I think back to my childhood and sadly recall those I treated less-than-kindly growing up. As I’ve grown in my walk with the Lord, He’s given me the ability to go back and apologize to some. Though they have offered forgiveness, I know the wounds words can cause and how they try to shape us, for better or worse, throughout our lives. In Zechariah’s short seven years, he’s already walked on both sides of the spectrum; hopefully learning through both at a young age, versus waiting far beyond it’s too late.
Last year he made a pretty poor choice regarding a classmate who was a little different from him. He led some jokes, got caught, and then cried for two days afterwards. We’ve visited that encounter many times in conversation and talked a lot about how he, and likely the other boy, felt during and after it happened. Along with what he would have done different if he could go back in time.
I recently found out that this summer, he was on the receiving end of other’s jests. Boys would slyly sneak under the bathroom stall and crack jokes when he was in one of the most vulnerable of positions. He plowed through bravely but the marks and fears that have tried to attach to him since then are still there and the memory of those encounters hasn’t yet gone away. Even I can remember some of the hurtful actions and words spoken over me by peers – and those I spoke to others – over thirty years ago. It’s amazing how the negative lodges in our minds and identities trying to constantly compete for our focus and lie to us about who we really are.
“You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)
It’s not just second graders who need help discerning truth from a lie. The wiles of Satan know no age boundary. And just like those boys in the bathroom, it’s amazing how stealthily Satan creeps in to try and tear us down when we’re in the most vulnerable of places. It hurts. And he uses other people to hurt us and whisper lies as well. But God’s truth will always trump Satan’s lies. Jesus said, “My sheep know My voice and a stranger’s they won’t follow.” (John 10:4-5). He didn’t say we wouldn’t hear the stranger’s voice from time to time; He said we just wouldn’t follow it. It’s our responsibility to follow that voice of the Shephard that speaks truth. The truth He wants to remind you of today is that you are His masterpiece. You were not a mistake. God knew and planned the exact moment you would be born and His purposes for you are great.
He has a plan for you. It is a plan to take all the hurt, the lies and the bad and turn it around for good. These experiences Zechariah has had, on both the giving and receiving ends, haven’t been pleasant. But already he’s learning from them both. He’s learning empathy and compassion. He’s learning forgiveness and grace. He’s being shaped into who God has created him to be. The same way you and I are today, no matter our age.
We can’t go back and erase time, but we can give to God the hurts we may have endured alone the way. Regardless of what you are facing or whatever you’ve faced, there is hope. Hold fast to God’s truth and remember, wherever you’ve been, wherever you are, you are not alone. When we’re at our lowest, He’s by our side, catching our tears and urging us on. Let this be your motivation to keep moving forward. Your life is a gift and you can press on today.