Today, I ran into someone who reminded me of a season of deep hurt and confusion. More than remind me of it, this person had intimate knowledge and influence over the people who wounded me, but at the same time he was “fringe” enough to not really have an opinion on the choices that ultimately left my husband and I angry and disillusioned about the local church– well..maybe not “the” local church but definitely “that” local church.
The sad thing is, I’ve actually been on this remarkably beautiful journey towards healing. I’ve been meditating on cruciform- cross shaped–love. I’ve been finding my voice when it comes to matters of faith, family, theology, and mission. I’ve been exploring new ways to practice shalom and this morning…y’all this morning…I made applesauce from scratch–winning–for sure! Before I ran into this friend, I was confident God was making me into something new, beautiful, resilient, impervious to the brokenness of people.
But, that’s where my folly came in. Because no matter how much I study 1 Corinthians 13:1 to learn to speak with love and no matter how often I pray to lead with that very Christ-like love, love, by its very nature, requires vulnerability and vulnerability requires courage. Courage to hope when the other person seems hopeless. Courage to extend grace when the other has been graceless. Courage to pray shalom for their lives when you want to take a page from David and call down vengeance (like atomic wedgies and fines for back parking tickets). Love requires the courage to reach out your hand to extend friendship when that person may very well take up a nail and a hammer and pierce your tender flesh.
This is how I feel about that person and the community he represents. I stretched out my hands to offer friendship and they pierced it with their pride and fear of change.
Tonight, I’m sitting here wondering what I would say to myself eight hours ago when I was spinning out with insecurities, sinking back into the pain of that season, rehearsing offenses, and attributing motive. What would I say to Overwhelmed Osheta who came face to face with her woundedness?
I think would say, “Baby girl,” (Because you must always, always, always begin with tenderness, especially when talking to yourself) “Do you remember when all you could do was read Isaiah and find God speaking shalom over you? Do you remember when you wrote in your journal that you know God is for you and not against you? Remember when you listened to Francesca Battistelli and she called Jesus her constant and you pulled the car over cry because you knew, you knew, you knew that all though life in that community was a cluster-fudge of misunderstandings, misgivings, and misfortune, Jesus was your constant? So you cried out to him, pulled over on the side of the road nearly late to pick up your kids from school. Do you remember that? Do you remember when you sat in the door frame of the kitchen while your husband sat in his chair and you said, ‘I know God has us at that church for reason, maybe we can be an encouragement, maybe we’ll grow, but all this pain cannot be wasted!”
You were right. All that pain cannot be wasted. In the economy of God, suffering is never wasted. The cross was both the zenith of human suffering poured onto Jesus and the most lavish display of love there has ever been. Ever been. And Jesus, in his work to make the world new, embraced suffering as a necessary vehicle. So, yes, you’re hurting right now, and yes you’re a hot mess of insecurities and fears and lies and questions. And yes, you’re worried that your not a good Christian because your still wounded around church and relationships and the Body. But it’s ok. It’s ok to embrace that you’re a mixed bag of victories over some things and struggles with others. It’s ok to have healing in one area and a tender spot in another. It doesn’t make you a bad Christian– it makes you real, authentic, gritty, and useful. Because the cross, Baby was real. The Cross what authentic suffering and authentic passion. The Cross was gritty pain and a raw bid for our affection. The Cross was used to overcome the powers of this world and herald a new King. A Humble king. A Suffering King. A Holy King who is set apart not for his pomp, nor his circumstance, but set apart for his vulnerability to love us well. (I tend to start preaching when I talk to myself. Every preacher needs to preach the gospel first to herself and then her community.)
I would say to Upset Osheta at 1:30 this afternoon to stop and “see God is doing a new thing? Do you not perceive it?” Do you not notice the way your words have encouraged your friends? Do you not see how your small “yeses” to become a Noonday Ambassador, to join a Mom’s group, to accept a book to review, or even to put down your phone and focus on your babies are reverberating shalom all around you? Do you not see how awesome your batch of applesauce came out? I mean girl, to add maple syrup at the very end was DIVINELY INSPIRED! Yes, girl the Lord was with you this morning hovering over that pot of simmering apples.
Maybe Osheta at 1:30 wouldn’t have believed this more settled and sure Osheta at 9pm tonight. I’ve had some time process this in prayer and with friends. Probably between 1:30 and now, I needed to walk the path towards wholeness and if I’ve learned anything in the aftermath of that season of pain, I learned this: healing is a journey we must take, one step at a time, one choice after another, one courageous invitation to love and and be loved.
So today, I journey to this new place of peace and now I’m sitting here reflecting for today’s “open when” and I can say with all confidence:
I do see all the ways God is at work around me and I should be thankful. I am wounded, but so is Jesus and even in his perfected body he stretched out his hands to Thomas to say see here, I bear the scars of my suffering.
So, see here world, it’s true, tonight I still bear the scars of my suffering around the church and friendships and the Body but, although I am scarred, I refused to be scared. I can do this because I know that God’s not finished with me so I won’t stay tender for long. I say this because I have eyes to see the small ways he is using me to create shalom. I’m not giving into my fears because I know who is my constant friend, constant provider, my constant companion in this suffering– Jesus, My Lord and My Wonderfully Wounded King.
What about you fellow wounded one? Will you link arms with me in confidence that he that has begun a good work in us will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus? I hope you will, because we’ve got a world full of wounded people who have not found our Constant and it’s our jobs to stretch our our wounded hands and say , “see here I bear the scars of my suffering, too! Let’s run to Jesus, wounded hand in wounded hand and ask him whisper healing over us.”
And now, I’m ready to move on, pray for that brother in Christ, and have a big bowl of my wicked good homemade applesauce.
I think I’ve earned it today.
Thanks be to God.