Can we talk?
There are times on this road when we run into ambushes and a hail of arrows comes out of nowhere. Accusations. Misunderstanding. Jealousy. Lies. Slander. Outright hatred.
The thing about an ambush is that it is meant to catch you off-guard with your shield down. That’s why the source of them is often a shock. David wrote in Psalm 55: “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshippers.”
I sometimes wonder if this close friend was Jonathan.
It’s happened again. I spent another restless night vacillating between what-did-I-say incredulity and forming I-should-have-said arguments with someone who was not even there. My actions were completely misunderstood and the fiery darts aimed at my head remind me of the time I accidentally leaned too close to the Bunsen burner in chem class. Ka-ploof!
I’ve said a lot of stupid things in my time. I’ve been guilty of monopolizing a conversation, of not taking enough time to understand another person’s point of view before responding, of trying to fix people who believed I was the one who needed to be fixed. I deserved a blast of “correction” in those circumstances. But this time my attempts to respond to a cry for help and to extend love stirred up a pocket of hatred which, although it comes from a source totally unrelated to me, is now aimed at me like I personally started World War II. And World War I. And the Black Plague.
I realized I was falling into the trap of being defensive, and entrenching myself in a position which is not what I really believe about who I am nor about who the other person is. I poured out my heart to the Lord.
“Remember what I told you? ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
So what do I do about this pain?
The first thing I saw this morning when I checked my messages was a short video by Tera Carissa Hodges posted by a friend. She was sharing something God showed her in the incident after Paul was shipwrecked on an island. While gathering firewood a poisonous snake latched onto his hand. The people’s reaction was that he must have been an evil person after all and this was something he deserved. “Karma”, if you like. In dream symbolism a snake can represent aggressive lies.
He shook it off. The poison had no effect on him. Instead the people marvelled and responded to the good news of the Kingdom of God revealed in Jesus. She entitled the video “Shake it off.”
Those were the words that stood out in answer to my question: Shake. It. Off.
Sometimes I walk around with those stupid arrows of cruel words stuck in me for far too long. I watch little children at the beach smash each other over the head with little plastic shovels. They cry, they forgive, they shake the sand from their hair and get on with life. Ten minutes later they are building something fabulous together — or somebody’s mom steps in.
Have you been unfairly attacked by someone close to you when you thought you were in a safe place?
Shake it off. God has plans even for this. You are his beloved child.