Tending Graves

by Laura on February 3, 2015

“The resurrection life you received from God is not a TIMID, GRAVE-TENDING LIFE. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a child-like, ‘What’s next, Papa?’ “(Romans 8, The Message)

The last eight months, since we stepped foot on Asian soil, have felt a little like navigating active land mine fields– unexpected detonations becoming more common than not. And the thing that’s been most surprising (and hurtful) to me, however, is that most of the explosions have had deep relational fallout. Instead of the Midas-touch, most people we’ve touched have had something negative to say about us. It’s been decisions we’ve made that others disagreed with, miscommunications that resulted in hurt, conflict that got out of hand before we even understood there were issues. We’ve been criticized, land-blasted, and email-yelled-at, by partners, friends, and co-workers, by strangers brave with the anonymity of the internet. We’ve been falsely accused and nit-picked and torn down. It’s been a brutal season on our hearts.

And honestly, the amount of conflict, missed expectations and relational disappointments over the last months have left their marks. The lies of you are a terrible person, doing terrible work and no one is in your corner and if you don’t stay in front, people will steal it all  have become mantras we’ve slowly bought into. We’ve begun believing that the perspectives others have of us is the right one, and since we’ve gotten such consistent waves of negative feedback, our entire stance in life and work has become a defensive, paranoid and cynical one. It’s not difficult to start seeing demons around every corner and enemies eager for a misstep when every stumbling attempt forward delivers grenades, not cheering fans.

And we’ve mourned at the graveside of these failures for quite some time, now, processing the hell out of who said what and what did that really mean, where the breakdown began and how we should have recognized the signs sooner. We’ve grieved in the dark for relationships lost, wires crossed, reputations smeared, mistakes made.

But here are the things I’m learning about leadership, the front-lines, and growth: tending graves should only last a season and critics, naysayers, and the disgruntled will always grab the microphone. Yes, I need to process honestly disappointments, conflict and relational misunderstandings, but wallowing in what went wrong (both what I did and what was done to me) never moved anything forward. Tending graves is sedentary (and depressing) work. It pulls us away from the future by demanding we stay camped out in the past, sometimes for years waiting by a tomb of a situation or relationship that might not find redemption until the other side (and whose resurrection we have no power over anyway).

Screenshot 2015-02-04 06.13.30

And, you know, I’m not doing it anymore. I’m beginning to trust in new ways that God will redeem what He will redeem, when He wants to redeem it. I’m laying down my own microphone — explaining and justifying and scrambling to communicate my side of the story– and I’m letting go of managing the opinions others have of me, of us, of our work.

The truth is, I’m doing the very best I can to follow Jesus, to love others. And yes the path I’m walking is riddled, riddled with my own mistakes, but God wants me moving forward into light, not wringing my hands forever in the dark by the grave of something that went terribly wrong.

So, friends, here’s to forgiveness and grace for me and for them today and tomorrow and the day after that.

Here’s to walking out of that cemetery, with well-healed scars.

 

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How about you? Are you “stuck” licking wounds, tending graves?

 

*A note. Obviously when I talk about “moving forward” I am not talking about ignoring painful circumstances and relationships. It’s important to spend time giving yourself space to process grief and heartache, which is a vital component of eventual healing. Speaking truth, owning mistakes, trying to mend fences, grieving loss, Yes. Wallowing in broken things? Maybe not so much.* 

  • Bekah Mason

    One of the best statements someone ever made to me referring to leadership and relationships is that, when it comes to conflict, either need no defense or we have no defense. When I’ve done something wrong, I have to be able to see it, and wise and humble enough to take action immediately. And when I haven’t done anything wrong, I have to keep my hand to the plow and let the Lord fight for me while I continue the work. I’m not so good with that second one.

    Know that you are loved and admired and lifted up, and known, as much as one can be known through a screen from across the world. Your heart is seen, and your intention is for the best, even when those in the trenches with you may not be able to see it.

    From one ministry leader to another, remember you will see the fruits of your labor; do not give up hope. He who began the good work WILL see it through. The dead are dead, there is work to be done. Be thankful when God does the work to restore and reconcile, but keep tending to the living, sister!

    Know that I will be praying for you and Matt and the kids even more, and I commit to remind you of the often, so that some of that negativity can be canceled out. Much love and many blessings to you!

  • lisacocking

    “Yes, I need to process honestly disappointments, conflict and relational misunderstandings, but wallowing in what went wrong (both what I did and what was done to me) never moved anything forward.” <—– This. So many people I know have chosen the latter route, to wallow in wrongs from the past, continuing to cogitate and stew over what WAS rather than acknowledging it and moving on to what IS and what can be, if we allow God to work in and through us. Processing is important. The word makes me think of a computer–sometimes a large process takes a while to complete, and while it's happening everything else slows down a bit. Once the process is finished, something has changed: a problem has been solved, a new program installed, a virus removed, whatever. Then the system picks up speed again. The problem comes when processing gets stuck, like an old PC on a "Blue Screen of Death": stuck on an error message, unable to reset, unable to continue running other programs, unable to complete processing. It can be a slog, but we have to get through the process and move on, and not just stare at the error.

  • Elizabeth Trotter

    I so relate to this, this worrying what other people think, being in a more public role than before (though not as public as what you are doing starting up an NGO!). How do we break free of the tyranny of people, internally, where nobody but ourselves and God can see?? It’s easy to project an image of bravado that looks like we don’t care, but underneath it all, we DO care. The journey to move forward, forge ahead, even with mistakes behind me, or even just simple misunderstandings, without regard for other people’s opinions, that is HARD! I fought against it even this past week, several times actually, and it wore.me.out. A physical exhaustion that came from the mental exhaustion, that even made it hard to get up in the morning. At first I couldn’t figure out why I was so tired, since I seemed to be getting enough sleep.

    I find comfort knowing we are on the same path, together. And I’m so glad you shared this, now. I hope that even the writing and publishing of these feelings will help bring you freedom. And thank you for sharing that verse in the message. Wow. I love it, and you. <3

  • saj

    Thank you for this article! I LOVE it! Thanks for being honest and putting into words what so many of us are feeling and living. This is a great encouragement to move on and keep moving on with whatever God has called us to do.

  • John Powell

    Excellent points for a hard road to travel. Don’t quit. Galatians 6:8-9.

  • taralivesay

    prayers for you all coming from the Caribbean.

  • http://www.kelleyjleigh.com Kelley J. Leigh

    Brave words. Cheering for the path ahead.

  • Steph

    I am pretty sure every post you write is directly to me from the Holy Spirit. Thank you! : ) We are about to transition out of Asia to “home”…

  • melissa

    Thank you for all you are doing! Reading what you guys are going through and what you’re working to accomplish inspires this girl who is scared to take action a lot of times to do something. I’m praying for you, the people you work with and the people you are rescuing.

  • Alisa Ballou

    seriously, thanks for sharing. and thanks for the way you’ve let God lead you to the place where your heart’s at now.. I needed to hear that truth from someone who’s been there! God bless you guys!

  • sommerlowery

    Thanks for your honesty. We arrived in Asia eleven months ago. These words echo my own. Trying to mend brokenness here, but resting in hope that SOMEDAY all will be redeemed. Until then naming bitterness, pleading with God to give me a heart that loves and forgives.

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