I have a Super Power. Well, three Super Powers, actually.
The first is that, when I’m stressed, I clean my house. If I get into a fight with my husband, or a Cooper kid sasses me, I tackle baseboards and blinds and the gunk around the tub. I call it “Angry Cleaning,” and it’s awesome. I love this Super Power. Were it not for an occasional fight with Jon/sassy kid, my house would be gross.
The second is that, also when I’m stressed, I lose weight. Contrary to the stress-eating that most people do, I stress-starve. I don’t do it on purpose. I just get so sick to my stomach, I can’t eat. It’s not healthy and I’m not promoting it. It’s just kinda nice, when my life is hard, to walk past a mirror and go, “Yo, at least I look good.” That’s all I’m saying.
(The moral of this story: if you ever stop by unannounced and my house spotless and I’m skinny, don’t be a hater. Be worried.)
But this post isn’t about those Super Powers. It’s about my third one.
Over the last few weeks, things in my personal life unraveled
a bit a lot. There’s a bunch of hard parenting stuff I won’t go into. And there’s also the depression/anxiety episode that sucked a few weeks out of my life. And then there was, what would have been, my son’s 18th birthday.
Just really hard stuff.
But in the midst of all of that, someone I love very much—let’s just call this person Pat—said some very hurtful things to me. One day, Pat and I got into a big argument about some precious-to-me things, and Pat went straight for the jugular. I was shocked. Pat doesn’t normally do this. Pat is usually careful with words. But this time, Pat said some hurtful and stupid things.
But, never fear. I have a Super Power! It’s the ability to argue well, especially against stupid, hurtful, shocking things. I can think on my feet and articulate my position with laser precision.
Like Zorro, I am.
If I want to REALLY exercise my Super Power to its fullest potential, give me a day or two and some time to write it out. I write even better than I talk. I will replay our conversation over and over in my head (while also Angry Cleaning). And, then, I will craft the most persuasive email you’ve ever clicked your mouse on. I will systematically deconstruct your argument. I will defend myself, list all the reasons why I’m justified, continue to show you (in list form, of course) all the ways you are wrong, and also throw in enough scripture to make you think God, Himself, was speaking through me.
And, heaven forbid, should you walk through the door before I have finished writing my response, it will all come blasting out of my mouth, unedited. I will yield a swift verbal sword and it will cut with such speed that you will be lying there in pieces and you will not know what sliced you.
This is how I roll, and it sucks.
This Super Power would be great if I were an attorney. Or maybe if I were being persecuted for my faith and needed to defend myself against an anti-Christian regime. But, I am neither. This Super Power does not help me in personal relationships. It hurts me. And my relationships. Mostly, this Super Power is very, very bad.
So, the other day when Pat, whom I love, spoke stupid things to me that hurt and shocked, I knew what was about to happen in my brain. Not only would I erect an impenetrable response, but I’d absorb Pat’s words into my identity.
Maybe you are Teflon, and allow words to slide off you. I’m not. I’m a sponge, and I absorb everything. I’m Zorro, the Sponge.
(That’s a whole ‘nother post, right there.)
I also know that when I would finally reply to Pat, it would not flow from a place of love for Pat. It would flow from self-preservation and pride and retaliation. And ultimately, our relationship would be permanently damaged.
I have dealt with this pattern as long as I can remember.
You know, words are powerful. The Bible says that we have the ability to speak life or death into a person. The words Pat spoke to me felt like death, truly. It was probably the most hurtful thing anyone has ever said to me, because it came from a person I love, and it spoke to one of my biggest insecurities about myself.
The moment Pat left my presence was a defining moment for me. As the words hung like thick, black smoke in the air, I had a decision to make: Either proceed with the crafting of the ultimate response, as usual, or think differently than I ever have my whole life…and respond in love.
I made a conscious decision to think differently.
Though, I knew it would not come easily, because I’m dealing with thought patterns I’ve practiced my entire life. I was about to engage in a war with my brain and everything I knew to think. I could not be trusted to think Sandy Thoughts. I had to choose to think Jesus Thoughts, so I could eventually have a Jesus Response.
I’ve been pressing into God this year—Depth Through Discipline, remember? And remember when I told you I was focusing on one spiritual discipline each month? Well, this month, I’ve been immersing myself in worship.
For an hour or more every day, I’m sitting in God’s presence to worship Him. I don’t always literally sit. Sometimes I kneel or bow or lay flat on the floor. I turn on worship music and I sing. I light a candle. I thank God for Who He is and what He’s done for me. I cry a lot.
This, in addition to the other disciplines I’ve already put into practice, has been life-altering.
In fact, it is only because I’ve been devoting hours a day in prayer and worship that I was drawn to the Cross of Christ instead of the computer keyboard.
The first thing I chose to do that day was turn on worship music and begin singing, This was not easy. I was sad and hurt and wanted to do anything EXCEPT worship.
When that was over, I opened up the Bible and began reading. A lot. Out loud.
When that was over, I prayed. I prayed while I worked at home. I prayed scripture-based prayers for myself and for Pat. I prayed for my mind. I prayed God would help me repel Pat’s words. I prayed to be Teflon. I prayed for the supernatural ability to forgive Pat, even if Pat never apologizes.
Later, when I drove, I turned on more worship music and sang again. When I exercised, I listened to sermons and podcasts full of truth and love and forgiveness. When I woke up, I turned on music. When I went to bed, I fell asleep reading God’s word.
This went on for days.
Every time I was tempted to recount the conversation and the hurtful words Pat spoke, I wrestled those thoughts down and replaced them with God’s word. It was, by far, the most aggressive battle against my thoughts I have ever had.
You guys, this is how we take every thought into captivity and make them obedient to Christ. This is how we renew our minds. This is how we don’t get sucked into a funk. This is how we repel lies and walk in truth. This is how Living Water springs from us. This is how we overflow with Life instead of death.
When the moment finally came for me to speak to Pat, I chose to remain silent, and I chose to forgive. I don’t know who was more surprised, me or Pat. This is not at all like me. And that’s precisely the point, I suppose. I don’t want to be like me. I want to be like Jesus.
I sense there will be a time in the future when I will need to resolve this issue with Pat. For Pat’s sake, Pat should know how much the words hurt and why. But before I do, I want to be certain it flows from a place of love for God and love for Pat, and not from a place of pain and insecurity.
Maybe some of you feel bruised and broken because someone has spoken death over you. This is what I have to offer you: Please, before you respond, fill your heart and mind with Jesus. Jesus music, Jesus words, Jesus books, Jesus prayers.
Just keep filling yourself in every possible way.
Don’t speak to the person who hurt you until you do this.
When you do speak, it will sound more like God’s voice, than yours. It’s amazing! It will be life-giving, not life-sucking. It will be Truth and Light, not lies and darkness.
It will be Jesus, not you.
Of all the Super Powers I’ve ever had, this one is, by far, the best. Well, this and Angry Cleaning. I still really like Angry Cleaning.
This is part of an ongoing series called Depth Through Discipline.
You can read all the posts in this series here.