Our church, like churches for a couple millenia, has gone through a split. Someone got angry about something – felt offended by something, people started talking, stirring up strife, and before you knew it, 60 families left the church. It happens. We’re human. We get offended — and we offend. It’s just one of those quirky things about a societal way of life.
That isn’t what made me angry. That makes me sad. Some close friends were within the 60 families, and I’ll miss being a regular, more often than weekly, part of their lives. I’m not overly good about reaching out and staying in touch, so I know I’ll miss regular interaction with them.
Here’s where my anger comes into play: a group who left purposefully and maliciously did something harmful in their wake. I reckon it to kids playing in the sandbox. It’s not a big deal that one of the kids playing doesn’t want to play anymore, takes his shovel, and goes home. That happens. Like I said, we as humans get offended, and we as humans offend. It’s that one of the kids playing doesn’t want to play anymore, so he takes his shovel, kicks dirt in my face thereby crippling me, takes my shovel away from me, then goes home.
I thought I was over it. I thought I’d wiped the sand out of my eyes, reconciled everything, and forgiven. But, a fundraiser started this week at church. When I saw the table I thought, “We wouldn’t need a fundraiser if they hadn’t kicked dirt in our face and taken our shovels away from us.”
And, a month after it all happened, I got mad all over again.
I find myself waffling with the desire to lash out versus forgiving and moving on. Someone told me Sunday night, when I admitted my anger, that the Bible says to forgive. I understand. But, when Paul saw things being done wrong, he acted by writing letters.
I’m pretty good at letter writing. I’ve written a dozen letters in my head. Strongly worded letters that would not leave a single person doubting my righteous indignation. But then I pull back. What does anyone who took part in the malevolent acts, in the kicking of the sand and the crippling they left in their wake, care about my righteous indignation? The answer is, of course, that they do not care.
So instead of acting, I’ve waffled back to forgiving and moving on. Except, I’m still angry. And, until I can let that go, I’m kind of stuck.
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Very good post, Hallee. Sounds like a grieving process where you have to go through the stages of your emotions to get to the other side. You’ll get through the anger once you’ve had time to process your hurt over how your church family changed almost overnight. Then maybe the forgiveness will stick.
I’m sorry Hallee. I’m actually crying by the time I got done reading this. As an older teen and pastor’s daughter I know the damage a split does. Our church went through 1 and I was at the meeting where my dad was torn apart and it’s ugly. It’s ugly how people can’t just leave peacefully but turn hateful and ugly and want to destroy everyone who doesn’t agree to do things their way. Split number two ended with my father giving up and being completely turned off to ministry. People get too caught up in “their way” and lose sight of the humanity of people, the love. Christians and non-Christians alike so easily let their “right-ness” taint everything they touch. I am praying that your (and apparently mine as I should be able to do this without crying 12 years later) heart heals and turn this anger into a firmer conviction that no matter the differences we will do everything in our power to disagree in a Christ following way, not turn it to bitterness.
Oh Hallee, I’ve been through splits and they are always hard, even when done without rancor. What I’ve found is that whenever I respond in anger (even if it MIGHT be righteous anger, for me, anyway, it usually is more FLESHLY anger than GODLY anger), the one who gets the victory is the enemy.
Turning the other cheek is hard.
Saying (and living), “Forgive them for they know not what they do” is hard.
Loving those who persecute us is hard.
But these are all things Jesus told us to do and demonstrated in His life. And when we walk in His steps, WE gain victory, WE grow in grace and forgiveness, WE are not stuck in our anger, WE are transformed more and more to the image of Jesus. And it is Jesus in US that draws the lost and opens the way for the church to grow in maturity and love.
Have you spoken to the sand kicker in question about this? I have. Every story has more than one side. I won’t agree or disagree that all actions taken are in the right, because I do not wish to poison my heart with hateful thoughts about all that are involved. Remember these things: 1) Passion for God’s Truth is the driving force behind all of this on both sides. 2) The church family that abandoned your church home left by CHOICE. Each is responsible for their own action. I understand that writing is your outlet, but I also know that from experience, and a lot of hard lessons learned, resolve comes from talking directly with the ones that are hurting you, not by venting on others. It may not give you the end results you wish for, but it will leave your heart in a state of peace and closure. I love you, my dear sister, and I hope and pray that your pain eases and your anger dissolves.
There is something in the human nature that allows groups of people to act far worse than any individual would ever act alone. You are making the right decision to just let it go. Action equals participation which fuels the fight. It is sad but given time some of the group will have time to think about what happened, check facts, and return. Some won’t, but there is nothing you can do about that that does not do more damage than good. :-(
You are stuck. And the reason you are stuck is because we cannot do this forgiveness thing alone. It is like “Love your neighbor as yourself”…impossible without the aid of the Holy Spirit. My guess is that you have not asked for help because you don’t want to give up your anger. When you do, when you want to grow, turn it over to God.
Hallee, I know I don’t “know” you, but I have a great love for the church you are referring, and have spoken with many involved. My heart breaks for both “sides.” Very sad, indeed. And having just come through a season of having to choose to forgive people myself, I know firsthand how hard it is. You think you are over it, then something happens and it all wells up again. The bitterness, the anger, the disappointment, it all just resurfaces and rips off the scab that was growing over the wound. We are now over a year out of our hurt, and it is still hard. I think we are finally turning a corner, we have no choice but to do that. I was reading a friends blog on forgiveness, and she had this great quote from C.S. Lewis which I am sure you have heard before : “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God forgave the inexcusable in you. This is hard. Maybe not so much a single injury, but the incessant provocations of daily life……How can we do it? Only by remembering where we stand, and by meaning our word when we say ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it means to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.”
She also quoted this one, source unknown: “Forgiveness means giving up the hope that the past could be any different. Forgiving is giving up the hope that it could have been any other way than it really was. Forgiveness does not mean that what happened was ok.”
This is all so hard, and I have been praying for the whole situation. When we were first dealing with what happened to us, a friend told me that this is not the church that Jesus died for. It put it into amazing perspective for me, and I think that we just need to make sure we are being the people Jesus died for, and when that happens, we can let go of a lot of stuff.
It is OK to be angry for a just cause. “Be ye angry, and sin not.” True forgiveness is forgoing the seeking of retribution or payment for a debt owed.
These things too shall pass. Be angry about wrongs committed but don’t hold on to it and don’t seek vengeance. “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord. I will repay.”
God bless you.
I’m so sorry. We went through a church split years ago and it still hurts. Forgiveness has taken place, but it took a long time. Some chose to continue kicking sand and it hurt. The only way to move forward was to forgive. It’s a difficult situation to work through. Praying the Lord gives you peace and the ability to forgive completely.
ITs o.k. to be angry at sin. Jesus was angry at sin. Just beware not to sin in return. I have been through a whole lot of church ugliness. I’ll pray for you and your church. God is still on the throne. It takes time to get through all of our feelings and find ways to deal with everything that comes up.
Hi Hallee! I LOVE this post! We are all human regardless of our beliefs or religious affiliation. It has always been interesting to me that there is a belief that Christians (or people who go to church) don’t sin, don’t get angry, don’t have the same problems that everyone has.
I love that you are human and that you shared this situation, that is obviously weighing heavily on you, with us. It would be easier to kick sand back, tell them exactly how you feel and take your shovels back. The path of forgiveness and turning the other cheek is by far the harder one to pursue. It is the path that is longer and pitfall filled as the hills and valleys of our emotions rise up and surprise us when least expected.
Hang in there, Hallee. We love you in your human-ness.
Stuck is okay Hallee. Just take the time to let God work! Hugs to you friend!