My family is great at hosting people, and we loved it when we had visitors. We often hosted bible studies, football-watching parties, or out-of-town guests. One summer, a large family came to visit. All of the kids were playing in the kiddie pool and having a good old time. One of the visitors came out to watch us, and join in the water fight. As an adult male, he had the upper hand, and the water fight quickly escalated to a lot of splashing and a garden hose. At some point in this game, my “fun” line was crossed and I had had enough. I must have shouted stop several times, or somehow made it clear that this was no longer okay and the game was over. My memory of my actions is a little fuzzy, but I do remember what this man said to me. As he threw down the hose he maliciously said, “you’ve got a lot of baggage”. He then turned and walked away.
Somehow, with that one spoken phrase, I learned that my “No” was not acceptable. I learned that my “no” was invalid, wrong, and meant that I “had baggage”. He taught me that his wish was more important than mine, that my threshold of fun was too low, and that I just plain had issues. Because he was an adult, and was respected by my family (or so I thought), and I already have a more ‘serious’ and sensitive personality, his assessment of me became so engraved in my memory and my beliefs of myself, that I can recount it to you clearly, nearly fifteen years later. And that was just during a water fight!
I’m sure this wasn’t the only time I learned a lesson such as this, but it’s one that I remember. Today, I know that some lessons aren’t true. I eventually found out that there is nothing wrong with saying “no”, that my boundaries are valid and should be respected. I know that what he said was wrong, and he should have respected me enough to stop when I asked. I know that he had his own baggage, and chose to deal with that by assuming everyone else was the one with the problem. Still, telling myself these truths takes serious work. I’m telling you, I have to consistently preach truths to myself and have them confirmed by the people around me. I believed lies about myself for years and years, causing depression, relationship issues, and fear. Restoration takes work, people.
Mine is just one story in an ocean filled of stories like this. Stories of people who have been physically or emotionally abused by authority figures, multiple times. I would not be surprised if every single person reading this can think of at least one similar story, in your life or in that of someone close to you.
What’s it going to take to start telling yourself (or that other person) the truth of who we are? The truth that “no” is okay and appropriate. That standing up for the broken and the oppressed, including yourself, takes courage and strength.
Spend today hearing this: that God has already given each person the courage and strength to seek out and know truth.
What’s it going to take for us to embrace the truth of who we are?
I hope that today you’ll seek out truth which can destroy darkness. With that, will come freedom that you’ve been longing for.
When we bring truth into darkness, the darkness loses its power.