Perhaps I am too sensitive.
Perhaps I expect too much from others.
Perhaps I rely too strongly on the approval of others.
Whatever the reason, sometimes harsh words slip through and pierce me to the core.
I struggle internally - do I respond? Engage? Ignore? Give in to the temptation to lash out in kind?
And so I lay there, heart hurting and mind in turmoil, praying for sleep, giving up in the early hours of the morning and seeking refuge on the couch with my Bible. I found comfort in Psalm after Psalm, whispering them aloud to the quiet night. I picked up my Book of Common Prayer and read those old familiar prayers, not needing the book but somehow savouring seeing the words in print nonetheless. I sung the Venite; I prayed the prayer of Confession; I was calmed and comforted.
Almighty and most merciful Father, We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep, We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, We have offended against thy holy laws, We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, And we have done those things which we ought not to have done, And there is no health in us: But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders; Spare thou them, O God, which confess their faults, Restore though them that are penitent, According to they promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesu our Lord: And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake, That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.
BCP, page 3
Why does this confessional prayer bring me such comfort, I wonder? Perhaps because it brings my focus back to where it belongs. I am not here to please my fellow man. I am here to love God and to bring glory to Him. I am accountable to Him. I must answer to Him for my every thought, word, and deed. I must continue to grow, to write His Word on my heart, to follow the promptings and guidance of His Holy Spirit. He knows my heart and He loves me. Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
There will be those who mock me. Some because they do not know God; others because they do and feel that I fall short.
There will be those who see my faith as misguided at best, a crutch, a comfort in the face of trouble and death, a delusion.
There will be brothers and sisters in Christ who find my beliefs disgusting and disgraceful, even reprehensible, not lining up with their own. I will always be too liberal for some, too conservative for others.
There will be family who do not understand my choices, who feel that my choosing differently than they did constitutes an attack of their own decisions.
There will be acquaintances who do not take the time to get to know me, who judge my shy silence as snobbery and superiority.
And there will be those who love me. Maybe none of us will love perfectly this side of Heaven. I know that I don't. I know that I am wretched and that my help comes from God alone.
I wonder, as these harsh words and aspersions pierce my heart, if I am guilty of the same. I know there is much that I find sad in this world, much that causes me to wonder what has become of our society, what has become of our westernized Christianity, what has become of our communities, what has become of our families and parenting, what has become of so many things. Do I speak out against the wrongs that I witness without that harshness, that cruelty, that venom? Without questioning the sincerity of others? Without tearing others down or mocking their words and beliefs? I pray that I have not been guilty of the same, but I will choose to use this hurt to re-evaluate my own words from this point on.
I must also re-evaluate the power that I allow others to have over me. If I am, as I have said, confident that I am sincerely following God and that I am accountable to Him alone, then why does it hurt me so deeply to have my faith, my character, my decisions, my whatever, questioned by others? It is not their approval that I should be seeking!
And so I learn, and I grow, and as always I find that the Word of God brings comfort and assurance to a hurting heart.
"I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety."