So… I wrote that post last week about feeling depressed, and everyone was wonderful to me.
I’ve been slowly contemplating the things of my heart, and the blessing of fresh starts.
Leaving my previous church was really hurtful. I only really left because of some divine intervention, but I’m not sure how long I would have lasted anyways. I’ve been trying to sort out everything that happened and the truth of it all, and I keep coming back to the way Big Church tore down my identity with the help of a few people who were close to me.
How many of you have seen the movie Pretty Woman?
There’s this part in the movie, where Julia Roberts is talking to Richard Gere about her past… and she says something that’s always stuck with me. She’s telling him about all of the horrible things people have called her and about her beliefs about herself. It’s all really bad stuff, so he tries to encourage her by complimenting her.
“The bad stuff is easier to believe,” she says.
When I was at Big Church, people told me that I was setting a poor example for the other girls in the area of submission. They forbade me from talking with my closest friends because they said I was causing dissent.
That kind of stuff is really difficult to hear.
I look back on it, and I honestly think I was doing a beautiful job of submitting and squelching dissent that was coming from every direction. I don’t think my heart had an inkling of horribleness until long after I was weighed, measured and found wanting. I also think the heart troubles that crept in were attached to the hurtful and unjust labels people threw at me.
Julia Roberts was right, you know… it’s easy to believe the bad stuff.
I don’t think the things people were saying had truth to them… and yet I still believe those things.
Every single one of them.
Because of what others said, I believed I was bad at submitting and contentious.
I still believe it sometimes, even though I don’t think it’s true.
I was at church a few weeks ago, and just after the sermon was over, I turned to my friend Amy the Dentist and said, “That was a particularly excellent sermon, don’t you think?”
She didn’t say anything, but laughed at me a little.
“Why are you laughing?” I asked.
“You’d never think a sermon was bad,” she said.
At first, I wasn’t sure what to think about that, but later, I realized something. I’ve been at Holy Cross for awhile now, and I’ve spent a decent amount of time with Amy the Dentist… in all that time, I’ve never said anything bad about Holy Cross, Pastor Pete, his sermons, or anyone at all. In fact, I’ve said enough good things that Amy perceives me as that person who doesn’t notice anything but the good. She perceives me as the opposite of contentious.
One of my favorite verses is “… out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” (Mt. 12:34). I like that verse because it’s one of the only insights God gives us into the heart. We can’t know other peoples’ hearts and sometimes I struggle to know my own, but if my words convey what’s in my heart, I can take comfort in knowing that my mouth has said only good things for awhile now.
Unfortunately, while I was at Big Church, people seemed to be implying that my heart was bad. No matter how unjust it felt for people to imply that, I couldn’t but examine and re-examine my heart, fearing some secret darkness that was obvious to them but hidden to me. I kept coming back to that verse, and trying to find the abundance of evil I was accused of, but the greatest evils I found in my heart were fearful concern and pinch of defensiveness. Most of what was going on in my heart and being conveyed through my words was a dread that we were heading down a path that was going to rob us of the most valuable things we possessed.
Another ache in my heart during that time came from the girls. They frequently teased me because I often went to bed while they stayed up talking. For awhile, it was clearly just teasing, but it eventually crossed a line into the serious when one of the girls said something like, “I don’t understand how you can just go to your room while there are people here. If I’m given the choice between talking with people or doing something I should do, I always choose people.”
The way she said it implied, again, that I had a heart problem because I was misprioritizing. Again, I examined and re-examined my heart, and found nothing to get up-in-arms about, yet it was easier to believe that I am a hermit who hates people than that I’m a normal person who has to sleep.
The other day, Amy the Dentist and I were introducing ourselves to the new people at church, and it turned out that I knew one of the new couples already. After we talked to them a bit, then went back to our seats, Amy said something like, “How do you know everyone?”
I scoffed at her, being like, Pah! “I don’t know everyone,” but when I thought about it later, I realized that Amy has seen me three times in the past week, and each time, I introduced her to at least two new people who I already knew. Her perception of me is that I have relatively close relationships with lots of people – and I think she’s right.
Both of those healing comments from Amy were only possible because she has a fresh perspective and is part of a fresh start God blessed me with.
When I was out walking today, I was reminded of another fresh start as I saw this beautiful rainbow in the sky:
This rainbow made me wonder if the fresh start I’ve been given isn’t similar to the fresh start after the flood in Genesis. Of course God didn’t overwhelm the evil in my life with water, because He’s promised us never to do that again… but what if God saw the evil overcoming me, and transplanted me to a place where I could have a fresh start?
I’m probably always going to mistrust the church and people because of the things that were said about me at Big Church. I’m probably always going to hurt because of it… it’s one of the only times in my life where I feel like I was doing what’s right and pursuing God with a pure heart, yet unjustly faced malice and judgment.
It’s nice to know that God gave me a fresh start with a chance to see myself through eyes that aren’t looking for the worst in me.