Over my life I have found that communication is a lot like playing the game “telephone”. When you play telephone, one person starts with a phrase in their head. They whisper that phrase into the ear of the person next to them. It’s then that person’s responsibility to pass that phrase onto the next person in the circle and so on. The last person in the circle then tells everyone what he or she heard. Most of the time it barely resembles what the person initially said. There is always that kid that will intentionally pass along something completely different just to add humor. Other times the phrase changes simply because of how people hear it; what filter they are using.
We rarely see or hear the real truth of what is going on around us. We see and hear things through our filters. Most of the time we don’t even realize that we have them.
I remember exactly where I was. I was on a walk with my new friend Chris.
My body had just rejected my liver. We were talking about it and he casually said to me “Do you think it was a sin that you committed or a sin in your family that caused all this to happen to you?”
“Well, you know God is sovereign, so you know He caused all of this to happen. “
I didn’t know how to internalize this information. I don’t know how I missed the word “sovereign” growing up. I did know the God I served and loved with my whole heart would NEVER cause all these horrible things to happen to me.
Now,18 years later, I could receive those words, appreciate his process and move on with my day. But on that day, in the midst of weakness, those words had a lot of filters to pass through before they entered into my heart
Pain. The filter of pain told me God if caused all of this then he must want me to be in pain. Without evening knowing, my guard went up. If God wanted me to be in pain, then I needed to protect myself. God was no longer safe. I had to take care of myself.
Exhaustion: The filter of emotional exhaustion told me to brace myself, this was just the beginning. I needed to be strong.
Trauma: My filter of trauma caused my face to flush and my blood pressure to rise. After all I’ve done for Him, all the hard things I’ve experienced were caused by God?! After all I have done for Him…..
I lost the God I knew and loved that day. The God I knew would never cause these horrible things to happen to me.The God I knew was safe and protected me. The God I knew had good plans for me. At the time “hard” and “good” did not coexist in the same sentence.
The God I met that day was scary to me. I felt unsafe and insecure to think about a God that would cause bad things to happen. I retreated inward and vowed to myself that I was the only one that would take care of me. I felt afraid of my future. If He had caused my transplant and then my rejection, what else could be coming? I had to be strong. I felt so vulnerable, so exposed. My heart began to harden.
My friend was simply trying to process my experience with me. For whatever reason, I took what he said as truth. I filtered his words through trauma, pain and exhaustion and it ended in a crisis of faith.
I read somewhere once that “perception is reality.” How we see things, what filters we allow our thoughts to pass through, is going to create our reality-whether it’s true or not. It often happens without us even realizing it. Innocent words spoken to a broken heart can bring miraculous healing or even deeper pain.
It was years later before I could articulate how his words affected me. I desperately wanted to know the God I once knew and loved. As I cried out to God, I was quickly brought back to that walk, that place and I could almost feel it; the day I lost my God.
Some words are meant to hurt us. But often times the words that affect us the most are not intended for harm. They are casually spoken as we process together, flippantly said in a casual conversation or said with just enough sarcasm to make us wonder the true meaning behind the words.
It’s often not really about the words anyway, it’s what stands in the way of your heart.
Learn from my mistake. It took me a long time to realize why my heart felt so hardened towards God. I didn’t understand why my God went from safe to scary, from loving to harsh; from comforting to exposing. When I realized how those innocence questions penetrated my heart, a journey of healing began.
It can be as simple as asking questions.
What did I receive that was true today?
What conversation do I need to return to in order to get clarity?
What filters are standing in the way of the truth?
Ask these questions each day because as Proverbs 4:23 says..
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”