I have one biological brother, it's true. But, when I think back on my childhood, I feel like a lot of the time, it was more like I had three brothers. That's because I spent so much time with the Haley boys, Brad and David. There are a lot of wonderful life lessons I learned from this dynamic. Lessons like, if you're slow, get faster. If you're weak, get stronger. If you're whining, suck it up. If you're a tattle, you're not to be trusted. And if you have a problem, be prepared to duke it out and then get over it.
That might sound rough, but I think that as I get older and realize the complexity of people, I really miss the simplicity of this way of life. Go one round with a passive aggressive female, and you'll be aching for a fist fight just so you can move on with your life.
I don't regret the lessons I learned from my "brothers" and I don't think it messed me up too much. :) In fact, I'm really thankful for some of the hard knocks. It made me stronger, and made me learn to persevere. But one thing that I have apparently forgotten is how to deal with a little trash. Verbal trash.
Whenever I think about talkin' trash, I go back in my mind to memories of my brother and his friends and their obvious physical superiority in all things athletic. Not only were my "brothers" older (well, Brad and Grant were) and stronger (I swear David was always stronger than me, too, even though he's seven years younger!) they were all incredibly athletic. Not that I was a clutz or anything, but I stood no chance when it came to sports. But that didn't mean that I backed down without a fight. How many games of 1 on 1 and H-O-R-S-E did we play? Millions. It had to have been millions. Not to mention the Nintendo games, roller hockey, soccer, kickball...
What I learned from these boys is that trash talk is a normal part of boy behavior. I say boy behavior because I'm not sure that I ever quite got the knack of talking smack (though in recent years I've met some girls who are quite gifted) at least I never really felt comfortable or like I could really throw down an authoritative insult- not that I didn't try. I just always felt like a phony. But the boys- they were naturals. I can see in my mind right now Brad, dribbling a ball in one hand, uttering threats and announcing total devastation to his opponent- before the game had ever begun.
Well, apparently my "brothers" were only carrying on a millenia-old tradition amongst males (and probably some females too). I read a pretty fantastic story about a gifted trash-talker in Isaiah 36 today. What was going on was King Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, sent a field commander to Judah to talk some smack to the Hebrews. And the guy was good! It's really a funny story- you should check it out. He probably had the Israelites shakin in their thong-sandals. He even told them they were going to eat, well, you know what... Seriously, it's in the Bible.
Now I've purposefully not read the rest of the story yet, but I know that the King of Judah caves in to Assyria. However, I know that God used this story to help me consider something that happened in my life a couple of months ago in new light.
A while ago, someone talked some pretty serious trash to and about me. It was mean and nasty, much worse than anything Brad ever came up with on the basketball court. And it hit me like a punch in the gut. But, it was about as ridiculous as the field commander's threats in Isaiah 36, and just as unholy. But, the thing they have in common is that both the field commander and the person who taunted me tried to confuse the audience about the Lord. The field commander told the people of Judah that the Lord didn't have the strength to save them from the Assyrians and that, in fact, the Lord had sent him to destroy the people! The person who talked a lot of trash to me did the same sort of thing- saying that they were a Christian and interested in Christ-like relationship, throwing out Christian keywords in between their attacks and false accusations. And, though I can't say that I totally fell for it, I can say that it made my knees knock and my stomach sick.
But what I have learned as an adult that has changed since I was a child is that I do have to tattle... sort of. When threats are made and there is injustice, I have to go to the Judge. When I was a kid, I stood my own ground. I fought back till I was black and blue and exhausted. I tried doing that as a grown up and learned pretty quickly that grown-up battles are too much to face on my own.
So, before knowing exactly what King Hezekiah and the people of Judah did in response to the trash talk from the Assyrian field commander, I know that I have been encouraged by the Holy Spirit to act like a little old lady. That's right, the little old lady from Luke 18. Do you remember her story? It's called the parable of the persistent widow. She lives in a town with a sort of dead-beat judge. He doesn't care about God or people. But the widow keeps going to him over and over again and saying- "Grant me justice against my adversary." And finally, the judge is so fed up with her asking that he grants her request. Jesus said that God would deal with our persistent prayer in an even more effective, compassionate way than the dead-beat judge in the widow's town. Because He does care about justice, and He loves His people.
I wonder if Hezekiah had gone to the Righteous Judge about the trash talk from the Assyrians if he wouldn't have given in to the Assyrians at all? In any event, I'm challenged, and I hope you are too- because more than likely somebody somewhere- whether it's an actual person you know or just images that you see projected through media are "talking trash" and making you feel like you are less than what God has said that you are. If so, you don't have to retaliate, just take care of that trash- old lady style. Go talk to the Righteous Judge and have faith that He will set things right in His timing. I'm challenged to do so, and to steadily believe that He loves me enough to care about even these details of my life, and loves you enough to care about the details in yours.
"God, grant me justice against my adversary."