"Words kill, words give life: they're either poison or fruit--you choose." -- Proverbs 18:21 The Message
Eyes cast down as others come in prayer, thinking of those words that have slain and those that have raised up. And though raised up, those first words have left tender scars...reminders from whence we came. I look up as a young boy walks to his father to pray. I know the rocky road they've traveled and tears fill my eyes wishing for what I don't have and praying for these two so fragile and vulnerable...The boy talks quietly to dad and Dad replies gently in the boy's ear as if no one else is in the room. A scene not played out often enough but has begun rehearsal in the privacy of home...Practice makes perfect, you know. Dad wraps an arm around the boy's shoulder, heads bow, and Dad prays over the son he loves so deeply. As he prays, he grips the boy tighter...Soulful God-words begin to lift up a boy that doesn't trust enough to believe...Words give life...Dad wipes away his own tears and holds the boy even tighter. Those prayer words raise up both man and boy. The boy begins to trust just a little and the father embraces--cords that bind both together in the places where wounds made weak. Now cords of prayer and embracing arms make strong as both of them learn more and hold on to those words that raise up. This beautiful picture of father and son...a work in progress and a masterpiece of grace. I was blessed in seeing it--recognizing the reflection of my Abba and me, knowing that His words and His embrace made me stronger in those scarred and weak places.
Then this week, I heard a story of a boy lost in the tide of horrendous abuse and brokenness of family--his own mom guilty for not saving him, though she fought to protect. She stood between the killing dragon and her boy, but she lost the battle as she herself was "involved in the story"--not a reluctant witness, but a slain victim. And we think, "but a mother should fight to the death" and some brag what grander feats they would have achieved if they had been in her place. But those of us who've been there understand those killing words the mom lived herself and we see her hidden mortal wounds that bled out slowly, stealing life away.
She was locked away for failing to be a dragon slayer--convicting words that drove a knife deeper in her hidden wounds. Even when chains were loosed and locks undone, those same old words and new ones defeated her. Once again, she was taken away. This time, the bars weren't the instruments that confined her. She was bound by killing words she couldn't outrun or outfight. Today, the boy tells his story and has every right to hate or resent--she tells hers in the midst of it. Some wonder, "Did she really love the boy or herself more?" But they aren't part of the story...Only she and the boy knows. After all was said and done, the boy found hope in the resurrecting words of a coach and with leather ball and cheering fans, the boy was made strong in the places where words made weak. He rises up a dragon slayer and fights with all his might and has become the hero in the story. Now, with his own battle fought and won, he fights for her. His words--he still loves her, forgives her..."She'll always be my mom...." Those words strike against those that inflicted mortal wounds made by another so long ago--making mother strong in those places where killing words have made weak. And once again, locks are undone and the prisoner is set free. This time, they fight together--this mother and son--striking down those killing words and raising each other up with words that give life. It's the story in reverse or maybe it's just this circle we call life...and forgiveness. And like the other story of father and son, they are a work in progress, an unfinished masterpiece designed by Grace.
The power of forgiveness is a mystery to me as my own scenes flash before me...As I think of those killing words...both given and received across generations. And I realize that forgiveness is the sword that overcomes...With pain and sorrow, I remember when dragons weren't slain for me and when I failed to slay dragons for my own no matter how hard I tried...Those wounds and scars go deep. But a wise one reminds me that some of those dragons have already been slain. I remember and cherish words that come randomly by text, "I love you, Mom." Or late one night from another son, "Mom, I just want you to know I really love you." Or the call, "Mom, I made Sergeant..." Or when I was ready to give up, Daughter wrote a cherished letter..."Just breathe, Mom..." And now the excitement in her voice when she calls, "I have an idea about my class...What do you think?" And she and I share ideas and thoughts in teaching, seeking life-giving words and colors for very young ones. Or when son or daughter calls, "Mom, will you pray for...?" Or "Mom, come have lunch with me..." And some words come much more easily for me now than they used to somehow, "I love you, Son...God has a plan for you, Daughter...I'm proud of you...You can do this...I'm praying for you...I'm sorry."
Even when we don't realize it, we're slaying dragons. The scars are still there--yes, they are still tender and sometimes painful but they serve as reminders of how far we've come. But with each life-giving word and each dragon slain, we are making each other stronger in the weak places. Dragon slayers--my children and me, though I'm not sure they always see it yet. We are a work in progress and, though unfinished, a masterpiece of Grace...And, for that, I am thankful.
"But now, this is what the Lord says—He who created you, Jacob, He who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I HAVE REDEEMED YOU; I have summoned you by name;
YOU ARE MINE.
When you pass through the waters, I WILL BE WITH YOU, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. FOR I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD,
the Holy One of Israel, YOUR SAVIOR...
Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east, and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
BRING MY SONS FROM AFAR AND MY DAUGHTERS FROM THE ENDS OF THE EARTH—everyone who is called by My name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made...”