A few weeks ago I managed to fall head first in a Texas football stadium and dislocate, as well as fracture, my elbow.
And let me tell you, that’ll put a damper on your mood, mostly because a dislocated and fractured elbow hurts. It HURTS, people.
Overall I’m doing well, and my arm gains a little more range of motion each week. I wish I’d never dived down rows of concrete seats, of course, but this accident has brought me face-to-face with all kinds of goodness, Love coming down in a hundred ways. But those couple of days after the accident? Well, on a cranky scale of 1 to 10, I dialed in around 45.
This fact did not add up to a super fun experience for my husband (who, for the record, is an amazing caretaker). One afternoon as my pain meds lulled and my mood plummeted, I snapped at him over some inconsequential thing. He sighed and gave me a piercing look before dropping a hard truth about myself, one that’s not flattering in the least. But it was accurate. I felt it as soon as he said it, like a mirror had been held in front of me and I was able to see that undesirable (sinful!) part of my makeup.
It exposed something about me I needed to hear and needed to change on the double.
Yep, sometimes it’s necessary for us to take our hands away from our ears and experience the rebuke of painful truth. In the end, those words — hard to hear though they may be — are for us.
If we hear them and work to change for the better because of them, we’re closer to reflecting the character of Jesus.
On the other hand, dare I say we need to sometimes do the exact opposite and reject words from others.
If you’re like me and close your eyes for just a moment, you can likely picture where you were when a particularly difficult conversation occurred, a conversation when someone offered you words that weren’t for you. They didn’t reflect an accurate picture of you or your circumstances, and they may well have been entirely disproportionate to what the situation called for. But you digested them just the same, and as you did so, you felt your heart sink like lead.
Not long ago, my friend Salena and I discussed this very thing. Flanking the gas stove in my living room on that chilly day, we cupped hands around our mugs of coffee and tea. At one point, I remarked, “It can be hard not to cup my heart around ugly words.”
Setting down her mug, Salena responded . . .
“Sometimes you just have to pivot from toxic to truth.” She turned her body from the wood stove to the front door. “Just pi-vot.”
I haven’t been able to forget those words she uttered because often I do the opposite of this.
I let toxic words (and actions) settle somewhere deep inside me — I take them to heart.
The enemy puts them on a loop, and instead of pivoting from them, I let those harsh untruths permeate.
Of course, there is due cause for giving attention to hard words if the person speaking them is proven a trusted source for rebuke (like my husband in the story mentioned earlier).
But if that person speaking to you — be it the little known co-worker the next cubicle over or the well known family member over Christmas dinner — has not proven a wise, safe voice of wisdom in your life, then refuse to take her words to heart. Instead, just pivot.
A long time ago, the Lord gave me an image of our hearts being like the Old Testament tabernacle. The tabernacle consisted of three primary areas: the outer courtyard, the holy place, and the inner holy of holies.
When it comes to our hearts, parts are for many at the entrance, or outer courtyard. Parts are a more holy place where safe people may cross the threshold. And still parts are for just you and God alone, a holy of holies.
Unsafe people and their words do not get inner access to your heart. The end. When they try, picture yourself pivoting away from them and moving toward Truth.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17)
When difficult words come our way, may each of us have the wisdom to know when to listen and when to pivot. And may each of us experience the freedom found in clinging to Jesus’ words of unmistakable truth.