Saturday, May 21, 2016

Your Sticks, Your Stones, Your Words have Wounded Me

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               Sticks and stones my break my bones, but your words have wounded me. My heart has been hurt by someone I thought was my brother, my fellow laborer in Christ. We spent years together, working and serving side by side. But then the bonds became broken and my heart was ripped from my chest by the words of the man who was supposed to be my friend. Finding my way to forgiveness for this man has been difficult. I thought I had forgiven, and then something will bring the memory of that event into my thoughts and all the pain and bitterness come crashing back in. I would like to say to you today that I have completely and wholeheartedly forgiven him for what happened, but I haven’t. There is this bitterness that has settled down in me and I must get it out. I must bring it before my King and lay it down, once and for all, at His feet.
             What I am about to write to you is a confession of the wounds my heart has suffered in the hopes that I can finally, once and for all, move on. I have moved on somewhat, but I still feel like this baggage is hanging on me and I need to let it go. I need to walk away and stop picking it back up. I need to find a way to completely and utterly forgive. People whom I thought loved me, have hurt me deeply and it is time that I confess my wounds so that I can let these sticks and stones die.
             A little over three years ago I was part of a body of believers who said they loved me. Every Sunday they would hug me, tell me how much they loved me; they were as much a part of my daily life as I was of theirs. We worked and served alongside one another day after day, striving to build a church and further the kingdom of God. Neither of my children are walking with the Lord. Both my son and daughter used to go to church, but there was never a true heart change in either one of them. When it came time for them to choose to either follow Christ or follow the world, sadly, they followed the world. Every single person who attended this church knew that my children were not walking with the Lord. Yet, because of the choices my son made I was asked to step down out of leadership. I was asked to sit down so someone else could take my place. Obviously, my son’s sins were my fault and I didn’t deserve to be in leadership because of it. My heart was ripped from my chest and a hole was left in its place.
             There was this moment in time that I remember thinking that this was all a dream. As I was sitting there, listening to the words of my friend and co-laborer speak to me his reasons for asking me to step down, I remember thinking it was a dream. He knew my heart for this ministry, he knew my love for Christ, we had been walking side by side for years, yet the things he was saying was like he didn’t know me at all! That night a man I considered a dear friend chose to speak words that wounded me to my core. How could one of my own family, one of the people who had been by my side through so many trials, tests and troubles be so cruel? I left that church office, went home and cried upon my bed all night.
             I will never forget that 4:00 a.m. wake up call from the Lord. I had spent the night crying and weeping upon my bed, tossing and turning at the events, trying to make sense of the pain that was left in my chest. The question “Why” being left unanswered. Hurt, wounded and angry over all the things that he had said, I heard the voice of my Savior come over me and I felt a peace that surpassed all understanding as He spoke these words to me,
             “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purposes.” Romans 8:28 NKJV
             I pulled myself out of bed and went to my prayer journals. Page after page I read my prayers to God for my son and the situation we were faced with. I prayed for wisdom, guidance and direction on what to do. Day after day, written there for me to see and read were the words of my God telling me what to do. And we were faithful to do it. God, in all His wisdom, showed my son grace, and through it all, that was what He called us to do as well, show him grace. My son needed to see grace and experience grace. But some of those people who said they loved me, they couldn’t see the grace of God, all they could see was their own opinion fueled by their judgments.

             As I went through the pages of my prayer journal, in the scriptures and the words He had given me I saw His divine hand, working and moving through it all. I was given a glimpse into the heart of the man who hurt me most and just as he questioned my motives, the Lord showed me his. He desired to move me and my husband from that ministry because he liked someone else better. He had a desire to see someone else in that role within the church, but I was too blinded to see it. But I saw it now, and the hurt became even worse. Months before all this happened the Lord showed me, through the slip of this man’s tongue, his motives and his desire to exalt another in my place. I think it was this reality that hurt the most. It was seeing his favoritism towards certain people that caused me the most pain.
             This man chose to wound me so that he could justify his reasons for promoting someone else in my place. Someone he saw as a friend, a leader, someone he liked better than me. In the end, he hurt me and no matter how much everyone tried to tell me he did it out of love, God showed me the truth that day, and it caused a crater to appear where my heart once was. I have learned many things since that fateful day, and the scripture is true- all things do work together for good. Because when I look back now on all the things that happened, I see God’s hand, moving and working to free me from the deception that was hidden underneath it all.
             This experience taught me to take off my rose colored glasses and not be deceived again by the words and actions of my fellow brothers and sisters. People will hurt you. People of leadership, who have taken up the call to shepherd you can hurt you for their own selfish gain. This experience has also taught me the meaning of sincere love. Peter tells us that we are to have “sincere love of the brethren” and to “love one another fervently with a pure heart.” (1 Peter 1:22) This whole experience has made me see that those who claimed to love me did not really love me at all. It was an outward love, a love that was not real because it did not withstand the testing and trials of the fire.
             A very small handful of people still talked to me after we left. In the beginning many reached out to me, but not a single one of them reached out to my husband. After a few weeks that wore away too, and now the only time many of them call me or reach out to me is to see if I will watch their dogs. True sincere love will walk with you through the fire and it will withstand the heat. Only one or two of those relationships still stand with me today, but they too have left that church because they saw it for what it was and walked away too.
             As I look back on these past three years I can honestly and truly praise God for it all. Had He not allowed this to happen so many things in my life would not have come to pass. I would not be the woman I am today had I not gone through that much pain. I see His glory through it all. But, the hurt is still there, the wound is healing, but it is not fully healed. I am not sure that it will ever fully heal, there may always be a scar left by the one whom I trusted. But maybe, by His grace, I can learn to live in forgiveness day by day. People are going to hurt us, people we love are going to wound us, but God, who knows what is best for us, will always bring us through it. He is the One True Love that will walk through the fire and stand in the midst of it with you, holding your hand, telling you it will be okay.
             As I write these words I am reminded of Stephen in Acts 7:59-60. He just preached the truth of the gospel to his fellow brothers and sisters, he lived a life of truth before them and the people stoned him because of it. Those who did not want to see the grace and truth of God stoned him, they wounded him, they killed him. But Stephen does not take that bitterness to heaven with him. He leaves it in the dirt, in the dust underneath the stones and keeps his eyes on Jesus, asking God to forgive them. With my wounded heart I come my Lord, with my broken spirit I cry, forgive them Lord, do not lay this sin upon them, forgive them Lord for so do I.

             “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purposes.” Romans 8:28
             Sticks and stones my break my bones, but your words no longer hurt me. I forgive you. Amen.