"Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me."
That childhood rhyme is used as a defense against name-calling and verbal bullying. It was taught to children with the intent to increase resiliency, avoid physical retaliation, remain calm, encourage toughness, and to turn the other cheek. I am calling baloney on that.
Actually, that isn't even the accurate version of the poem, here it is:
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can also hurt me.
Stones and sticks break only skin, while words are ghosts that haunt me.
Slant and curved the word-sword falls, it pierces and sticks inside me.
Bats and bricks may ache through bones, but words can mortify me.
Pain from words has left its' scar, on mind, and heart that's tender.
Cuts and bruises have not healed, it's words that I remember.
― Ruby Redfort
Words actually can hurt you. They can crush, damage, and wound...deeply. Harsh, unkind words can long be remembered and felt. All of us can pull up a childhood memory that we remember vividly. We recall the place, the time, what we were wearing, and the exact words that were said. We can remember tears welling, pain in our hearts, and swallowing hard having to catch our breath from the blow of profound disappointment in another. Actually, I can remember feeling that way in the past couple of months, as an adult, being mistreated by another adult who supposedly "loved" me. We may have moved on and healed, but the words that left the scar are indelibly etched in our memory.
There are many forms of derogatory speech. Labeling is describing someone or something in a word or short phrase. The worst labels are those that self-inflicted. Sometimes we attach labels to ourselves by presuming what the actions of another meant. Sometimes we self-label because of repetitive negative behavior.
Here are some of mine: some given by others - some given by self
Over the years, I have learned that those labels do not have to own the definition of me and that I can determine if I accept them as truth. I actually can redefine the labels. There are many ways to do that but I want to talk about the one label I embraced and allowed to transform me.
"For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." Ephesians 2:10
Some bible translations say " For we are his workmanship". The Greek word translated "workmanship" is "poiema" from which we get the word poem. The Greek word for a poet, poietes, comes from this same word. In reference to a poet, this Greek word would denote one who has the extraordinary ability to write or create a literary masterpiece. Because Paul uses the word poiema to explain what happened when you became a child of God, it emphatically means that on the day you got saved, God put forth His most powerful and creative effort to make you new.
Once God was finished making you new, you became a masterpiece, skillfully and artfully created in Christ Jesus. There's nothing cheap about you at all! God's creative, artistic, intelligent genius went into your making.
Don't you think it's time to stop moaning about how dumb, stupid, ugly, or untalented you feel compared to others? Those "feelings" and "labels" are all lies. Some of that may have been true before you were born again, but none of it is true of you now that you are in Christ. God turned you into something spectacular. That's who you are now! So lay claim to your new identity and adjust your thinking and talking to reflect who you really are!
How do you believe you are a masterpiece? God uses three tools and I have written about each of these together and separately many times. Those tools are: His word, prayer and suffering.
Jesus finished the work of redemption on the cross and after his resurrection, he rose to heaven. It is from heaven that he is finishing his unfinished work: perfecting his church, his people. Christ helps us every day by equipping us for our work and our walk here on earth.
As we read God's word, understand it, meditate on it and feed on it the Word goes to work cleansing and nourishing us. As we pray, God's Spirit works in us to release power. And as we suffer, the Spirit of God ministers to us. Suffering drives us back to the word and prayer and the cycle is repeated.
Those aforementioned sticks and stones? They are a form of suffering. They are meant to ultimately, if we allow ourselves, find the Word of God. What God says about you is true. As a believer in Christ, you are made new and you are made into a masterpiece. Every disappointment, every hurt, every failure, every setback, every doubt, every hardship was and will be used to make you into exactly who God was an is creating you to be. You are an exquisite, intricate, complex work of art.
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it” Psalm 139:13-14
God is not like a doting father who’s oblivious to his child’s faults. Rather, He is your all-knowing, yet all-powerful Father in heaven who can envision what you will be when it is all said and done.
God can look at you and can see what you will become before you have actually become it.
We look at ourselves, create the myriad of labels and say, “I don’t get it. This doesn’t look like a perfect person. This doesn’t look like a work of beauty.”
But you are a work in progress. It is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. It is going to take all of your life on Earth. It won’t be completely finished until you get to heaven.
Then you will see that you indeed are a perfect work of art — God’s masterpiece. Embrace that label.