Reconciliation. It seems a rather innocuous word. A positive word, even. But to a woman who had endured abuse off and on for twenty years, who had just discovered the abhorrent and ongoing abuse of her daughter by the same man, the word shredded the few remains of hope she possessed. Go back to him? A mother can tolerate just about anything if it only affects her. When it reaches her children, however … well, it seemed a death sentence, a literal sacrifice of her children. It was a cruel request.
Well-intentioned church members continued to push. The Bible was clear: God hates divorce. Their thought progression concluded: If you divorce, you must hate God. They told her reconciliation was the only way to show true faith and obedience. They didn’t understand. They were clueless of reality, the extent of depravity and the depth of the open wounds. And yet they pushed. Reconciliation.
Nearly thirty years later she still cannot hear that word without cringing. It triggers her defenses. Regardless of the current context, negative associations and pain from her past continue to taint the word. In theory she sees its appeal, but simply can’t clear the hurdle her reality created.
Last week I got into a bit of trouble using two words together: adoption and redemption.
To me these are both beautiful words that describe the salvation God offers to those who believe. To others, however, the combination can present an acrid connotation.
We all have trigger words, ideas or concepts that set us on edge.
I need not continue. We know what they are. They may vary by individual, but they’re still there. The question is not what they might be, necessarily, but how they collide with truth. Do the perceptions we maintain affirm or conflict with God’s Word?
Please understand I am not invalidating our perceptions, our pain or our tangible realities. I only encourage us — you and me — to evaluate our positions in light of Truth.
The Bible does teach about adoption. That doesn’t mean God’s ideas of adoption flawlessly match the American experience or system of adoption. Frankly, it can’t because God is perfect and we are fallible. The Bible teaches about submission and modesty and reconciliation and redemption. Do we know what it really says? Do our understandings of these words align with God’s intent? God’s definitions may not match the message launched from pulpits. They may; they may not. But if we react out of our experiences, if we get defensive before listening, we could miss everything that matters.
I don’t want to argue specific points today. I simply want to challenge believers — you and me — to consider our experiences in light of God’s truth and not the other way around.
Too often we jump on our trigger words and envelope our pain in dogmatic arguments. We then interpret His Word in light of our understanding. That’s backwards, people. We need to jump into His Word first. His truth should be the basis by which we evaluate our experiences. It should be the foundation for what we believe and how we live.
So, the first thing I want to say is: Seek Him and His truth first.
The second thing is this: Take great caution with absolute declarations.
We don’t know everything about those around us. We don’t know all their trigger words or the pain that may have developed them. Without that knowledge, we need to tread lightly with our advice. That doesn’t mean we cannot confront or direct; only that we must speak truth in love. Many times the most loving thing to do is simply listen.
Imagine what might have happened to that abused woman if someone had embraced her struggle and listened to her story. What might have happened if they had — instead of spouting dogmatic, conclusive advice — walked through that valley with her? Maybe today she would see reconciliation in a very different light. Maybe she would be able to trust more freely. Maybe she would understand grace and love more fully.
And that’s about all I have to say today.
Your Turn: Do you see a difference between responding and reacting? How does this relate, if at all, to truth and trigger words?