Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Significantly Bitter

A few days ago while sitting next to my husband, he says to me, "Rob, hon, you are bitter." I laughed and said, "How can you say I'm bitter? You know that can't be true." But even as I said these words the tears began flowing. Oh, I already knew, but  his words  hit the spot. He didn't say them to be mean. He said them with grace. His love for me overflows, and on this day, his words overflowed into my heart. You know, that deep spot no one knows. No one that is except our Lord Jesus. As our conversation continued my husband shared, "Hon, you are so hurt and angry." I reply with a mighty, "Yes, I am". And there is was. He says, "You know that hurt and anger has created bitterness". 

It killed me to hear those words. I've never been a bitter person. If you know me at all you know I am that mercy that connects with others. I'm that encouraging girl next door. But lately..well..over the past two years, hurt has been building. Anger has grown it's own little town in my heart. There right smack in the middle of town is the house of bitterness. 

We have become friends. Yep, bitterness hitched a ride in my back pocket. It traveled everywhere with me. I would lay it all down, only to see someone or hear something one said and there is was again rearing it's ugly head. "You were never loved. You were never appreciated. It was all a lie." Bitterness has found a way to sneak in and it has begun to overtake my life. I've not been that sweet friend. I've all but pushed..no wait..shoved people out of my life. I've built a wall to protect me, but while I was building that wall I forgot all that remained inside with me. 

Let me back up. Church wounds are hard. They are unexpected. No one thinks to be hurt by the church, but that is exactly what happened. After leaving our home church it was as if we were totally shunned. I never expected to be forgotten by the very people I called family. Twenty something years were spent inside this church. I can be honest with you and tell you I walked away and didn't look back. I didn't contact anyone wanting to talk or make peace. I waited for those who hurt me to come to me. This still hasn't happened and that is where my bitterness has rooted. It has built up a wall of untrust for others. As we have visited other churches it has been so difficult for me to open up and to let others in. When the very people you admire hurt you, whether intentional or not, it stings. It leaves a nasty scar and for me it is still healing.

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:31-32

I made a mistake of looking to others for my significance. Have you ever done the same? We attend church looking to fill our empty. We look to the pastor, leaders, Sunday school teachers, and to those who sit in the pew next to us to complete us. I didn't attend church as a child. So many things were missing in my life when I began attending church with my husband. That was over twenty years ago. As a new Christian I was looking to have my God spot filled, but I was still looking in all the wrong places. I simply needed to find Jesus and look to Him for my everything. Sure, others can inspire and encourage us, but we must not fall into the trap of depending on others to make us who we should become.

I looked for friendships to complete me. Plan and simple, I was desiring to be significant. To be accepted. For a time, this all worked for me. I stayed busy serving. I was surrounded by friends. I felt wrapped safely by the church. But something was still missing. I needed to seek Jesus on my own. It wasn't up to anyone else to supply my needs or make me 'feel' emotionally steady. I was placing my matter and my worth in what I was doing. I can tell you, now looking back, even though I was surrounded by many people, I was still lonely.

When our family decided to leave our home church my relationship with Jesus grew. I soaked in His Word. I found myself saturated in prayer. I found that it wasn't what I was doing, who I was with, or where I was attending church that mattered. What mattered was simply that I was falling in love with Jesus all over again. I found myself complete only in Him.

As a mother and a wife, I had a home that kept me busy, but I had the idea that I couldn't say no to anyone. The more I said yes to others the more I was accepted. It was when I laid it all down at the feet of Jesus that I began hearing Him whisper to me again. My stagnant faith was once again blooming. When I found myself in Jesus I could be the mother and wife I was created to be. I found a new joy, but yet in all this, there was that bitterness growing.

How could no one from the church I served in for over twenty years not come to me? How could our family simply be forgotten as if we never entered the doors? Yes, these questions and more just kept pounding away and everything Jesus was building in me. Pretty soon, the whispers of God, were almost silent. I didn't only feel left out by those I loved so dearly, but I was asking God what was the purpose? Why had all this happened and what in the world was taking place in my heart? I'm not sure there is any blame to be placed anywhere. I just want to find peace and have this bitterness significantly gone from my life, never to return again.

As I read over scripture I keep coming back to Galatians 5:22-23 "But the Holy Spirit produces the kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!"

I couldn't have what is contained in these verses until I let go of what God shares in Ephesians 4:31-32 I cannot produce fruit for Jesus until I surrender all the ugly. All the hurt and anger. I must lay down the bitterness. But before I could begin I had to hear the truth. Sometimes the truth is hard to hear, but that was exactly what I needed. I need to forgive those who have hurt my heart. We are simply people trying to find our way. We are sinners. Imperfect. I cannot expect of others what I am not willing to give myself.

So, what am I learning? This is a journey. A journey that at times is confusing. It's okay to ask God questions. That's how we share conversation. But I too must be willing to listen to Him. I can't be the one doing all the talking. This is my journey. My journey to finding Jesus more and more. My life cannot depend on what others think of me or how many friends I have. It isn't the circle that surrounds me. It isn't my status, but my heart. It all begins with my heart. I must love beyond the pain. I have to be willing to be injured in order to be ready to love. We cannot judge our God by His people. I must be willing to give and trust the Lord.

We haven't found our home church yet, but as we visit other churches I am finding more and more that God has a huge plan in all of this. Most of all, to bring me closer to Him. There are times things just don't seem to make sense. We try to figure it all out. I'm learning that I can't always figure it all out. If I trust in Jesus and follow His leading, He will guide me to having that perfect peace that surpasses all.

Are you on a journey of finding forgiveness and letting go of bitterness? You can't do this journey alone. Not without the Lord. He will open your heart to a new life in Him when we give Him the room He needs to make the changes. We must first come to the truth. Find the root of what has snagged us and allow the healing to begin.

So as I let go of my significantly bitter, I am growing significantly better. Not by anything I am doing, but by what the Lord is doing in my heart. In letting go I'm finding that Jesus is my everything.

"Our Refiner will take what is impure and make it pure. He will take what is dull and make it beautiful. He'll take what is of potential value and reveal its actual value. He will transform us into treasure." 
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