Wednesday, October 15, 2008

All ye repent

Yesterday, 13 women gathered at one of our pastor's homes for a little young female leader retreat. It was an interesting day on a number of levels. I was the first to arrive, so I had the privilege of watching others as they arrived and settled in. It's fun to people watch... To see how people interact and respond to one another; who greets whom with a hug or a smile, where people sit, who they sit next to... The first thing I thought of while observing the hub-bub was what I've been pondering for the last several months - community. I'll refrain from elaborating on that subject for a while.

We spent the day discussing leadership (which is always the over-arching subject of this particular group). What really got me pumped up (or riled in some cases) was the dissertation that Nancy Hedberg (our guest) presented on women and men in ministry (specifically, the role of women in general), and how she related it to the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (There actually wasn't any mention of the Spirit. The focus was more specifically on the equality of the Father and Son in both essence and function, and the similar relationship between men and women, and whether or not that perspective is biblical. That perspective being that women and men are equal in both essence and function.) I was pleasantly surprised to "get it" and that not only did I "get it" but I was able to flip right to passages in Scripture (and cross-references) as Nancy was talking. I guess being married to a philosopher is paying off...

So... while that was our day, there were other things that struck me, made me think, made me pray, made me repent... First and foremost, over the last couple of months I've had to contend with an increasing unsettled soul. Not just about community (although that is a piece of it), but about my attitude and trying to figure out why I feel so resentful about certain things. Many of these things are left undiscussed mainly because they pertain to my job and I can't openly discuss them here because that would violate the confidence of my position in HR... Unfortunately (and fortunately) I have a unique perspective in the organization and my ability to either vent or process in a verbal way is very limited for that reason. Back to the point... I've had to repent of my attitude. I know that life and death is in the power of the tongue, and I know (I KNOW) I have failed in my calling to speak in a way that would edify and bring glory to God's kingdom. That's a bitter pill to swallow. First, it's hard to just admit where I fail. (I think that's hard for anyone, but particularly for someone as stubborn as I.) Second, it means that I have to admit where I may have hurt someone because of the lashing of my tongue. Ouch.

It's easy to get caught up in a moment. It's difficult in that moment to stop and think very carefully about how my words may be construed (or misconstrued)... And, further, how those words may affect the listener (or reader), and then even further, how they may be passed on to others. Gossip. Hearsay. Email forwarding. Whatever. (By the way, this all relates back to character... On the subject of leadership, character can make or break your success. I think that's what struck me the most.) I have to question my motives... I don't think that my character, as it were, is questionable. But when I think back to moments of extreme stress, distress, anger and disappointment, my gut reaction (and sinful reaction) is to lash out with my tongue. I've learned over time that in most cases I can check it, but in many other cases it has gone unchecked... And as a result, it leaves destruction in its pathway. Sometimes apologies aren't enough. I can't unsay things I've said. I can't unsend things I've sent. I can't undo things I've done. All so very unfortunate because in the moment I'm not thinking of "others" - which is what I should be thinking about. I'm thinking very selfishly about myself and making ME feel better, letting ME vent my frustrations... Sometimes to the wrong people. Sometimes to the right people. But how do I know the right people are really the right people? I can't. And this just comes back to the point that words shouldn't be spoken (or written) if they aren't life-giving.

Sometimes it isn't even about what I really think or feel. I can easily recollect moments when I get swept into gossip by others and I add to the fire just be agreeing, or restating something they have said (call it peer pressure, or even self-pressure to "fit it"). When I hear this of others, I question, "Really? How old are they? Are we still in high school?" But... how slowly I am to think that of myself.

Sin. Selfishness. Arrogance. Bitterness. Rage. Hatred. God, take it from me! I don't ever, EVER want to be that kind of person, and yet I know that is me - even if just once in a while. It doesn't matter how infrequent that is me, if it happens just once since the last time I repented of it, it's still me.

I'm a total klutz. Everyone knows it. I do stupid crap all the time. Scott asks me, "Don't you have that little voice in your head that tells you not to do something?" My answer is always, "Well, yeah, but I don't listen to it." The same goes for my words. Don't I have that little voice (God) in my head telling me not to say something? Yeah... but I don't listen to it. Isn't that awful??? I listen once in a while, when I (I in bold) think I should. Not when God thinks I should. Or when another person might think I should. Again, selfishness.

I've hurt people with my words. That's a horrible feeling. I want to breathe life into relationships. My desire is that when people know me, they can count on the fact that I am a woman of noble character; that I am transforming into Christ's image and that I display His heart in all I say and do. My desire is for Christ, and yet I'm not certain that is how I present myself. Certainly, that is not the case always... But under pressure (whatever pressure that may be), when it really counts, who am I? Most of the time, my actions or words hurt inadvertently. And I'm so so grateful to those who are courageous enough to come to me when that happens. Sometimes it's a misunderstanding. Sometimes I just wasn't thinking clearly about how the other would interpret my actions (selfishness on my part). Sometimes I've purposefully been cruel.

I repent of all of that. I repent of life-sucking words, attitudes and actions. I repent of selfishness and arrogance. Move it far, far away from heart! Let me speak love and joy, truth and kindness!

If you're reading this and you're someone I've hurt, I'm so so sorry. Whether it was outright to you, or in a round about way, I'm sorry. I have no excuse. For those who love me anyway, in spite of my fallenness, thank you for allowing me the room to grow. (And for my husband who has to live with me daily, thanks for supporting me as I grow. I know it isn't always easy.)

So to you, repent repent! If God is speaking to you - whether a still small voice, or a slap in the head - listen! These are learning moments and opportunities to grow closer to our Creator.

2 Peter 2:10-11

Back to the foot of the cross.