As I poured out my heart, the person next to me, not only listened to me but affirmed me and what I said. She really listened and heard me and heard the deep cries of my heart beyond what I was able to put into words. And then she did something truly amazing. She affirmed what I felt and said. She didn’t rationalise or explain their behaviour so that I could see the other persons point of view. Instead she affirmed my deep feelings of hurt and rejection. She acknowledged how hurt I was and affirmed that it was ok to feel this way.
To me this was a revolution in ‘Christian’ care. Normally after pouring out my heart I am given a verse to remember or told how I need to forgive the other person and lots of other advice but never told that my feelings are ‘normal’ or ‘ok’. So I end up believing that my beliefs and feelings are wrong. Hence, I had stopped sharing them with other Christians and ended up suppressing them instead.
What is interesting is that after my friend heard me today and allowed me to just speak, I then, of my own volition, acknowledged that the hurt wasn’t intentional and I was able to forgive and let go. All it needed was to be heard and my feelings believed and affirmed, indeed valued.
Perhaps when reading Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:31 (NLT):
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour.
we need to focus on the words ‘get rid’. I have always focused on the fact that rage, anger, etc are bad things to have and felt guilty for having them. Today as I read them now, I realise that that is this is NOT what Paul is saying here. He recognises that these feelings will creep in but the healthy ‘Christian’ thing to do is to ‘get rid of’ them.
And how do we do that?
By first of all acknowledging that they are there. We are not perfect, we do all sin. However if as in 1 John 1:9 (NIV):
we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness
Just reaching this stage has been a huge journey for me. It took me years to truly believe that when I confessed my sins to God he forgave me there and then. I used to hang around waiting for the words of recrimination and rebuke but instead there was silence. Finally the penny dropped. The silence was God’s way of saying that it was done with and dealt there. There was no further word on the matter.
However that isn’t enough. We also need to dig down and discover what the pain is behind all those horrible feelings and thoughts. Today I was lucky. There was someone there who helped me to find and admit to them but that is a new experience in my life. I have searched and yearned for someone, a friend, that I could be this honest with. Seeing a counsellor, a professional is all very well but they are paid to listen to you. I wanted someone to listen just because they cared.
As I write this I realise how important this is in our world and our churches. Those of us who are sensitive, emotional people ARE marginalised yet we have so much to offer to a hurting world. Unfortunately, because we aren’t tough, strong, resilient people we are easily discouraged and give up. And that is how I felt this morning; that my attempts to use my gifts and skills within the church had been dismissed. In fact that I had been dismissed. Yet the following verse has also been rattling around in my head:
Jesus urges us to keep going even when we feel like giving up. (Luke 5:5-6). However he does not expect us to go it alone. It is not about inner strength of our own. Indeed in our weakness is his strength. Today he sent someone alongside to encourage me to keep going when I felt like giving up. It is at moments like this that we become the body of Christ, when we support one another, not when we stand up strong on our own.