The Blade and the Wolf
Note: I just sent the following letter out to my parents here at Heritage Christian Schools (June, pills 2009). I thought I would pass it onto you because it deals with criticism, something none of us like to be victims of, decease yet are in need of how to respond when it comes. This letter took me about two weeks to write, because the hurts I recently received from several parents were very painful. Fortunately, the two Boards I serve at Heritage (Elder and School Board) came to my rescue and stood behind the decisions I made which drew so much fire.
The Blade and the Wolf
I just got back from Idaho where I spent some recuperative days with my daughter and her husband. I needed such a respite because the days before leaving were very stressful at school. You may or may not know that I have undergone some significant criticism for the recent decisions I made for the school. Whether the criticisms were well intended and justified or not, they were quite wounding and hurtful. But as I look at them now, they were very important for the building of my faith, as well as helpful in making some needed corrections in how I lead and communicate.
I am sure that all of us respond to criticism in different ways, and some of us do better with it than others. My reaction to criticism has been fairly predictable over the past few years; I immediately withdraw, go into isolation, and suffer varying degrees of sadness and despair depending on the severity of what is said to or about me. But in the midst of this downward spin, I almost always immediately seek out the Lord and His wisdom. In my seeking, I typically start off with a very profound phrase which goes like this, “Help, Lord, help!” Earlier in my life, when I was just getting my feet off the ground spiritually, I did not do this, but simply withdrew, isolated myself, and stewed in my own despair. God eventually came and rescued me.
When I cried out for help in this recent heartrending situation at school, God did three things for me, which I believe He does for any of us when we scream out for help in the midst of criticism. He encouraged me, told me how to respond during the criticisms, and modeled how to relate to others afterward.
In respect to encouragement, the Lord immediately led me to several familiar biblical assurances and affirmations. In addition to this, He sent several brothers and sisters in the Lord my way to offer prayers and kind words.
Two of the many biblical passages the Lord directed me toward are:
The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31: 8
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand… Psalm 139:17, 18
After the Lord’s encouragement, He guided me in my response to the criticisms being presented and how those criticisms would impact my decision making and leadership. He wanted me to keep quiet and listen, rather than defend myself. He directed me to a number of Scriptures to make His point. The Lord also sent some older and wiser believers my way to complement the Scriptures. This part of the Lord’s leading was very hard to follow I must admit, because I so much wanted to set the record straight on the raised issues. I also wanted to defend myself in the decisions I had made; I wanted to tell my side of the story. But God simply said, “No, I will handle what needs to be said on your behalf.”
Here are three of the many Scriptures God sent my way in regard to being quiet.
But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today….The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” Exodus 14:13
“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the strength of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my savior…” 2 Samuel 22:2-3
“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24
Finally, the Lord wanted me to relate to my critics in a right way, especially those critics who hurt me. This was and still is the greatest challenge of all, and is something I am still working on. If you can squeeze me into your prayer list, pray for me in this regard. Once again the Lord gave me great counsel in this, which came from His Word, others, and an amazing story I just read while in Idaho.
In respect to the Scripture, the Lord counseled me not to carry out any measure of retaliation, payback, or retribution against my critics; even if I think I am justified in doing so. God’s first Scripture came from I Corinthians 13 where it says in verses 5 and 7, “Do not take into account when wronged… bear all things… endure all things.” This is hard, because I felt and still feel hurt by some who spoke against my leadership. But God clearly said to me one evening, “Kent!” “Listen, learn, forgive, forget, and move on.”
Another passage He brought to my attention was one Paul wrote to a group of believers in Ephesus who were in conflict with one another. In this passage which is recorded below, the Lord challenged me not to let any unwholesome word proceed from my mouth, and that I should abandon the temptation to hurt anyone in return, no matter what they had said or done. In fact, I should do the very opposite of any negative feelings I felt, replacing them with acts of kindness. I was to be tenderhearted toward my critics, not hardhearted.
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4: 29-32)
Before summing this up, I want to share with you an amazing story that impacted and influenced me to do what God wanted me to do in this trial. It is a grisly account, but I believe there are some great parallels in it which counters the consuming self-destructive nature of responding in revenge, payback, or in just obtaining justifiable justification. The story is recorded in the book, Getting Through The Tough Stuff by Chuck Swindol.
Eskimos are great hunters; they have to be because they live in one of the coldest regions on earth, where food is scarce. Wolves are a part of their hunts as well as other animals like seal, fish, and bear. But I think you would be surprised and perhaps shocked to discover how they carry out such a wolf hunt. First, the Eskimo coats his knife blade with animal blood and allows it to freeze. Then he adds another layer of blood, and another, until the blade is completely concealed by frozen blood. Next, the hunter pushes the handle of his knife into the snow with the blade up. When a wolf follows its sensitive nose to the source of the scent and discovers the bait, it begins to lick it, tasting the fresh frozen blood. The licking accelerates and intensifies, as the wolf more and more vigorously laps against the blade until the keen edge is bare. Feverishly then, harder and harder the wolf licks the blade long into the arctic night. So great becomes its craving for blood that the wolf does not notice the razor-sharp sting of the naked blade on its own tongue, nor does the animal recognize the instant at which its insatiable thirst is being satisfied by it own warm blood. The carnivorous appetite of the wild wolf just craves more until it destroys itself. In the morning all that can be seen is a lifeless wolf drowned in its own blood.
The parallels to truth I see in this story have to do with the wolf, the one who prepared the blade, the blood on the blade, and the licking of the blade. Let me start first with blood on the blade, which stands for the unwholesome words and negative feelings that can potentially be exhibited and radiated in a conflict, much like the one in Paul’s day with his fellow Ephesian’ believers, as well as our own conflicts here at Heritage. Each coat of blood represents misunderstandings, unkind words, anger, bitterness, pay back, revenge, rumors, gossip, and hurtful attacks on one another. The wolf stands for you and I, we are the ones licking the blade. The more we lick it, layer by layer, the closer we get to the blades lethal edges which will ultimately destroy one or both of us.
The Eskimo hunter in this story represents Satan who is always at work strategizing how to divide and destroy God’s people in their various ministries and works on earth. Satan knows us like the Eskimo knows the wolf. He is well aware of our insatiable nature to destroy one another if the right trap is set. But God knows us too, and is much stronger and greater than Satan. As the Scripture says, “…greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (I John 4:4)
If I could have been played a part in this story I would have told the wolf to walk away from the blood soaked blade before it was too late. But I doubt my advice would have been heeded, because the wolf is not a child of God that is capable of listening and applying such counsel. But I am a child of God, as you are, and when such a blade of destruction is set, I, like you, can walk away from it with God’s help. I am therefore resolved to do such. I leave you with some walk away from the blade passages of Scripture to ponder.
I Peter 3:8-9 8 To sum up, let all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.
Romans 14: 19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
Phil. 2:1- 2 1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
Col. 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
John 17:20-22 20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me
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. 22 “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one. (Jesus’ prayer to the Father)
Ephesians 4:26-27 26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.