I have found many words written in and around my schools where I serve as the itinerant school counselor. Horrible sentiments, at times, and vile comments; lies full of heartache and hopelessness; cruel, death-speaking words. Some of these words have been there so long, scribbled or scratched onto surfaces. Did no one else notice? Are we blind to the pain of these words?
Have these ugly words become wallpaper to our eyes?
Jesus, forgive me for the times I am blind; teach me to see with the eyes of your Holy Spirit.
I see these words. I see them when I am meeting with students, when I am in the halls, when I am entering rooms, when I am administering tests, when I am teaching lessons. I see, and then I cannot un-see. I see the pain in the story these words tell – layers of despair that are cutting someone (or many “someones”) deeply. When I see them I passionately hate these death-giving words because they are a poison that too many have ingested. How can I protect my students and the people around me? What stops the reckless destruction inherent to the ugly words that are spewed onto the walls and surfaces of places that should be safe and full of growth?
This is my opportunity to tell you, dear hearts: I got your message – I see.
At first I tried to simply erase the words by giving them a firm scrubbing with wipes or putting some “elbow grease” into using a (large) eraser. It wasn’t enough. The words would reappear – sometimes the same, sometimes different, but just as ugly. Why did the erasure not work? It did not work – perhaps could not work fully – because I was attempting to erase something much deeper than words.
You cannot simply erase pain by pretending there was never hurt.
You cannot erase lies by pretending they never existed.
Jesus tells a short story of a person tormented by a demon. The demon was “cast out” — evicted. The “house” of this person’s heart was cleared out and swept clean, left sparkling and empty. Not long after, to this vacant house returned the demon, bringing along seven stronger and more horrid than itself, leaving the state of the heart-home far worse than before the “cleaning” (Luke 11:24-26).
Evicting the evil was not enough; the space needed to be filled with good. Our hearts are the same: if we strip out the ugliness, we need to replace it with fresh beauty. Too often we do lots of erasing and cleaning in our spaces but make no effort to adjust our living habits. Because of this lack of real change, what was filled with junk will be filled with even more junk again until we decide that we need a new lifestyle, a new perspective – just like the walls and desks of my schools.
Our hearts and minds are not meant to be junk shops, but they are also not meant to be sterile space. They are meant to be gloriously filled with life and love and hope.
I may not be able to simply erase the lies and the pain, but I can tell a different story. I can write the truth. I am telling a new story in Newtok and Mertarvik, in Tununak, in Quinhagak and Oscarville and Napaskiak. I am telling a new story – the real story – to myself, to my loved ones, and to my communities. It is in my power to do so. It is my right to tell the real story. Dear hearts, do you know you have the power to declare life to yourself and to those around you? That is our gift of authority through Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Healer. We know the real Story, the one in which we are called “Beloved. Remembered. Inscribed.” Whole, healed, free. Never forgotten and always loved. Worthy, forgiven, and full of destiny. Beloved.
Dear hearts, I got the message, and I am going to tell you the truth, now and always.
I refuse to let ugliness become the wallpaper of my life and heart. I refuse to let lies become the story for myself, my students, and my loved ones. Never again. It is time for a spring cleaning in our spaces. Strip out the dirty carpets and tear down the tatty wallpaper of your hearts, friends; toss out the broken furnishings and sweep out the rubbish. Then fill your empty places with life – new words of truth, fresh hope. And after you have taken authority in your heart, take authority in the space around you. Take authority to declare life over those who are not yet ready to declare it over themselves. When you feel too weak to remember, I will remind you. You are not alone.
What lies need evicted from your life today?
What are the new stories you will write today?
What truths do you need to remember today?
It is time for you to tell the real Story, beloved.