Sticks and Stones

When I read the words, I take note, mark them down.  But it's days later when I live them.
Years, I lie listening to the taunt of names ringing off my interior walls, ones from the past that never drifted far and away:  Loser.  Mess.  Failure.  They are signs nailed overhead, nailed through me, naming me.  The stars are blinking out.  (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)
My names sound different, but deep down, they are just the same:  Burden, broken, unlovable, worthless, failure.  For years I carried them, emblazoned across my forehead, across my soul, across my life.  Until that day when chains of Shame fell off me and all the names "nailed through me" fell off, too.

But they didn't leave me unscathed, those names.  They left me marked, wounded.  And always with the fear that names and chains would find their way back to me.

We are bantering back and forth, and I joke first.  Then he does it, too.  The words slip out of his mouth in jest, but they land heavy in a wounded place.  "You're not poor, just sorry."

Someone else jumps in, tries to illuminate.  "He doesn't mean you're a sorry person, just in a sorry state."

I feign playful anger, try to convince them both that what's been said is not only untrue but unkind.  But I'm not angry at all.  Just hurt and sad, fighting desperately to keep the name from sticking, keep it from taking up residence in the marks left by all the names I've held before.

Later I look up the definition of "sorry" and I know why the word wants to find a home in my soul:  Deplorable, pitiful, good for nothing, merit-less.  All these, they echo the names I carried for two decades of life:  Burden, broken, unlovable, worthless, failure.  And when I say echo, I really mean shout.

How do we keep words like these from naming us, from taking up residence in our deep-down broken places?

The spiritual answer declares that it doesn't matter what other people say about us--only what God says.  The real answer is harder to swallow, harder to live:  It doesn't matter what God says about us either--only what we believe about ourselves.

This I learned in those painful healing years when my Shame was slowly being replaced by His Grace.  The day of chain breaking was the day I realized I believed the truth God had spoken over me from the day of my beginning:  I am worthy of love.

Sometimes the names are casually spoken and hardly meant.  Sometimes they are spelled out and ruthlessly given.  Either way, they cut deep, leave us reeling.  And as the names claw their way into our souls, we have a choice to make.  Do we believe the words that echo our worst fears, paralyze us in relationship, confirm what we always thought to be true?  Or do we choose instead to believe the One Who loved us and named us His from the very beginning of all days?

Today I choose the latter.  It isn't a once-for-all decision.  The wounds of Shame names still run deep.  And each time the pain words find voice, I have to choose again.  Today I take the name Sorry and throw it in the fire of His love for me, watch it be consumed by Truth.  And then I trace my fingers slow across the name I've always had but didn't hold until that day Grace delivered me from Shame:  Worthy of Love.

Yes, this is my true name.  The one I've finally let Him nail through me.  The one I never want to be free from.

And it's your name, too, if you will only choose to believe Him.

Choose it, Beloved.  Choose it.


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