has to say about you.
Today, ask God to bring to your remembrance the things that have stuck with you from your past – their presence a silent yet hurtful constant reminder of what you believe to be your great weaknesses. Then, ask Him to wash over you with His words of love. Read His promises and affirm yourself. Know that no man can speak a word against the words of God in your life. They are powerless to compete with the everlasting life that you’ll find in God’s Word. Remember, that it’s not about what people say about you, but who the people are that say those words in the first place. The One whose opinion matters looks on you as His own child that He loves with a perfect love. Let that drive away all other voices today. He loves you, and that’s more than enough.