As a kid growing up, there’s always a person that stands out in your memory as particularly odd; for me, that person was Mr. Flynn. He walked with a limp and could barely move his left side, but even at a time when accessibility for those with physical challenges was limited, he never seemed to let it slow him down. Mr. Flynn owned a small grocery store, and if you caught him during one of his generous moods, you were sure to get a free candy bar or two. Like most kids, I loved candy, but I made it a point to try and stay as far from Mr. Flynn as possible. He amused himself with the sport of giving all the neighborhood kids nicknames, and sure enough, he had given me one too, but I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it not one bit.
The first time I heard it, I was in his store with my friends, and they never let me live it down. No matter what I did, or how far I thought I’d distanced myself from Mr. Flynn and his store, this nickname haunted me for years. I couldn’t hide my disdain for Mr. Flynn, and my classmates thought I should be ashamed for disliking someone with his condition, but my face turned sour even hearing his name. It was harmless teasing by any adult’s account, but for a chubby pre-teen with chubby cheeks, it was a nightmare.
When I think back, I don’t know why the nickname bothered me as much as it did, but I can still remember the angst I felt at the thought of having to go into Mr. Flynn’s store at my parent’s request. He was an impossible nemesis I thought. Even after asking politely that he please call me by my given name, he chuckled and refused. As I think of it now, it wasn’t so much about the name itself, but I think it was the idea that someone would say something that conjured up the most hurtful feelings within me, and I couldn’t make him stop.
His words caused my friends to look at me or think of me in a way that wasn’t how I wanted to be viewed. He didn’t cause my shame, but exposed it, and the exposure nurtured this sense in me that I would always need to hide—to cover up my vulnerabilities, and shield myself from anyone I thought would potentially hurt my feelings.
In John Chapter 8, Jesus Christ tells us about the light, love, liberty, and life that he has made available to us. In verse 12, he said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” Many of us don’t realize that we’re walking in the darkness of pain and shame until one day something wakes us up. All of a sudden, we realize that there’s been a gloomy cloud over our heads and we don’t know why.
Mr. Flynn didn’t intend to cause me harm, but still I felt powerless when it came to his ability to shame me. Even till this day, the thought that someone might render me powerless rouses very intense emotions within, but now I handle the situation a bit differently. I recognized that by hiding in a consciousness of shame or internalizing the anger, I was punishing myself. We don’t always understand the pain we’re inflicting on ourselves subconsciously, and its why Jesus Christ is so precious, because he knows our pain, and he tells us to turn to him.
In Matthew 11:28-30(NLT), he said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” The Spirit of Christ abides within us, and he sees every aspect of our wounded hearts, even those wounds that occurred when we were young. He knows how they can affect us when we’re adults, and this is why God’s healing is so wonderful. He will heal us from the inside out. He has a loving way of revealing the thorns that continue to prick us, so that we can confront and surrender them.
One of my scripture favs is Galatians 5:1 The Message (MSG). It says, “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” Our job is to have faith and extend Jesus Christ an invitation. He will teach us to live free if we’re willing to learn, so that we can walk in the liberty he’s made available. We can ask him to heal our hearts in our most vulnerable places, and he will, because he loves us. In my youth, I saw Mr. Flynn as pretty impossible. He never knew how intolerable I found him to be back then, but today I see him as man who dealt with his own pain day by day, and managed to give a few kids a little sweetness along the way. For me, that’s proof positive that God has healed my heart in many ways. If you’ll ask, He’ll do the same for you. ■
Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
“The Impossible Mr. Flynn” written by Fran for DomesticAbuseAwareness.Org ©2017. All rights reserved. All done to the glory of God through Jesus Christ, our Lord!