I find a great deal of joy in my volunteer work. I get to work with a number of long term and short term volunteers. Often times we get people who show up for just a couple hours and that is great. I appreciate their time. Sometimes we get people who don’t know what they are getting into or just don’t want to be there and thus have a bad attitude. I appreciate their time as well. I try not to differentiate which ones will serve me but just treat their time as valuable. Not true of everyone I work with as they will dismiss people just by their look. Recently this happened in the case of a young volunteer who was in elementary school and only signed up for a couple hours. Small and unassuming. My partners dismissed him as worthless. I had other ideas.
Matthew 10:30-31 “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” We are valued by God. He even sent Jesus as a sacrifice. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” We are worth the life of the Son. Consider that for a moment. This is priceless. Jesus understood the value of individuals and was willing to die for each of us. His life reflected love for us. Jesus embraced everyone including children. I try to reflect this in the way I treat others.
How foolish it is to dismiss anyone as not worth it. I was determined to show this young person that he was valued. On this day we were planting so we set to our task. To my surprise, this young man proved himself energetic. We moved quickly and efficiently. I showed him how to plant. He taught me how to count to 59 in Spanish. We talked about our common interest in animals. It was a joy to work with this young man. I hope he had a great time and would want to volunteer more in the future. He left after a couple hours as I continued to plant. I grinned as I realized how blessed I was to have had the privilege of working with this nice young man. I was glad I did not dismiss his value. I hope to see him again.
True story. I do a lot of weeding. Looking around for plants that don’t belong. There is one weed in particular that is very elusive. It is much easier to see in the sunlight. The other day I was pulling weeds but the day was mostly overcast. It was very difficult to locate the elusive plants. Then it happened. The sun peeked out for just a few seconds revealing a small area covered by the weed. I dove in and started pulling. I got only one as clouds covered the sun. Annoyed, I angrily scoured the area for the rest. It took forever to find everything without the light of the sun and I could not be sure I got them all. I harrumphed as I moved on to another area.
Sure enough the same scenario! I dove in to get one weed when the light disappeared. Doubly annoyed I searched as best I could for the rest. No telling how many I missed without the light I needed. I moved on hoping I got them all but not confident. In another area, it happened again. This time I laughed out loud. “God! You are so funny!” I grinned as I dove in after the weeds and the light disappeared. Scouring the area I wondered … Did God really have a sense of humor?
There are definitely things I find funny in the Bible. The only answer I could come up with was this, Genesis 1:27 “God created man in His own image…” People have a sense of humor (for the most part) so you might be able to infer that we get this from God’s ability to make things humorous. Definitely, something to think about. It made some sense. But there is more.
I finished as best I could and began to walk away. As I did, the sun came out again. Brighter and longer than any other time that day. I turned around expecting to be able to finish the job, only to find the job complete. I did find at least a majority of the weeds without sunshine. As I viewed the area a number of things dawned on me. John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness…” God makes light and reveals Himself in really cool ways. I had a certain amount of apprehension about what I was doing. John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” I was in an environment I love, doing something I like, yet I was having attitude. Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” I then wondered. Coincidence or was He helping me get my job done by leading me to the areas that needed attention? No humor intended? Also, I realized that I had been doing my job angrily. James 1:20 “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”
Perhaps God was bringing light to my foolish behavior? Maybe some combination of those things. I’m not sure. As I surveyed the area, thinking about the nature of God and how He can take a simple task and reveal concepts that help me, I thanked Him for light, help, peace, correction, as well as the ability to laugh.
When I was 9 years old my father left for the first time. His alcohol abuse was ruining our family. It wounded me in a way that would stick for a long time. This isn’t an unusual situation. It happens all the time, right? The problem was what happened next. The next day I wanted to escape. I left for school early and sat at the entrance. A friend walked up and asked what was wrong. I shared. His next comment stuck like glue … “I know someone else this happened to and they are messed up. Statistics show that you will probably turn out just like your father.” In itself that might not change somebodies course in life but it was reinforced. Over the next few years I was bombarded by comments like, “You look like your father.” and “You do that just like your father.” Pair that with daily bullying in school and you add comments like”dumb, fat, stupid, unliked, unathletic, jerk, nerd, gay, homo and small.” Heap on poor treatment from teachers who new my father along with family members and friends who did not portray the best example. Nobody really knew how much I was hurting. It wasn’t really on any individual but the bottom line it caused me to consider myself worthless. How is it that I turned out? I have an answer for this.
Proverbes 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. ” The power of death! Literally, words could do more than break bones, they could kill! I was alive but I was living proof that words could cut deep. However, there is a message of hope too. Life! I needed to be free of those terrible lies which had been repeated to me. It started with a promise. Proverbs 16:7 “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” I just needed to be more like Jesus and not let what other people thought to guide my way of thinking. Psalm 118:8 “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” I was giving those lies too much weight when I should be looking to God’s affirmation. I did realize that I needed to forgive those who wronged me. Mathew 6:14 “For if you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
There was another very important part of my healing process. I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that my biological father did not love me enough to give up drinking until I realized that my heavenly Father loved me enough to sacrifice His son. Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Once I began to understand this one thing it opened the doors to the rest. I needed this truth to stand on to make the hurt melt away and free myself from the lies that were ingrained into character. I realized that I also needed forgiveness from God and others I had treated wrongly because of this hurt I carried. The suffering I had endured had carried over into my relationships. Not only that but I started noticing something. Hurt people hurt people. People who treated me poorly were likely hurting themselves. It allowed me a sympathy for them.
1. If you have been hurt by words then pray right now for God to heal those wounds.
2. Pray for help in forgiving those who have wronged you.
3. Pray that God would forgive you for empowering others words over His own.
More than 40 years later I can still sometimes feel that hurt. What I can claim now is victory in Jesus. Matthew 5:11,12 “Blessed are those who people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great…” Today I am more resilient than ever when it comes to name calling. Now I understand better that I am blessed because of people who called me names. I am in fact much more likely to speak positively and want to help those I see hurting. After all isn’t that what Jesus would have done? I can’t help but think what if. What if my very young friend showed mercy and offered encouragement instead of comdemnation. What if a teacher said you can instead of you can’t. What if people just kept quiet instead of using hurtful words? I will choose to rise above what people say and look to my Father for his approval.
My prayer for you is that you will trust in God for your sustenance instead of the words of man.