Sunday, February 24, 2013

Rend the curtain

Shane Koycsan’s  spoken voice poem called To This Day,  is a poignant description of the effects of bullying.  “Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me” is a hollow phrase when it is remembered that the long-term effect of name-calling and other harassment is to create a divide, or draw a curtain between the one hearing and the one speaking. 
A bullied child is a lonely child.  He/she does not have permission to step into the inner circle.  This lack of acceptance creates a lack of relationship, which can have long-term effects because there is not a way for the child to learn what friendship means.  To learn what it means to love and be loved.

It is not the pain of the name; it is the pain of loneliness and rejection.

Names will hurt; they will hurt for a long, long time.

I frequently noted that the children most likely to bully were not mean or arrogant.  In my assessment, they were afraid.  Often, they were afraid of losing esteem from others or afraid of looking stupid.  More often than not, they were afraid of someone who was different – as if the difference of someone else reflected poorly on them.  If he doesn’t like the same football team, if she doesn’t dress the same way, if he isn’t interested in the same things, if she doesn’t know the rules about what is cool, then maybe what I am doing is wrong. 

The bullied child must be isolated so the insecurities of the bully can be appeased.  
Fear becomes contempt.  A curtain is drawn and a child is isolated from a relationship.

I find this to be equally true of adults.

I was thinking about the concept of fear becoming contempt when I was reading Numbers chapter 14.  Here the Children of Israel react in fear to what ten of the spies sent to the promise land have to report:

However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. . . Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.”  So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height.  Numbers 11: 31. . .32-33 (ESV)

Not even the words of Joshua and Caleb could ease the fear and prevent the Israelites from rebelling against God.  In chapter 14, verse 11, the LORD asks Moses:

“How long will this people despise me? Numbers 14: 11 (ESV)

Their fear turned to contempt.  They drew up a curtain and separated themselves from a relationship with God. 

It’s all about the relationship.  When there is a curtain, the relationship suffers.

I know in my heart I am not capable of saving myself.  This creates a fear that permeates my life, and breath, and soul.  One would think that this fear would turn me to God, yet I cling to the sin that I should trust only myself.  God has the strength I desire so my fear about my situation becomes contempt for God. 

My sin, my fear, my lack of trust, my pride all draw up a curtain between God and me. 

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. Matthew 27:50-51

This is God’s response to my fear and my contempt.  Jesus gives His life and God’s love rips the curtain from top to bottom.
It’s all about the relationship.  In bullying and in faith; it’s about the relationship. And only God can mend that relationship.

Here are God’s words to those who are being bullied and to those of us who draw our own relationship curtains: TRUST

Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
    all day long an attacker oppresses me;
 my enemies trample on me all day long,
    for many attack me proudly.
 When I am afraid,
    I put my trust in you.
 In God, whose word I praise,
    in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
    What can flesh do to me?
 All day long they injure my cause;
    all their thoughts are against me for evil.
 They stir up strife, they lurk;
    they watch my steps,
    as they have waited for my life.
For their crime will they escape?
    In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!
You have kept count of my tossings;
    put my tears in your bottle.
    Are they not in your book?
 Then my enemies will turn back
    in the day when I call.
    This I know, thatGod is for me.
 In God, whose word I praise,

    in the Lord, whose word I praise,
 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
    What can man do to me? Psalm 56: 1-11

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