I opened my text messages at approximately 9:30 this morning. Only one message from a client. It said, quite simply, “Job 5:21 Psalm 31:20”. I opened my Bible app, searched for the verses.
Never in all my life had anyone sent me more appropriate verses, without knowing how they fit into my life at that particular moment. She knew nothing. I had only told Tim….
It was 5:30am, earlier this morning…
The lightning flashed. The thunder rolled, moments later. I didn’t really want to be awake. I value my sleep. And need it, really. If I want to invest the best of me into the women I meet with, daily, to walk through the ‘trauma and hell’ of life–whatever that trauma or hell may be–then I have to stay caught up on my sleep.
And this week especially so. Each day was filled with appointments, even the days I usually set aside for my family, and our home. And, whether I like it or not, there’s always the administrative ‘stuff’ to do. Not my favourite, but it has to be done, and I’m good at it. Besides, a ‘change’ is good in my line of work. It brings balance.
Fortunately, most nights, when I crawl in bed, my brain is ‘off’ before my head hits the pillow. I sleep, uninterrupted, for 7 to 9 hours, on any given night. That, I recognize, is a huge blessing. Especially now that I am ‘middle-aged’. (Funny how 40’ish isn’t nearly as old as it used to be.)
When I awakened, thanks in part to the thunderstorm, and in part to the fact that I drank too much water at bedtime, I wasn’t impressed. I rolled over, willing the storm to end and my body to pretend there was no need to get up. Sometimes it works. (I know… not healthy…)
Almost immediately, however, my brain started up. At will, I can often turn it off. A short silent lecture about the hour of the morning, and a reminder that the day will take care of itself, and I’m usually off to sleep. But not this morning.
The thoughts that tumbled through my head, were the words of a client with whom I have worked, for the better part of the year, very consistently. She was quite vulnerable when we met, working through a lot of stuff. But within the year I watched as she became strong, secure and ‘healthy’.
She was in the Mennonite church then, and still is. If ever she indicated any interest in leaving, it was brief. I don’t recall that it was more than a passing thought, even though she had people in her life who had left, and more who wanted to leave. If ever I had wanted to influence her strongly to leave, that is when I could have done so, and would imagine I would have, most likely, been successful.
Because of her age, I encouraged her to wait to make a decision like that for a few years.
The ‘yo-yo’ that comes with that kind of decision is not easy. (I left home just before 16.) The world is a harsh place. And unless there are solid people to help you really ‘plug in’ and find a safe place, and connect with a supportive church, it is a very lonely journey. Not to mention the risk. The reality is that our Mennonite lifestyle leaves us ill prepared to face life in a harsh world. We are not, usually, very street smart, and the risk of getting lost, and terribly hurt, is very high. There are other factors, but these are the ones I usually mention.
When we met, yesterday, she told me that she had been cautioned–or warned–about meeting with me.
I smiled. Amazing how you can get used to these ‘warnings’, and not take them personal, for the most part. “Are they worried that I’m going to lead you astray, away from the culture?” I asked.
She explained that supposedly I was very bitter toward the Mennonite people, and she was to be very careful of my influence.
If I’ve heard the accusation once, I’ve probably heard it a thousand times. And usually from someone who has something to protect. So the words fell flat. But the source cut deep, and the betrayal that it brought.
A minister and his wife, with whom we met a few months ago and shared, heart to heart, and in whom we invested a deep trust. We spent time in prayer that night, and left, amazed by God, and profoundly impacted by the meeting. That she would accuse me of bitterness shocked me.
I returned home from that session, delighted to see how well the young woman was doing, yet bewildered by the accusation.
‘Like water off a duck’s back’ came to mind, and I knew I should let it go, just like that, as I often do, but I couldn’t. This time it was personal, far more so, than any other shallow accusation I have encountered. Most often they come from people in whom I have invested very little trust, if any, and who have family members I know are perpetrators. (Though they often have no idea I know this.) This was different. I had invested my heart, my trust, personally.
As I thought about it, I began to pray for the minister and his wife. And then I sent a text, telling them I am praying for them, the church they lead, and the broader Mennonite church. I told them that I hold no bitterness in my heart toward them, or the Mennonite church. And then my heart released the burden. I was at peace.
As the memory of their accusation tumbled through my mind at 5:30 this morning, my heart again felt sick, and sad. I have searched my heart, and asked God to search it as well, for any hidden bitterness, and I cannot find it. So I prayed again. And again I asked God to bless them, determined that every time the enemy attacks me with lies, I will simply turn to prayer and blessing. I will not be controlled, intimidated, held back, or made bitter by lies. I choose, instead, to live a life of forgiveness and blessing, and that was and remains my prayer.
Eventually I fell asleep again, peaceful, and encouraged by God.
Hours later I opened that text with only two references. The verses held promise, hope and encouragement, as if God himself had sent me the text, and I knew that He had not neglected to notice the false accusations, and affirm that, indeed, they are false.
New King James Version (NKJV)
21 You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue,
And you shall not be afraid of destruction when it comes.
New Living Translation (NLT)
20 You hide them in the shelter of your presence,
safe from those who conspire against them.
You shelter them in your presence,
far from accusing tongues.
As I read them, gratitude flooded over me. And in that moment, I knew I had learned a profound lesson, in the preceding 17 hours. A lesson that will serve me well for the rest of my life.
When false accusations had cut like a knife in the preceding hours, and the enemy had tried to discourage me, I had turned in prayer to the One who knows all things. And in Him I found hope, in Him I found protection.
He is my Rock, my safe place, from the accusing tongue. Nothing, and no one can touch me there, in His Presence.
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