Today was a knock down, drag-out kind of day.
I started with the best of intentions. My goals were aligned rightly with the things that matter to the heart of God. Thus, I declared battle. And I was caught unaware.
We began by reading the fictionalized biography of Mary Jemison; it's called "Indian Captive". The little white girl of the story was taken captive by Seneca Indians at the end of the 18th century. Ultimately, when given the choice, she chose to stay with her captors. (side note: if you are parenting a child from "hard places" this is a must for your reading list.)
We happened to be at the part of the story where Mary was talking with an Indian Woman who had taken her in. The woman was sharing how courageously animals of the forest dealt with hurt and misfortune. She challenged Mary, poor grieving girl that she was, to deal courageously with her hurt.
That was in the story.
In our house in suburbia chaos ensued. Tears. Screaming. Hysteria. Venomous words began to spew. They were totally out of proportion to situation.
Whoa! I was unprepared.
For I know a true thing: Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. We didn't have a mouth issue. We had an issue of the heart. Festering wounds. Bitterness. Ingratitude. The room fairly reeked of it. It was a nearly palpable evil.
While the rest of us talked about how deal with hurt and injustice this child REFUSED to engage - lost in rage. Nursing a grievance, holding in to the heart just as one would an infant. And the thing took on a life of its own.
It was an ugly few hours. I wish I could say I was a pinnacle of wisdom and kindness. I was not. Well at first I was, but as it drug on and on, and the Godzilla of Hurt marched through our living room, I eventually lost it. I said helpful things like, "What is coming out of your mouth right now is absolutely putrid.You're infecting all of us. " I used the highly effective parenting strategies of shame and guilt like a one-two punch. And the monster grew. It was the stuff of reality TV.
I'm not a big spanker, particularly with this child (for whom spanking generally does not resolve a thing). I try never to spank when angry. But holy hell did this kid need a whooping. And I delivered - mostly not furious. Mostly. Eventually, rage spent, this child could hear. Could receive.
"You will be hurt. Often, you will be inconvenienced and misunderstood. And when your heart is broken or wounded HURT fills those places. Then you have a choice. Will you allow the hurt to stay. Will you feed it, and watch it grow. Will you let it ferment, and mold and go rancid? Or will you take that HURT to Jesus and give it to Him? Will you let Him heal you? That is your choice. Because what I heard today was old HURT spewing out of a wounded heart. It was a little thing that caused it, but your heart was so filled with this poison-hurt it oozed out with the smallest opportunity. "
And this child says, "But I try, I try not to let those words come out of my mouth. I try to control it."
"How's that working for you?", I say, in my best Dr. Phil voice.
"Exactly. Heart work is God's work. Will you let go of your hurt and let God heal your heart?"
Pause. Sniff. Watery smile.
We've reconnected. The drama of the morning has been redeemed. At last, God may work. But this hurt, this bitterness it's insipid stuff. It can corrode a soul, a family, a church. It is a destroyer, and more lethal for its subtlety.
Oh God of Heaven, help us, for we are not immune. So prone to wander, so prone towards petty hurt, and long bitterness, that we can no longer smell its stench. Let us be sensitive to it. Quick to reconcile. Quick to forgive. Let the aroma of Christ be the sweet incense of my life.