This blog entry is contributed by our oldest child — a PK who has been hurt by the ministry. Many of you will relate.
The Silent Killer
When I was 15 the church that my parents moved to Boise to pastor made a decision to merge congregations with another local body. It seemed to be mutually beneficial to fuse our congregations together under one roof and my parents were certain that the Lord had placed the idea on their hearts in order to unify our parishioners. Unfortunately, the merge did not last and so began an extremely painful journey through the land of church politics. Many people left both congregations and deserted the pastors and families they said they loved and supported. Lies were spread, gossip abounded, friendships were betrayed, even a law suit was filed! My parent’s reputation was tarnished and my father, many years later, gracefully stepped away from his original credentials even as leadership in the credentialing body continued to be dishonest about how events unfolded.
Do not hate your brother in your heart…
I was devastated by the spiritual carnage left in the wake of those who abandoned our church. I had never witnessed people who claimed to be Christians treat others the way my family was treated. Slowly, over the following years, more people’s feelings were hurt and more left for one reason or another and it all colored my view of the local church. If there is such a thing as tar-colored glasses as opposed to rose-colored glasses, then I wore them consistently as I transitioned to adulthood. The culmination of wounds left me a very broken and angry person but because every wound took place over years and for various reasons, I never really tied my anger back to a single starting point. Instead, I was angry at everyone all the time. Any time something was misunderstood, a complaint was spread around, or a church member started a fight over something as silly as a pew or a glass vase, I seethed with resentment; bracing myself for the inevitable fallout.
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires…
It wasn’t until I returned home for the holidays last year that I began to piece together the common thread that ran through seemingly random hurts: I was an unforgiving person. The culprit was not a person or entity or ideal that I had been hurt by. No, the scars I proudly displayed were formed out of my own bitterness and hate. Then I found out in early July that I would be returning home to Boise for my grandfather’s funeral and the funeral was going to be held in the church building that the merge and split occurred in. Many people directly involved with the split were going to be attending the funeral and I was going to have to face my demons. Suddenly I had a choice to make. I could return home with all my walls up taking every look and every word as a reason to feed my anger or I could finally release my resentment and let it be buried too.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you…
I won’t tell you that it was easy. I am a very nostalgic person and it hurt to walk the hallways of that church building again. I saw a lot of faces that at one time I never cared to see again. I had to make a conscious decision to accept people’s words for what they were and not conjure up what they might have meant underneath. I had to purposefully let things roll off me lest I make a big deal out of something that could be kept simple. By the time I left town after several days later I felt like a piece of me had been left behind…a piece that I didn’t care to pack around with me anymore despite how familiar it had become.
A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense…
Now several weeks later I find that I have quietly forgiven many hurts left in the wake of people simply being people. I have also come to see that while I laid to rest much of my anger in Boise, I am not destined to live out the rest of my life in a void of emotion. I will always have an opportunity to choose not to take up an offense or choose to love in spite of hurtful words and actions. People make mistakes, they misunderstand and jump to conclusions. Sometimes out of their own wounds they maliciously attack if only to make themselves feel better. Either way, the silent killer of joy is not worth keeping around simply to justify how you’ve been hurt. At the end of the day, you are the only one who can make yourself feel victimized. Do not choose this path. Instead, choose to live out God’s love victoriously.
Ephesians 4:26 (New Living)
And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry…