Grey? What is Grey?

In the middle of a conversation the other day, I made fun of myself.  I’m only able to do this because of years and years of becoming aware of myself, my thoughts and my behaviors.

Me: “What?  Why didn’t I get invited?  I would have wanted to go.  I didn’t see it in the bulletin or anything and no one mentioned it to me.  No one wanted me to go, huh?”

Gavin: “Babe, I don’t know.  Maybe they already had sign ups and everything before we even got here, so it wasn’t an option for you to go.”

Me: “No, it doesn’t matter.” Here is where I began to realize that I was saying and decided to make fun of myself. “No one likes me.  That is why I didn’t get invited.  Well you know what, I don’t like any of them!  I’m not their friend anymore.  Everything I said about being excited to get to know these people… not anymore.  They are dead to me.”

The sad truth about what I said is that I have actually said these things in seriousness before.  I am a pretty black and white kind of person.  There is no in between for me.  This is true for friendships, feelings, productivity… basically everything in my life. I really struggle with accepting things that are in the grey area and I really struggle to relate to people who live their lives in the grey area.

Fortunately, I’ve been really hurt by living this way and have learned quite a bit from it.  I’m not saying that I am cured, but I am very much aware of this default in me and I try very hard to make sure that it does not impair my life and my relationships like it has done so easily in the past.

Unfortunately, I still really struggle with this when it comes to people being wrong.  My sense of right and wrong is still stuck in the it’s either right or it’s wrong type of thinking that I have lost out on more relationships than I can count.  This, coupled with my sense of justice (I’m working on writing something about this very issue… but it is too big for my mind and heart right now), makes it very difficult for me to not be very upset and hurt when someone does something that they know is wrong or that is CLEARLY wrong whether they know it or not.  My expectations that the person will right their wrong and that others will join me in making sure that it happens often leads to disappointment and bitterness on my end.

I see this bitterness take root in my heart most frequently when it comes to ministry.  In the six years that Gavin and I have been together, we have done ministry together at five different churches, including the one where are currently are.  Of the four churches that we have left, we only left one of them on super good terms and based on our own decision.  The other three churches have acted unjustly.  There isn’t a fiber of my being that does not take responsibility for our part in the separations, please do not misunderstand me.  All I am saying here, is that I have felt slighted by people I thought we could trust and that should have acted justly and should been held accountable to a higher standard.

I like to tell myself that I have forgiven these people and that the only reason I don’t have them in my life right now is because I have created these amazingly awesome and beautiful boundaries (as any good therapist in waiting should), but if I’m honest, this really isn’t the case with most people.  I have never done my part in these relationships.  I have never gone to them and told them that I felt wronged and I have never apologized for wronging them.  I have just held onto this pain and bitterness that has led me to have to FIGHT to trust people in church leadership wherever I go.

You see, that is the terrible thing about holding onto all of this pain.  Not only do I have pain that I refuse to deal with (some of it, I truly believe is too raw right now… but others, I am 100% responsible for not handling it by now), but that pain interferes with my ability to trust others and move into new place and new relationships with an open heart and a willingness to be vulnerable.  I question everything that is said to me and I allow anxiety over something that isn’t mine to deal with consume me.  I find myself living out the motto of Danielle from Big Brother; “fool me once, shame on you… fool me twice, shame on me… fool me three times, I’m [stupid].”

Losin’- Tenth Avenue North

I can’t believe what she said
I can’t believe what he did
Oh, don’t they know it’s wrong?
Don’t they know it’s wrong?

