I know a pastor who was dating a girl, and the girl eventually left him for another pastor in the same church. They all had to work together for a while. I can’t imagine how hard this must have been.
Years later this pastor planted a new church, but he took all his hurts with him. He hardly opened up to anyone; viciously arm-wrestled for authority; shut off anyone he didn’t trust; boiled hate at other pastors; and viewed his ministry as a project he had to maintain under a strict disciplinary cage. Some have said this was his personality — but I knew him before the girl left him. He wasn’t always like this. He used to be so full of life and joy and laughter. Now he’s passive-aggressive, distant, moody, cold.
I’m not friends with him anymore, either. I no longer meet his invisible standard. There was a time when I was really mad at him for this: but the more I think about it, the more I understand. If the same thing happened to me that did to him, I might have carried over all that baggage too.
But the thing is: We all go through crap. We can let it hold us down, or not. The trauma and trials that we go through are not the worst things that can happen to us. The worst is when we let it give us permission to define us by a toxic lie — that somehow the world owes you, that you never have to trust again, that you can retaliate first, that you’re entitled to bitterness and contempt. The worst is when you rehearse your own sad story to the point where even the future is to blame, and every new face must pass an impossible test designed to fail. It is a harsh whisper in your heart that says, “Never again. I’ll show them.”
All this self-pity and victimization is understandable. I’m on your side about that. But this constant sour whisper will slowly destroy you. It will destroy everything you touch. I know this: because I lose a great friend by it. I have tried to tell him this: but he refuses to listen, and it hurts my heart to see him stomp his way through life with closed fists. It hurts me to see him interpret all disagreement as opposition or to take the most innocuous things so personally.
I know why you feel this way: But you cannot define your life by the losses you have incurred. You may have been embarrassed, shamed, stabbed in the back, betrayed, and cheated — no one’s saying this isn’t wrong — but it’s even more reason to find healing and peace, or else you will not pass on wisdom, but pain.
I know it hurts. I pray you find healing, my friend. I still love you dearly, and I would still gladly die for you in a second, no matter how much you despise me for the reasons you’ve rehearsed. Life has not gone the way you wanted: but there is still life left to serve God and to serve your fellow comrades in our journey together. Perhaps our roads will converge one day again.