I recently visited a ministry out of state to observe and gather information. Part of their requirement was to attend their group sessions and meet the people they minister too. Many of these had been deeply wounded affecting their view of themselves as a man or a woman. Experiencing abuse, belittling, berating and many other sorts of verbal and physical assaults. They came here to hear words of hope about a God who loves them unconditionally. The night started well with a time of beautiful worship. Hearing the melodic voices of the men in the room was like oil to my soul. I liked what I was experiencing. Then the director of the ministry began teaching some basic biblical truths about how our identities as men and women.
Not know this man or anything about him, as he spoke I noticed some of the explanations of biblical accounts seemed slightly off from what I have come to know about my loving God. Not necessarily theologically off, but nonetheless off enough to feel a rise in my gut that something felt amiss. Then their were comments that had an undercurrent of sarcastic stereotyping that made me cringe and want to run and cover every ones ears and shout NO! Stop speaking!
I fidgeted in my seat, planning my excuse for why I wasn't going to stay for the group session after the teaching. And, that I had seen enough and would just spend the next day relaxing until my flight home. But I had come a long way and heard God whisper to me to sit it out and trust Him. We broke off in to separate groups, men one room, women another. I am glad I stayed.
I was so blessed to hear real stories of real life from women of all ages talk about their journey with God, walking out their past wounds in present healthy ways. They welcomed me and heard my story and took me in as if I had been there all along. Afterwards all, men and women went out for some social time.
The man who had taught was at another table and I was still slightly seething inside but resolved to attend another meeting the next day with other staff. During our conversations over late night appetizers, a staff member and group members were recapping and laughing at another time when this same man put his foot in his mouth with unfiltered comments. Although humorous to them, it wasn't to a few who chose not to come back. In that moment I felt justified in my attitude toward that man. He obviously had a pattern of inappropriate comments at inappropriate times. He had to be told so he would stop hurting people. I started thinking how I could delicately tell him how offended I was at his comments, on behalf of the men and women in the room.
Then God started to get a hold of me.
These women were not offended. That was puzzling. The reason is they knew this man. He was notorious for putting his foot in his mouth. I was an outsider and made many judgements about him based on two comments and shut him out. I put him in the same category I had put others who spoke in this manner. I had no grace available.
It easy for us to get offended by comments that stir up old feelings of similar experiences in our lives or where we are sensitive.
The next day, not part of our schedule, I had the chance to speak with him one on one. He wasn't anything like I painted him in my mind and heart. He genuinely loved these men and women. He understood their struggles and was passionate to help them on their path to healing.
Later that day over lunch with his second in command, I learned more about his story and realized his comments were out of his own wounding. It was something he was aware of and working toward changing...He had improved from where he was. God spoke to me to pray for him. To love him. Not to judge him. Not to correct him.
The scriptures that I had read that morning resonated with me as I processed this new perspective. In 1st Samuel 24:4-7 it speaks of David's opportunity to take vengeance on King Saul, the man who was seeking and attempting to kill him at every occasion. Instead, David remembered that it wasn't his place to take the life of someone God had chosen.
The man in this ministry for the past 28 years was called to do a unique and powerful work that was impacting lives in a positive way. But he was also human and made mistakes and still in process, like me.
I took away some powerful growth opportunities from this experience. God sees the whole picture, we see only our perspective. When we carry an offense it impacts our ability to receive from that person, potential resulting in missing amazing experiences.
When we take the time to put an offense on hold and find out more information, a few things can happen. We can experience the offense melt away into nothing, realize in humility that God is God, and it is not us or we can choose to be closed, unwilling and bitter about the offense. One path is freedom, the other bondage, for us.
Forgiveness is the ultimate end to situations like this. But it is important to walk the steps to get there. I was able to forgive the man for offending me but it was a process. The offense isn't the sin,. What we do with an offense will determine if it will cross the sin line.
I have been learning a great deal about how an offense, no matter how big or small, can fester into something bigger and nastier than it needs be. There is truth under an offense. We need only be willing and in humility, allow God to reveal it.
Don't forget to pick up a copy of my book, "Confessions of a Feel Good Addict"
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