Well maybe there’s something I missed
But how could they treat me like this?
It’s wearing out my heart
The way they disregard

This is love. This is hate.
We all have a choice to make

Oh, Father won’t You forgive them?
They don’t know what they’ve been doin’ (oh no)
Oh, Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losin’

It’s only the dead that can live
But still I wrestle with this
To lose the pain that’s mine
Seventy times seven times

Lord it doesn’t feel right
For me to turn a blind eye
But I guess it’s not that much
When I think of what You’ve done.
This is love. This is hate.
We’ve got a choice to make

Oh, Father, won’t You forgive them?
They don’t know what they’ve been doin’
Oh, Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losin’ (oh no)

Why do we think that hate’s gonna change their heart?
We’re up in arms over wars that don’t need to be fought
But pride won’t let us lay our weapons on the ground
We build our bridges up, but just to burn them down
We think pain is owed apologies and them it’ll stop
But truth be told it doesn’t matter if they’re sorry or not
Freedom comes when we surrender to the sound
Of Mercy and Your Grace, Father, send Your angels down (singin’)

Oh, Father, won’t you forgive them?
They don’t know what they’ve been doing (oh, no)
Oh, Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losing
I feel like I’ve been losing

Oh Father won’t you forgive them
They don’t know what they’ve been doin’
Oh Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losin’
I feel like I’ve been losing

Oh, Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losin’

I couldn’t even listen to this song all the way through when it first came out.  It was too convicting.  I hadn’t even considered the fact that hearing those that have wronged me take responsibility wouldn’t make things better for me.  There is a large possibility that even if every single person came to me and said, “you know what, I’m sorry.  I was wrong.” I would still be dealing with my own pain.  I hate the idea of turning a blind eye, like the song says, because that isn’t just and my heart aches for justice.  But then again, if my heart truly ached for justice, I’d want to be held just as accountable as I hold all of those people.  And, like the song says, how can I even begin to think of holding someone else accountable for their sin when, because of Christ, I’m free from the death that should come from my own sin.

This, I believe is harder to overcome for someone like me.  When you live your life in the black and white only, pain inflicted by someone else as well as the solution to the problem is clear.  Also, outright wrongdoings and lowered standards feel completely unacceptable and unjustifiable; so much so that they can consume my thoughts and discussions.  Living in the black and white, though isn’t beneficial and it isn’t an excuse to hold onto pain and to hold others accountable in my heart.  That isn’t God’s design for me as a person… or anyone for that matter.  There is nothing about any of the situations that I have described that bring glory and honor to God, yet that is my greatest desire for my life.

Sometimes I find myself frustrated with God.  I mean, after all, HE created me this way, didn’t He?  So, why do I have to suffer because of His creation.  Then I am reminded that there are good things about living in the black and white.  I love hard.  I give with every ounce of my being.  I pursue my God-given passion for people and their health with all that I have.  There are so many good things about living in the black and white.  It is because I live in a fallen world that living in the black and white is also a stronghold for the one who seeps life out of me.

I speak frequently on my blog about freedom that comes from living in Christ.  I discuss openly that what a lot of people view as rules and regulations are in fact God’s love in action for us.  When we aren’t in communion with Him and when we are not being accountable for the responsibility we have in our relationship with him, we are unable to view God’s guidelines for our lives as His love in action.  We aren’t able to see the freedom that comes from following those guidelines.

I bring this up because I find it ironic.  Freedom in Christ is something I preach.  It is something about which I am passionate and want everyone to understand, but in reality, I’m not fully living it.  I don’t feel restrained by my relationship with Christ, but I do feel restrained by my inability to trust that God will handle this and that I don’t need to find justice in order to let it go.  God calls us to forgiveness and He calls us to let it go.  He tells us to trust Him when He says that He will handle it.  Those actions lead to freedom.  The actions of living in the black and white when it comes to forgiveness aren’t leading me to freedom.  I am completely chained down and cannot live life abundantly as promised.

I rarely leave my blogs open-ended like this.  I like to end them with some kind of conclusion… something to encourage you.  Unfortunately, today, that is not the case.  I have nothing for you.  My “here’s to you my friends…” is a little different today.  My “here’s to you my friend…” goes something like this.  Here’s to you my friends who are in the same boat.  Let’s fight this together.  Let’s get out of the black and white and trust God to allow us to live in the grey (what I like to refer to as living in the tension).  Let’s forgive and uproot any bitterness that is or has been growing in our hearts.  Let’s live and love fully.  Let’s fight this together.