"My name is Idiot."
She's only four. But when police in Hot Springs, Arkansas responded to a report of child abuse, that's what she told them. The marks of abuse were all over her body. Bruises everywhere, a black eye, scars on her back.
Those will heal. But what about the names she's been called? So many times that she thinks "Idiot" is her name.
But wait. What about the names we've called people? Even people - maybe especially people - we love. How many people carry invisible, but indelible scars from our own devastating words?
It's not that we necessarily mean to hurt. We're angry, frustrated, feeling unheard or ignored. As our emotions escalate, so do our words. And words are like bullets. Once fired, they can't be taken back.
And as the Bible says, "Reckless words pierce like a sword" (Proverbs 12:18). We all know that's true. We still feel the sting of the names we were called long ago. Even though the one who fired them at us has totally forgotten.
It's our children who are most damaged by our hurtful words. Because children tend to become what we call them. Label them as "lazy" or "stupid" or "worthless" enough, and it will stick. But then, so will "princess" or "smart" or "helper" or "fun."
Of course, kids also store what they hear their parents call each other in those heated moments. Giving them tacit permission to speak disrespectfully in their relationships, too.
But family's not the only place our words leave wounds. "The tongue has the power of life and death" (Proverbs 18:21) at school, at work, at the game, in all our close relationships. If people bled physically every time we wounded them verbally, I wonder what a trail we'd leave.
God says, "The tongue is a world of evil...it sets the whole course of life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell" (James 3:6). Personally, I've found only one person strong enough to control that fire in me. My death-crushing Jesus.
King David was wise enough to know we can't conquer this verbal monster without supernatural intervention. Thus, his prayer that should probably be somewhere that I see it every day: "Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips" (Psalm 141:3).
I'm thankful for the lasting imprint of something my wife told me years ago - and many times since: "Don't ever forget the power of your words, Ron." I suspect many of us need that reminder. Because long after we've forgotten our "reckless words," the person we wounded may be carrying a long and lasting scar from them.
And what about all those names and putdowns we ourselves carry from the scarring words of others?
Well, I'm grateful that God has called me names, too. "God's workmanship" (Ephesians 2:10). Created "in His own image" (Genesis 1:27). "My treasured possession" (Exodus 19:5). "The temple of the living God" (2 Corinthians 6:16). "My sons and daughters" (2 Corinthians 6:18). Purchased by the blood of His Son (Revelation 5:9).
I think I'll go with who my Creator says I am. Because those people who've called us those other names just didn't know who we really are. Who God says we are.
So no one's name is "idiot."
Not when God calls them His masterpiece.