“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).
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.
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.*