“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Since hearing that phrase on the playground years ago, I’ve learned that words can indeed hurt.
But I’ve also discovered a secret to not allowing them to be damaging.
I’ve been called a few zingers in my day, and I don’t have to reach back to elementary school to pull them up. In a recent Facebook thread, for instance, I was labeled a “Sidewalk Pharisee.”
The context was my involvement in sidewalk prayer advocacy, a ministry that takes place mainly in the context of the Red River Women’s Clinic, our state’s only abortion facility, on abortion day.
When I can, I join other sidewalk advocates there weekly to pray, and when possible, offer hope-filled literature and love to the abortion-vulnerable.
For most of the time I’ve been doing this, I hadn’t personally witnessed what we in the pro-life arena call a “save;” essentially the about-turn of someone who’d arrived intending to obtain an abortion.
But I’d heard of saves happening. And while we can’t know the exact circumstances or mindset of the potential clients, knowing many are reluctant, we try to approach them with the hope of a way out, and lead them to resources to help.
Recently, I was involved in two saves on the sidewalk, and it was in sharing a little about the first one — an experience that ended with me viewing, with the parents, the ultrasound of their sweet little babe — that the name-calling happened.
What the name-caller didn’t know was the beautiful series of events that led up to that moment, and how the miracle I witnessed will remain permanently embedded in my heart. It was amazing to be part of helping save a life, and living with the reality that someday, that life will bring life to others.
I’ll always be grateful for what God revealed to me that day. Much of it I cannot share, but I believe that someday, should I reach heaven, this moment will be one of the highlights as I look back on my life and any successes I might have helped effect.
So how does one let stinging words fall away? I’ll admit these words caused some sadness, but mostly because they contrasted so starkly the reality of that day. But in tapping into the God of love and life, harsh words lose their hold and float off, making room for others, like these from Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Reading this, I think of the woman who lashed out, and rather than be angry, I simply want to offer her my heart.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on June 3, 2017.]