Looking back now, I realize that I thought I had it all figured out. Seriously, I did. I never would have admitted it, though, because that would have sounded prideful and arrogant. It wasn’t an ignorant bliss kind of figuring it out. Oh, I had that, too, early on. But this was a confident-in-what-I-have-learned type of “figured out.” Years of studying and life experience had come together for me and I was sure I had an understanding that not many shared.
It’s hard not to feel that way in the church. There’s a lot of blissful ignorance out there. I would say the majority of church goers I’ve met don’t really even care to try to understand the doctrines and theologies that are involved in Christianity. It’s actually quite frustrating when you spend your life trying to teach these things, under the pretense that they are very important. The truth is, most Christians are happy being around people with similar cultural, ethical and moral beliefs. They want their children to grow up and “be a part of the church”, but if they never really have a grasp of all that a Christian believes, well, that’s okay.
So it’s easy to see how I might think I had it figured out…
My early twenties caused me to question a lot of the conventional Christian wisdom. My life wasn’t panning out exactly as I thought it “should”. When my first pregnancy ended in a traumatic miscarriage, it drove me to dig into what it was all about. What is prayer if it’s not really asking for what you need from God? What is “God’s plan for my life”? Does that mean that God planned for my baby to die? Do I actually have any choices in life? Why did Jesus tell his disciples over and over to ask for anything they needed and it would be given to them. Why did he say that when it was obviously not true? Are there really only three answers to prayers; yes, no or wait?
I dug, and I dug. It was a long painful journey. I came to some conclusions, and let some other questions go. I felt good about what I’d discovered, and I felt like it was a rare gem of wisdom and understanding I had come across. A rare gem that no one else seemed very interested in.
Once in a while I would read a book or article or hear a speaker and I would feel an incredible kinship instantly. They had the gem and appreciated it as well. I started to feel a little “special”. It was as if I believed God had given me a little something extra.
When you’re full of fabulous ideas, and no one cares, you tend to carry them out in your head – where they always work out perfectly. I had all the answers for what to do about Sunday school for small children, how to train parents to be better parents and to teach their children about God at home. And I especially knew exactly what middle schoolers needed. They were my people. I spent several hours with the same group of them every week. We studied and talked and laughed – and I gave them written tests each time we finished a section we were studying. I loved them. I was sure they needed me.
And then I was fired…
My husband and I were asked to resign from the church where he was the youth pastor. I was devastated to leave “my” children. I mean – I cried like someone had actually taken my own children away. I was in agony.
And then it got worse…
“My children” were listening to all the people that were trying to keep the peace at the church, and they started sending me messages about not being angry, and how it was all for the best, and all part of God’s great plan for my life. I was inconsolable. Not only were my children whom I loved taken from me, but also they were instantly brainwashed to take away any sign of the gem I had shared with them.
At least, that’s how it felt…
I have spent the past three years trying to make sense of it all. I felt like God had really let me down, even though I couldn’t put my finger on a single promise he had actually broken. He hadn’t come through for me in the most basic ways I thought he was supposed to. Every time I tried to talk to another Christian about it, I was met with a new layer of guilt for thinking life should be more “fair” or that somehow God had “owed” me something.
I blamed this extra gift of wisdom from God, my gem, for how I was treated. It made me look down on those without it even more. In fact, it made me fear them. I was convinced it was their ignorance that caused them to turn my world upside down.
Maybe I had forgotten something…
God is far more concerned with my character than my physical well-being. I don’t like believing that’s completely true. Especially when physical needs feel so overwhelming. But it’s true, and I know it. While I was teaching about loving others, proudly working to help those “disadvantaged”, I wasn’t necessarily looking down with disgust at other Christians who didn’t “get it”, but I was convinced that they all needed to “get it”. I was furious with them for their lack of interest.
Then one day my daughter said something to me that I had to admit I totally agreed with…
“I don’t like believing that God loves those people who hurt us as much as he loves us.”
There it was. The truth I’d been avoiding. The truth that I really didn’t love those people. The truth that I thought I was better than them; that I was more deserving of God’s love than they were. The truth that it angered me immensely to know they had all happily gone on with their lives while I was trying not to drown in my own tears.
Maybe I did have some wisdom others hadn’t yet discovered. All I know is whatever I am supposed to do with it totally escapes me now. I don’t have any answers today. I think I’m even out of questions. The only words I have to offer now have nothing to do with any wisdom I have been given. They are a prayer from St. Francis. Every time I read it I am again struck by the lines about not seeking to be consoled or understood or loved, but to console, understand and love. Even those we don’t understand. Even those who seem to intentionally hurt us. Even those who seem to be purposefully ignorant.
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred,
let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled
as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are
pardoned, and it is in dying
that we are born to eternal life.