Sticks and Stones

by Joanie Butman

My husband and I attended a Masters party recently. While he was engrossed in the golf, I was enjoying dinner in another room with a friend. With my fork halfway to my mouth, my husband enters with this announcement: “There’s the chowhound. I should have known I’d find you by the food table.” Astounded by his statement, my girlfriend laughed so hard she almost choked. She later told me she couldn’t decide what was funnier – Bob’s jovial innocence with which he delivered his comment, or my face as I heard it.

His defense was that he meant it in a nice way. Oddly enough, I’m sure he did. Even so, as I explained to him, it would be difficult to perceive his remark as complimentary from any angle. Accustomed to his teasing, I just shook my head and thought, “Father, forgive him; for he knows not what he does.” In addition, he was spot on. I do have a healthy appetite, and I can often be found at the food table. A girl’s got to eat, right?

You see, this was just one in a long string of Bobisms. For example, there was the time my family was discussing the celebrity marriage of Tom Brady. Bob offered this observation, ”I would never want a beautiful wife. Too much maintenance.” He couldn’t imagine why the kids and I just looked at him, stunned by his failure to recognize the unintended slight. It got worse (as it usually does) when he tried to talk his way out of it. Then there was another time when our children were babies and we were in a group discussing childbirth and its effect on the body. Out of nowhere Bob shared a visual of my post-baby boobs – golf balls in socks! I doubt anyone present ever looked at me the same way. Sadly, there is no shortage of material to cull from in Bob’s repertoire.

Though my friend was aghast, for someone who grew up with nicknames like Gastank and Load, I’m somewhat immune by now. And if I wasn’t when I got married, 25 years of Bobisms have helped me grow a thicker skin. He may have an unusual interpretation regarding terms of endearment, but I can say with confidence he intends no harm. Even so, you’d think self-preservation would have kicked in somewhere over the past 25 years, but some habits are hard to break.

Coincidentally, last Sunday’s sermon was on nicknames; specifically, Jesus’ inclination to assign pet names for his disciples. His choices usually emphasized the person’s potential and strength. Their new names reflected what Christ saw in them and were symbols of how God transformed their lives. For example, Peter became the Rock, James and John – Sons of Thunder, Barnabas – Son of Encouragement. Only Doubting Thomas seems to have gotten the short end of the stick in the nickname department. Who wants to be remembered by their weakest moment? Peter didn’t become Peter the Denier, nor was Paul the Persecutor. If Jesus were to choose a nickname for me who knows – eating is my forte, so I suppose Chowhound wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility. Did you know there are hundreds of names for the persons of the Trinity in the Bible, each used to reveal a unique characteristic?*

Regardless, the sermon made me think of some of the names I’ve picked up over my life that have unintentionally stuck. The ones others may have teasingly assigned or the self-inflicted ones I need to take responsibility for – including the ‘askhole’ criticism I made last week, which a number of readers called me out on. 

Here’s what I’ve concluded. The rhyme sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me” is a big fat LIE. Words do hurt, which is why you have to make sure the ones you are replaying in your mind are Godly ones. If they are derogatory in nature, you can be sure they are not from God because He doesn’t speak in those terms. If that’s the case, it’s time to make a conscious decision to change the tape.

Much like many of us have pet names for our children, Jesus has the same for us and I can guarantee you that Chowhound, Gastank and Load are not among them. These are the ones I need to be reminded of daily because they shape my identity in Him and help me to become the person He created me to be. Here’s just a few:

God’s special possession (1 Peter 2:9)

Fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)

Salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13)

Light of the world. (Matthew 5:14)

Set apart for Him (Jeremiah 1:5)

Holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation (Colossians 1:22)

His friend (John 15:15)

His bride (John 3:29)

His beloved (Song of Solomon 2:16)

Words can elevate or eviscerate. It would behoove us to choose them wisely – the ones we speak to others and, just as importantly, the ones we speak to ourselves.

Father, forgive me for not agreeing with You that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Forgive me for believing the lies that I have to be somebody other than who I am.
Help me to come into agreement with Your love for me and not despise all my imperfections.
The fact that You love me and accept me is more important
than the love and acceptance from anyone else.
I am thankful that I am Your child, and that I am fearfully and wonderfully made!
I know that full well.
In the name of Your beloved Son Jesus I pray,

*Biblical names for God: