When a sucker punch comes from the left and knocks the wind out of you. When someone on the very tiny list of people you trust has kicked you when you were down. When you thought you couldn’t possibly hurt more than before, but now your gapping wounds are bleeding and you don’t have the wherewithal to try and stop it. Stop and Breathe. Remember where you have come from and how much you have grown on your journey. Remember that people are just people who happen to be in your proximity. They are just the same as the people, that you once judged together, as being hurt and lost.
In a poem I wrote recently about integrity and how suffocating it can be to do the right thing. How burdensome it can seem to forgive and extend grace when you have nothing left. It is a sacrifice. To have an expectation of help or support, say from a pastor or close confidant, and to be handed the extreme opposite of help when you cried out. A guest pastor spoke a few weeks ago on the essentials of being a Christian using a verse from Hebrews as one of the essentials. “Make every effort to stay out of quarrels, and seek to live a clean and holy life, for one who is not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that not one of you will fail to find God’s best blessings. Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives” (Hebrews 12:14-15 LBT)
When I feel as though integrity is suffocating me I need to change my focus. Because the truth is that I am not suffocating, it feels that way when I look at my wounds all at once. It becomes overwhelming to pile one affliction on top of the next and let pain compile itself until it is exponentially larger than a single wound alone. The weight becomes too heavy and then I declare “I’m broken”, I lay down in my puddle of tears and take every paper cut like a stabbing through the heart. But integrity doesn’t have to be suffocating, it is a hard daunting task to pile the hurts and say “I forgive them all” and do it all at once. When I think about integrity now, after being sucker punched this morning, I can see with some clarity where my integrity has gotten me thus far. When I say integrity I mean my behavior, doing the right thing, the Godly thing. Choosing to extend the grace card, to live in peace, not because the person on the receiving end deserves it but because God loves me and being right with Him is more important.
By integrity I choose not to give up my dignity. Michael J Fox once said “One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”. I chose not to let others opinions of me, however misguided, become my truth. Jesus gave me my truth, my worth was decided on the cross.
By integrity I chose to separate God’s love from the people who claim to represent Him. So many people are broken and hurting as Christians. So hurt by other Christians, they confuse people’s love for God’s love. They think that God is mean, vengeful, unforgiving or unloving. This is a lie I chose not to believe as a new Christian. Maybe for me I was just so desperate for his promises to be real, in such dire straights, that it was a matter of either: God loves me or I will just roll over and die. I didn’t really see it as a choice. If I was to survive, I had to find out who God is and how He really sees me and know it to my core. I chose to read the word and know it for myself. So many preachers, pastors and evangelists preach persuasive messages about what it means to be Christian. They sing beautiful songs that tug at the heart and their momentum can be contagious. But if a person doesn’t know the truth for reading it themselves from the source that God himself gave us, it is easy to be mislead. The enemy knows this, we are his biggest target because we stand for truth. I chose to study and learn the truth for myself so I can spot a lie and walk away. This choice made in faith, saved my life; more than once.
Another choice I made with integrity was to walk away from an addiction. It is so tempting everyday to go back to that sweet instant satisfaction, distraction and false comfort. Yet I don’t. Just as Jesus met the travellers on the road to Emmaus in their doubt “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke24:21), he was right under their noses, but they couldn’t see it. I know the same to be true for me, if I feel that God is not near than I have must have turned my head away somehow. The truth is that he is so near that, as Corrie Ten Boom once said, that the darkness I must be seeing can only be His shadow. I choose not to be go back to my addiction not because it doesn’t feel good, but because I know in my heart that God loves me enough for the both of us. That every door I open for comfort that is not Him becomes a step further away from Him. In His strength, holding my hand everyday, I can say no to hating myself and say yes to His love, because it is enough. More than enough. Its easy to get lost on the search for comfort, so many things look promising, but I can say with my integrity intact that Jesus is the only answer that satisfies.
One of my greatest fears is to not be heard. To feel as if others don’t believe me or my story. I have poured all my energy and everything I have into my healing. It is a full time job when you are dealing with enormous physical, emotional and spiritual wounds, just to function everyday in some capacity. People have different wounds and deal with all things differently. There is no textbook on healing that is cut and dry for everyone. The hard part for me is when other people, even those who are close to me and have watched me struggle and have seen my efforts, choose to say that I am not trying hard enough or doing the right things to heal because it is not how they would do it. It could be also a healing timeline that I didn’t fit into. Everyone’s wounds are different. Integrity in this case means to “make every effort to stay out of quarrels, and seek to live a clean and holy life” by doing this I make the choice again to remember God’s truth about myself and how He sees me. He knows my efforts and sees my heart is honest. By choosing not to forgive I drink the poison that will render me bitter and broken. In turn, hurting those around me on their spiritual journey. It is God’s best for us to forgive as He forgave us “…for one who is not holy will not see the Lord”. By doing this I am not saying it hurt any less, the pain and shock took my breath away, and still does. But I am not broken and I am not alone in my pain. Jesus sees me and comforts me, and I am grateful. Everyday I must choose him and not my pain, because if I had chosen pain in the past I would be dead. No exaggeration. This situation is different, my pain and wounds are different. But my choice is the same because God never changes, he still loves me and I am still his child.
Thank you Jesus, I love you too.