Today's Scripture -- 11.3.2014
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me."
~ Matthew 5:11
When Their Words Have Stung You
I was already in my nightgown when the phone rang.
I recognized the name on the Caller ID, but I couldn't imagine why that person would be calling so late.
My own "hello" had barely coasted out of me, when the sulfuric sound of anger from the other end swallowed me.
"I've never seen such poor ministry leadership in all my life, as I have with you and your husband," said the voice, frothy and shaking.
I held my breath during a torrent of accusations.
The call came several years ago, and I've tried to un-remember what the person said. But I can't. The words split me open. These are the words that sliced deepest: "And you two call yourselves Christians?"
I fell to my knees, unsteadied by the shock of this phone call. The voice continued, and it felt like five minutes of forever.
I didn't know what to say. My voice box locked itself up, and all I could manage was: "I'm sorry you feel that way. We clearly see things differently. That wasn't our intention."
But mostly, I sat quietly, remembering what a wise friend told me once: "Only God vindicates. You do not need to defend yourself."
But I wanted to defend. I wanted to tell the voice about the countless hours that my husband and I had spent in prayer over that ministry. I wanted to tell the voice all the innumerable details that would have justified our actions. I wanted to argue. I wanted to slam the phone down.
But I didn't. I just listened, and when I hung up the phone, I couldn't stop crying.
I had been treated like half a person, ripped up on the inside.
Our leadership position suddenly felt like a burden, rather than a blessing.
I wanted to quit. I wanted to tell the person that the job was all theirs. I wanted to defend myself to all of our mutual friends.
But none of that felt right.
What does a person do when she's been sliced open by the words of another?
Maybe you know what it feels like, to be dropped to your knees by criticism or false accusations. Maybe you know how deeply the wound hurts when your worst critic is someone who was on the same team, as a fellow worker in the Kingdom.
One of the most painful parts of ministry has been saying "yes" to roles where you know you are going to be misunderstood or judged, even when you feel you've done what God has called you to do.
What does a person do when that happens?
I know what I wanted to do -- I wanted to quit, run, defend, argue.
But I also know what Jesus says.
His Word calls the insulted ones "blessed."
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." ~ Matthew 5:11
In the Greek, that word -- blessed -- can also be translated as happy.
It seems absurd, that I could feel "happy" or "blessed" after a phone call like that.
But when I remember what Jesus said, I start to get turned around on the inside.
Here's why: The words of Christ will always matter more than the words of our critics.
Every day, we face the potential for being evaluated or unapproved. Every day, we face the possibility of being misunderstood by someone in the carpool lane, on the committee, in the church sanctuary.
And every day, we get to choose:
Will we respond with more hurt, or will we respond with more Jesus? Do we want to live "unapproved" or PreApproved?
That night, I gave myself permission to cry. I didn't wall off the pain. But my husband and I chose not to respond by lashing out, or defending our decisions, or bad-mouthing the caller to our mutual friends. We also knew that the phone call was an opportunity to look back on our decision, to see whether we had been mistaken.
We still feel like we made the best decision, and we came to realize that the caller was responding out of a place of hurt.
I still don't know that if I'd be able to consider myself "happy" if a call like that happened this week. But I do know this:
1- God continues to call each of us into roles where we may face scrutiny and possible criticism.
2 - God left His Church in the hands of sinners, so conflict is bound to happen.
3- We will inadvertently hurt one another.
But that doesn't give us an excuse to quit. We are each called to follow Jesus wherever he leads. Wherever. And wherever that place is for me, I want to go there with Jesus. I want to follow Him close enough that He can feel my breath on his back. I want to walk close enough so I can hear His heartbeat -- the blessed, happy sound of Christ, the only sound that can drown out the voice of man.
This post is part of our month-long series, "A November to Remember: Seeing Yourself Through God's Eyes."
I'm inviting you to spend the next 30 mornings with me, as we listen to what God says about us, before we listen to what Facebook says to us. We're after "More Soul; Less Scroll." #MoreSoulLessScroll
How You Can Be a Part of This Movement:
1 - Print out the Scripture sheets. (Click here for printable versions.) Each of the 30 daily Scriptures are quoted in Love Idol, and each one ties back in some way to our identity in Christ. (You don't have to read the book to participate in this study. But of course, you're welcome to! :) )
2 - Find the passage assigned for today's date.
3 - Ask God to speak to you through His Word, and read the verses assigned.
4 - Consider how God is speaking to you. How does the verse help you remember who you really are, outside of all the cultural noise?
5 - Visit us on the blog, or the Love Idol movement page on Facebook, to share what the verse means to you.
6 - Share your insights on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or your blog, to add more soul to your scroll. :) Tag me, so I can find you. (Or feel free to follow along silently! No social-media presence required.)
I'll post my own response here on the blog every morning at 5 a.m. Sometimes, you'll find a story, maybe a few short words, maybe a series of photos. That will happen every day, for all of November, God-willing.
Studies show that the best way to form a habit, is to NOT break the chain. Habits form if you keep at it, one day after the next after the next. After our 30 days, we may have created a new habit of Scripture before Scrolling -- a habit that can take us into the Christmas season, and beyond.
If you want to follow along, visit us here every day. Consider subscribing to my blog by clicking here to get these reflections in your email inbox.
A helper sheet for how to do "Pin God 1st" and what it means to pray the scripture (Lectio Divina)
Let this be the November that we remember who we really are: Loved. Preapproved. His.
Find all the posts in the November to Remember series by clicking here.