|September 13, 2010
One Last Name
“Now that we know what we have – Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God – let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all – all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help” (Hebrews 4:14-16 MSG). Friend to Friend
For almost forty years, Margaret lived with word-inflicted wounds that nearly destroyed her life. From the first day she attended her one room schoolhouse, she and her teacher, Ms. Garner, didn’t get along. Ms. Garner was harsh, bitter, and cruel, and could not tolerate Margaret’s childish idiosyncrasies. For years, the tension between the two built up pressure.
Margaret was nine-years-old when the cataclysmic day occurred – the one that ripped her world apart. It happened after recess when she frantically raced into class, late again. As she burst through the doors, she faced her peers jeering at her maliciously.
“Margaret!” Ms. Garner shouted. “We have been waiting for you! Get up here to the front of the class, right now!”
Margaret walked slowly to the teacher’s desk, was told to face the class, and then the nightmare began.
Ms. Garner ranted, “Boys and girls, Margaret has been a bad girl. I have tried to help her to be responsible. But, apparently, she doesn’t want to learn. So we must teach her a lesson. We must force her to face what a selfish person she has become. I want each of you to come to the front of the room, take a piece of chalk, and write something bad about Margaret on the blackboard. Maybe this experience will motivate her to become a better person!”
Margaret stood frozen next to Ms. Garner. One by one, the students began a silent procession to the blackboard. One by one, the students wrote their life-smothering words, slowly extinguishing the light in Margaret’s soul. “Margaret is stupid! Margaret is selfish! Margaret is fat! Margaret is a dummy!” On and on they wrote until twenty-five terrible scribblings of Margaret’s “badness” filled the chalkboard.
The venomous accusations taunted Margaret in what felt like the longest day of her life. After walking home with each caustic word indelibly written on her heart, she crawled into her bed, claimed sickness, and tried to cry the pain away. But the pain never left, and forty years later she slumped in the waiting room of a psychologist’s office, still cringing in the shadow of those twenty-five sentences.
Jesus understands what it feels like to have people call you names. People called him a blasphemer (Matthew 9:3), the prince of demons (Matthew 9:34), an evil spirit (Mark 3:30), and a law breaker (Mark 2:24). His own family said that he was crazy (Mark 3:21). Yes, He knows what it feels like to have a broken heart – both figuratively and physically.
Jesus understands our hurt because He experienced it for Himself. Eugene Peterson, in his work, The Message wrote: “Now that we know what we have – Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God – let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all – all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help” (Hebrews 4:14-16 MSG).
Let’s go back to Margaret for a moment. After decades of depression and anxiety, she had finally sought help from a psychologist. Two long years of weekly counseling helped Margaret to finally extricate herself from her past. It had been a long and difficult road, but she smiled at her counselor (how long it had been since she’d smiled!) as they talked about her readiness to move on.
“Well, Margaret,” the counselor said softly, “I guess its graduation day for you. How are you feeling?”
After a long silence, Margaret spoke. “I…I’m okay.”
The counselor hesitated. “Margaret, I know this will be difficult, but just to make sure you’re ready to move on, I am going to ask you to do something. I want to go back to your schoolroom and detail the events of that day. Take your time. Describe each of the children as they approached the blackboard; remember what they wrote and how you felt – all twenty-five students.”
In a way, this would be easy for Margaret. For forty years she had remembered every detail. And yet, to go through the nightmare one more time would take every bit of strength she had. After a long silence, she began the painful description. One by one, she described each of the students vividly, as though she had just seen them, stopping periodically to regain her composure, forcing herself to face each of those students one more time.
Finally, she was finished, and the tears would not stop, could not stop. Margaret cried a long time before she realized someone was whispering her name. “Margaret. Margaret. Margaret.” She looked up to see her counselor staring into her eyes, saying her name over and over again. Margaret stopped crying for a moment.
“Margaret. You…you left out one person.”
“I certainly did not! I have lived with this story for forty years. I know every student by heart.”
“No, Margaret, you did forget someone. See, he’s sitting in the back of the classroom. He’s standing up, walking toward your teacher, Ms. Garner. She is handing him a piece of chalk and he’s taking it, Margaret, he’s taking it! Now he’s walking over to the blackboard and picking up an eraser. He is erasing every one of the sentences the students wrote. They are gone! Margaret, they are gone! Now he’s turning and looking at you, Margaret. Do you recognize him yet? Yes, his name is Jesus. Look, he’s writing new sentences on the board. ‘Margaret is loved. Margaret is beautiful. Margaret is gentle and kind. Margaret is strong. Margaret has great courage.'”
And Margaret began to weep. But very quickly, the weeping turned into a smile, and then into laughter, and then into tears of joy.” (This story of Margaret was taken from Ron Lee’s book, Mistreated).
For forty years Margaret had limped through life with the pain of a broken heart. But finally she allowed Jesus, the Healer, the Comforter, and the Great Physician, to bind up the broken heart and allow it to heal.
What is Jesus writing on the chalkboard about you?
You are chosen.
You are dearly loved.
You are holy.
You are beautiful.
You are pure.
You are my bride.
I have your name engraved on the palm of my hand.
Dear Lord, thank You that I am a new creation in Christ Jesus. I can almost picture You walking to the front of the room and writing my new identity in Christ on the board. Help me to see myself as you see me and never believe the lies that tell me otherwise.
In Jesus’ name,