Last week, one of my girls told me about another kid at school who was intentionally mispronouncing her name to get under her skin. Despite my daughter’s attempts to stop her, the other girl has continued for several days.
As we talked about it, I felt myself getting angry.
My anger wasn’t just about my daughter. Memories of my own childhood swept across an ocean of 30 years like a storm. For me, it was a couple boys in my school who seemed drawn to insecurity in me like wolves drawn to the scent of blood. I remember the smirks on their faces, their tone, the spit, the fists. I remember their names.
Merriam-Webster says to mock is to laugh at or make fun of, especially by copying an action or a way of behaving or speaking. It’s to attack a person’s identity, to twist who they are into a joke worthy of scorn.
I’ve been surprised to discover that in each of the Synoptic Gospels when Jesus describes what’s going to happen to him in Jerusalem, he includes that he will be mocked.
He was. And then some.
After flogging him to near death, his armed, bored, prejudiced and pitiless captors—backed by those in power—encircled him. Wolves. Maybe 200 of them. They knew what people were saying about him: miracle worker, prophet of God, king. And that’s where they aimed all the mockery and violence that follows.
- They draped a beautiful robe around Jesus’ torn open back, pressed thorns on his head like a crown, and knelt down, taunting, “Give homage to the king of the Jews!”
- They put a reed in his hand like a king’s scepter, then grabbed it back and beat his head with it. They spit on him, blindfolded him, then punched him, jeering, “You’re a prophet, so tell us who hit you!”
- And after nailing him up, they scrawled “King of the Jews” on a placard and posted it over his hanging, naked body.
Mockery derides what’s true, so what’s true doesn’t seem so good anymore. It twists a name so the true name seems small. It strikes close to home to try to get you to step away from home.
“Mockery derides what’s true, so what’s true doesn’t seem so good anymore.”
Those crucified with Jesus, they mocked him too. When you’re vulnerable, it’s tempting to turn on whoever is weaker. As a boy, when the wolves would aim their barbs at someone else (dear God anyone else) I remember my forced shallow laughter, hoping to blend in so they’d forget about me.
Those who mock and bully have no idea, of course. They’ve stumbled upon a ring of power. Its sorcery is alluring. They don’t know there’s another force behind it, one that’s been at work since the start. And it means them harm, too.
So back to the other night with my daughter. I don’t have a sure path out of this for her. I wish I did, but I know she’ll have to face this and much worse as she lives the story that is her own to live.
Sitting next to her, I’m not quite sure what to say. So I pray with her and we listen for Jesus to speak.
I hear something I don’t expect. Just a spark.
I open my eyes and tell her her name. She knows it but I say it anyway.
“This is who you are. God gave us your name and the authority to give it to you. Throughout life, others will try to get you to believe they have the authority to give you a different one, but they don’t.”
I say her name again with the same authority as the day my wife and I gave it at her birth, and add, “If someone calls you by another name, you can even act like they’re talking to someone else.”
She smiles and I see a bit of the fog lift.
For me, too.
Jesus became the weaker kid for us. The wolves smelled his blood and circled while we looked on. Even while we mocked along.
But the authority and power he set aside in those hours, he has picked back up again. And then some.
My daughter’s identity, and mine, and yours are secure because of it.
What wolves are after you today? How are they twisting the name God has given you? What are they claiming about your home and about who you are? What is the Father saying to you instead?
I’d love to hear from you. What other suggestions do you have for dealing with the bullies in your life or in the lives of your kids? Share your thoughts below.