This whole new thing I’m doing, speaking up for myself… this whole telling the truth thing. The refusing to continue to keep the peace thing…
So as it turns out, when you do that, you don’t actually have peace. At least, not right away.
I’ve always prided myself on being a quick study. And then, you know, something like this comes up, where I’m taken quite by surprise by a glaringly obvious conclusion that I’ve completely missed, and I have to rethink that pride.
And not just the pride about being so smart. I was also feeling quite complacent about the fact that I had realized I should not be a peace keeper. I patted myself on the back a good time or two for that.
And I completely neglected to think through WHY I had been keeping the peace all these years, at any expense.
It was that I WANTED peace at any expense.
So realizing that I was paying too high a price for it, and that as a point of obedience to God, I needed to stop peace-keeping and start truth-telling, that was all well and good, but I completely failed to address the need for peace that drove me to be a peace-keeper in the first place.
So now I’m paying a price again. It’s a better price – it’s a more righteous price, if you will. The price for obedience. So it’s not that I’m looking back at the days of pretending and keeping quiet and downright lying to myself and others and wishing life was like that again.
Well, okay, to be honest, yes, I do miss the part of those days where I felt like all was well. Even though I knew deep down it wasn’t real. But I miss that happy fantasy. Of course I do.
But I don’t miss the price I paid to have it.
And I am now having to pay a new price.
Which reminds me of another thing in which I have prided myself all these years…
See, excuse me for interrupting here, but just that phrase “in which I have prided myself” should have been a red flag. That should have tipped me off that I was treading the thin ice of “going before a fall.” But as long as I didn’t actually say the word “pride,” as long as I didn’t call it out, I managed to imagine I was perfectly righteous. Which, of course, was another red flag. But I digress.
Anyway, another thing in which I have prided myself all these years is the fact that I’m so very easy to get along with. I have told many a friend, who came to me to apologize for something they thought might have offended me, that I don’t offend easily. Other people seemed to live in drama with the people around them, but I was quite happy with the fact that I didn’t really have any enemies.
Sure there were people who were noxious, or selfish, or manipulative enough that I had learned to give them a wide berth. But I didn’t feel offended by them. I simply recognized that healthy boundaries were in order because they were not in control of their own behavior.
But wasn’t it wonderful, I thought to myself, how well I got along with everybody. And I took some sort of spiritual credit for it. It’s because I’m a Christian, I told myself, so I live in grace and forgive people and besides, I’m surrounded by other Christians so of course we all get along.
I think I had an inkling deep down that those thoughts were not actually true, at least, on a deeper level. But I found it more comfortable to bask in a vague sort of Christianness than to really address any of the doubts that bubbled just below the surface.
Because deep down, I think I knew that Christians are human, and therefore fallible, and therefore capable of sinning against me. Or frustrating me. Or annoying me. Or (gasp) even offending me. But it was so much easier to stay within the bubble of Christian culture and pretend that that wasn’t a thing.
And of course, in order for that bubble to be maintained, I had to throw myself wholeheartedly into peace-keeping. I had to rise above. I had to not notice things. I had to convince myself, when taken advantage of, that I had wanted to give that time, that energy, that money, whatever it was that was taken, in the first place. Which also worked in really well with my pride, because then I could take credit for being so altruistic.
I’m shuddering here. I mean, it’s so obvious now.
But I think it’s only so obvious because once you start telling the truth, it’s hard to stop. This is a good thing, but it doesn’t do anything for making life comfortable. My BFF reminded me the other day that sometimes, in order to have peace, you first have to go to war.
Now when I say “going to war,” I’m not talking about being obnoxious or rude about telling the truth. I’m talking about simply speaking up for myself when the truth needs to be told. About not going along with the crowd, or the authority figure, in some twisted sense of submission, but speaking up and pointing out when things aren’t lining up.
It turns out that when you do that, people tend to push back. You end up being at odds with people. Things are not entirely nice. There’s tension, unresolved disagreement. And you sometimes have to be the only one in the room taking the stand. It’s uncomfortable. It makes you look like you’re not a team player.
It doesn’t please people.
And so this week, the price of not keeping the peace is coming due. I find myself at odds, to differing degrees, with my pastor, my small group leaders, my counselor, my daughter and two close friends. And, of course, my husband.
With some of them, it’s simply a point of needing to point out, consistently, that they are prescribing a course of action that doesn’t apply to my situation. They may not ever agree with me, but I know there is a gaping hole in the way the Church deals with situations like mine.
Church people, I’m finding, don’t know what to do with emotional abuse. They want to treat it like other marital misunderstandings and points of contention. They don’t want to address it as the abuse that it is. And it’s not just me that’s seeing this – I’m beginning to discover all kinds of women in the same boat, who have come to the same conclusion. One dear friend who went through this a few years ago pointed out than not even the police knew how to handle the crisis of emotional abuse she and her children were in, to the point of needing a restraining order against her husband.
So some of my personal unrest has to do with advocating not just for myself, but in the hopes that I can pave the way for those down the road who find themselves in my situation. At least with these particular pastors and lay-leaders, at any rate.
But some of the contention I’m experiencing is actually coming up because those who I thought were on my side had an element of their own agenda going on. Not that they are against me. But I’m seeing some boundaries that have to be set, and people don’t generally enjoy boundaries. Especially when they have an agenda.
So between the advocating with pastors (and seriously, who am I to tell people in ministry that they are wrong? But how, before God, do I not speak up if I think a mistake is being made?) and handling simple misunderstandings that arise from tense situations and setting boundaries for people who aren’t setting their own, I’m definitely feeling the lack of peace. I’m definitely tempted to go right back to keeping it at all costs. Except I’m definitely still bankrupt in that area, having squandered all my I’ll-just-take-the-hit-this-times in a bid to keep up the appearance of the Good Christian Marriage and Accompanying Happy Family for a good 27 years.
Another element that occurs to me now is that I’m probably wrong about some of the things about which I’m offended. In all my righteous truth-telling, I may have gotten some facts wrong. It’s highly likely that I am seeing some things with a skewed perspective. It’s inevitable that my woundedness has put a filter over my perception that colors things evil that might simple be misunderstandings.
So I am probably headed, down the road, for some apologizing and repentance. I can’t do it until I see it, but I have to assume that I’m not right about everything. Especially since that has worked so badly for me in the past.
So this means that some of the people against whom I am now feeling offense are going to have to go the extra mile for me and forgive me for the very “righteous” things I think I’m doing now. We’re going to continue to have these truth-telling conversations, only this time the shoe is going to be on the other foot and I’ll be the one asking for forgiveness.
And somehow, rather than making me feel hopeless, that thought makes me feel really alive. This is humanity. This is what it is to be an imperfect eternal being made in the image of God but completely incapable of living up to it.
This is why love is so important. Why grace is key. Why it is vital to remember that when Jesus taught us how to pray in Matthew 6, he pointed out that if we do not forgive others, neither will the Father forgive us.
Because if I’m so puffed up with pride that I think I can continue to hold offense toward people, I am not worshiping a merciful Father. I’m worshiping the idol of my own pride.
And that idol does nothing for me, in the forgiveness and payment for my sins department, come Judgment Day.
Nor does it have any power in establishing true peace, the kind that lasts, that’s based on the truth.
Only the Lord can give us that.
Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 HCSB