Pastoral Care…A Letter to My Young Friend
I wrote this pastoral letter yesterday to a young friend who is in the midst of the pain of global worker community life She finds herself in a situation where following her heart and her understanding of the Lord’s leading has put her in an awkward and vulnerable place in her community. She feels like her dedicated and loyal service among them is now met with a lack of trust and respect. She interprets their comments and actions as messages that she is dispensable, not worth the struggle, and ultimately insignificant to the life and mission they have all been pursuing together. She feels the sting of dishonor and the sad disappointment that the outcome will probably end up being determined by the easier road of rules and protocol, rather than by the more difficult road of love, respect, and wisdom. (The particular circumstance of my American friend is that she has fallen in love with a young national. He is a leader in the community, like herself. They share vision, values, and passion for serving God with their life and their gifts. They understand the complexity of the situation but are grieving that at present they have no blessing to continue their work together within the community. )
My dear sister,
I am sorry this all feels so awful. I do get a real feeling of “all is well,” however—or more accurately, “all will be well.” God is always pressing up, putting holy pressure on us all that we live rightly with each other. It can be resisted when powerful dogma is in place, but I will proclaim my belief that even in the midst of our own entrenched ideas, Love is pressing up and confusing us on some level. I think that time often gives love the edge that it needs to win. It could be that in the months or years ahead you will see a reconciliation with these people that is unimaginable at the moment.
I am not speaking Pollyanna-ish; I am speaking rather of things that I do see as I look back on my own life and on others’ lives. Did I tell you that once in the midst of my own great pain and disappointment, when I believe that I had done almost everything rightly and with sincere motive, the Lord asked me, “Can you just forgive these people for their imperfection?” It was a tolling bell inside me! I knew that those I loved and lived with were not trying to be injurious, and that their intentions toward me were not malicious—they were human, and vulnerable to wrong perceptions or even carelessness in this delicate thing called “relationship.” I was hurt because I perceived their actions or lack of action as unloving. (So much that hurts us is the failures we experience in loving one another.) But God’s definition helped me—imperfection, just simple, straight-out imperfection.
I know that evil swooped in to take advantage in the midst of it. That is also very real and often destructive stuff, but the evil was not coming directly from my friends and companions. It is a difficult thing to rise up to defend ourselves and strengthen ourselves against the intentions of the Evil One without projecting that source onto our brothers and sisters. This is a difficult thing indeed! I cannot emphasize that enough. There is one who wants destruction in our lives and in our work and in our closest relationships, but that one is operating independently of us all—in and through our circumstances and situations, in and through our language and conversations, in and through our unrecognized prejudices, fears, arrogance and impure motives. That’s the imperfection of it all.
I have struggled my whole life with how I offer myself in abandonment and openness, with a heart that first and foremost believes that we are called to “love one another” with all that means about trusting and believing the best, yet surviving such vulnerability. I can only say that I think it is true godliness when we keep struggling to live this reality and to learn all the forgiving and self-correction along the way.
In God’s economy, nothing will be wasted in this regarding your own life and the blessing God intends for you and your future husband. If the road takes all kinds of unexpected turns, you can know that God is ALWAYS working it to your own good. This is absolutely true. I see only good that has come in my life from what was only ashes at numerous points along the way. Nothing can really thwart our personal journey if we just keep our eyes set on loving and obeying, and that is the great comfort and assurance to us all. The problem is only that it feels so terribly unfinished and inglorious along the way!
And one last word—do not let anyone tell you or imply that forgiving such injuries is easy. Just struggle with it. Let the love rise up in its time, through the hurt. God is Love, and with time the Spirit of God who indwells us will be wearied of the sting, or the bitterness that might even have taken root. The beautiful conflict within ourselves is one where true love meets all the reasons that we need to protect ourselves, to defend ourselves, and to claim some justice in it all. Those are real grievances, and only God can guide us through the way of reconciling ourselves to them. I have never read any book that came remotely close to adequately coaching something this “beyond ourselves.” It is the work of grace—grace that finds its way from the loving heart of God to, and then through, our own hearts. Then perhaps most difficult of all is to trust our own hearts, to trust ourselves that we really do want to be receptors and ambassadors of this great Love. I know this to be true of you, and I feel sure it is true of your fiance as well.
You are surely in my prayers, my friend. God’s peace to you all through the day. May grace and wisdom abound as you are assured of how much you are loved.
Your loving friend