I am a forty-one year old woman who has been faithfully serving the Lord for over sixteen years. For over sixteen years I have spent at least five hours a day in the Word of God every day. That’s not counting praying and seeking Him through His Word for wisdom in specific situations throughout the day, and that’s not including church attendance a minimum of three times a week. This is at the very least twenty-nine thousand two hundred hours spent with the Lord one on one.
So here I am in this place of supposed stability in my relationship with the Lord and my surety of His faithfulness and His promises, and yet still people who profess to know Him and claim to love me can still throw me off guard. In this stunned state, I find that I will lower my shield of faith just enough to momentarily receive a hit from the serpent of old’s arrow of doubt and all these hours of investment in God and His Word seem in that moment to be in vain.
This is why the song “Come Thou Fount” is my very favorite hymn… that line, “prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love” is my heart crying to God in utter thankfulness that He has indeed sealed my heart. He holds me tightly to His chest while my fist pummel against Him and I can hear His small, still, sweet voice whispering His “sssshhhhhh, it will be okay, just trust Me” through my cries of why. His love holds us to Him because He knows there will always be times this side of eternity that is just to painful for us to hold ourselves to Him.
I am one of those girls that doesn’t let people in easily. I don’t know why, I just know that I have never been someone who trusted the sincerity of others easily. I am usually looking for their angle. I am usually wondering if their words will match the actions… and sadly more often than not in my life the words have not matched the actions.
I suppose the thing that makes it so hard is that I am also a hopeless optimist. I usually give someone the benefit of the doubt in the beginning. I step in cautious but still always hope and expect them to be who they claim to be right at the first. I share little things, I open cracks in windows so I can fully control what goes in and out… then slowly I’ll test the thought of opening the front door. I’ll leave them on the porch, but the door is wide open.
Then if they show themselves to be otherwise, that door shuts, and well, it’s just hard to come back from that reality check. So I step back inside, close the windows, prop my shield of faith up with a sling of skepticism, and begin to build a wall around the perimeter of the house. I think “building a wall” is the same as the term “Compartmentalize.” According to wikipedia compartmentalization is an unconscious psychological defense mechanism used to avoid cognitive dissonance, or the mental discomfort and anxiety caused by a person’s having conflicting values, cognitions, emotions, beliefs, etc. within themselves.
This conflict within ourselves as believers is often between the command of God to love unconditionally and the reality that it can hurt like hell when we do.
So we step back.
We make distance.
We build a firewall.
We’ve been burned and we have to heal. (Or perhaps, this is just me)
In this repetitive process, I’ve learned to take the time to examine myself. Our God wastes no hurt, no pain, so if I have experienced it I know He needs me to learn from it. My own hurt reminds me of how important it is for Christians to be true and trustworthy. Therefore, I try to get to the place where I can stop and say “God this hurt, please help me to not hurt others the way I have been hurt”, as quickly as I can.
Through my own hurt I am always reminded of how important it is for me to make sure that I am intentional to love others with sincerity (1 Peter 1:22). It’s so easy to slip into a pattern of flippant answers, quick replies, and fake smiles… and our world needs the sincere. Our world needs the genuine. Our world needs the real.
I realize how important it is to love with sincerity because, whether we like it or not, God has chosen to use PEOPLE as His instruments of the message of His salvation through Christ. This is how He has chosen for His gospel to go forth. He didn’t choose blogs, podcasts, books, tweets, or even online sermons… He chose PEOPLE. So how we treat people matters.
If how I am treated by others can cause me, sixteen years faithfully walking with God, to be hit by the arrows of doubt by the enemy of our souls, then how much greater is the wound of the heart that is hit by the attack of these arrows that has no shield of faith at all to protect or deflect?
We can choose to be used by the enemy of our souls to wound people over and over and over again or we can choose to take up our own cross and be wounded so that others might live (2 Corinthians 4:11-12). Which means that after you have had time to heal… you must put your heart back out there to be hurt again. One thing that I have learned is that your heart will be hurt again.
I wish that I could get through to all of us who profess to love the Lord and yet condemn their brothers and sisters for things that don’t make a hill of beans of difference in the light of eternity. We often seem to spend more time looking for reasons and ways to destroy each others ministry and witness than the devil does. We too often are concerned with the actions of others that are only wrong because we simply don’t agree with them. We pick our argument and we gather around us our group of opinion agreerers and then we begin to slowly erode, divide, and destroy unity.
This is nothing new in the life of the church. In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul is writing to the church in Corinth and he shares, 3 This is the very thing I wrote you, so that when I came, I would not have sorrow from those who ought to make me rejoice; having confidence in you all that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not so that you would be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you.
When those we expect to make us rejoice cause us sorrow it can seem to wound with an incurable wound. These hits cause arms to go limp in stunned shock and many drop their cross at their feet and walk away dejected and defeated. They expected to take lashes from those who hated their Lord and His Word, but the blindsided wounds of those who were supposed to be their brethren… it’s often too much to take.
Then there usually comes the shallow offering of consolation with the excuse that the ones that hurt them are only human or just sinners too… can we just not. According to Ephesians 4, Colossians 3, 1 Peter 4, and more, in Christ we are not only human or just sinners. We are filled with the Spirit of Christ. We are holy priests and saints, and we are to be held to a much higher standard than that… so could we just own it.
Owning it, however, works both ways.
In 2 Corinthians 2 Paul went on to say, 5 But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree—in order not to say too much—to all of you. 6 Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, 7 so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. 10 But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.
Owning it means admitting that how you treat others as a professing believer matters and it also means that how you forgive others as a professing believer matters. Building walls does as much to destroy unity in the body as the ones we are building our walls to protect ourselves from. Jesus came to tear down dividing walls (Ephesians 2:14). When people make you doubt God and that serpent’s arrow hits it’s target, don’t doubt Him… run to Him. Bury your head in His chest and let His Word whisper to the depths of your hurt and heal it… and let us do our very best to not be guilty of trying to build back up what Jesus died to tear down.
The world is watching how believers treat each other. The world is watching how believers treat others period. They are looking to us to see if this Jesus we claim to love and that we claim loves them is real, genuine, sincere. We have to always be ready to ask ourselves, what will they see when they watch me?