Hard Pressed

We’d been hit. I watched as the color drained from my husband’s face (and for him with his ruddy complexion… this was definitely worth noticing.)

Nothing could have prepared us for the bomb that dropped on us that day. (Okay, not a literal bomb… it was completely figurative… but it might have well as been a real bomb.) We literally could not speak after our visitors left our home. Our boys continued to play for a few minutes and we discussed what was for dinner.

I was not hungry.

My wonderful husband, who holds me up, comforts me in my pain, and puts up with my hormonal blunders jumped up and threw a pizza in the oven to reheat it.

The Bomb

We had seen the signs of the bomb… but we had ignored it.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Bombs (like what I’m talking of) come with red flags and warnings written on them. But we choose to trust (and I mean- really…. who can trust a bomb that’s ready to explode???  Evidently, we thought we could.)

My thought that ran over and over in my mind was this… “Why do I want to love others?” Oh yeah. Because Jesus told me too.

I had listened to my husband, just that same morning, preach on Jesus and his last (new) command to his disciples before his death.

“Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples- when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:34-35)

And yet at that moment, I was not wanting to love these people who had just hurt us.  I wanted to scream.  Throw things at the wall.  Grab a shovel, dig a hole, jump in and fall asleep forever in it.  “I am not cut out for this,” was the thought that was running and screaming through my mind.

He Was Waiting

I sat and processed… through the ritual of eating the reheated pizza at dinner, where my boys gabbered like nothing was different.  I processed as I picked up my Macbook and began to type out my emotions, mostly my anger and hurt.  I ran the situation over and over in my head.  And then…

I stopped.  I felt God waiting for me.  Waiting for me to turn to him with all of it.  Waiting for me to run to Him and ask Him questions that included, “Why this?  Why now?  Why?????”  In that moment, I became like a child again.  I gave it all.

He told me that He had allowed us to endure this pain, because something BETTER was coming.  This pain was a good thing.  We were being pruned.  And it hurt terribly.  I hated watching my husband stomach so much pain and hurt.  I wanted to take it all from him.  But knowing that God was in control of the church plant, comforted me.

He Was Betrayed

In that same week, in my BSF class, we discussed the relationship between Jesus and Judas Iscariot.  Judas followed Jesus and pledged himself to Him.  But when Jesus didn’t establish the Kingdom that Judas wanted, he sold Jesus out.  Literally.  Through this time of hurt, I gained some comfort by this.  Jesus was betrayed by one of his “best friends.”  And Judas wasn’t the only one who betrayed Jesus.  Peter did.  THREE TIMES.  Not to mention that all of his disciples, his trusted and loved 12, deserted him when it mattered the most.  John was the only one who stood with Jesus’ mother Mary at the crucifixion.  One.  Out of 12.  And when Jesus returned, alive…. he found them cowering in a locked room.

Jesus knows how we feel when we are betrayed by those we love.  He experienced it more so… since he paid for Judas’ betrayal with his life.

Being sold out by one’s friend to the point of death.  Ouch.  When I look at it that way, our situation doesn’t look as dire.  We are hurt.  But not killed.  It reminds me of the verse in 2 Corinthians 4:7-9,

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned;struck down, but not destroyed.”


Now, don’t get me wrong.  I still hurt.  The wound is still healing.  I don’t know if it will ever go back to normal for us with those that have hurt us so.  But I do know this.  God has it.  All of it.

2 Corinthians goes on to say later in chapter 4, verses 16-18,

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Looking back now, I realize that we were at a place in our plant, where we needed that bomb to go off.  We needed to be pruned in order to grow.  And we did.

The Dirt: Lesson #1 Continued

Kiss of Betrayal

I recently cracked opened and reread the story in Luke 22 about the Last Supper.  Jesus is literally breaking bread and pouring the wine with his team/friends/disciples when these words come out of his mouth:

  “But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table.” (vs.21, italics mine)

Wow.  I had never noticed it like this before.  In the midst of the literal “first communion” with Jesus and his trusted men, he actually announces that he is going to be betrayed by someone whose hand is lying on the same table as his.  I had always thought of Judas Iscariot as the “dark disciple” who stayed in the shadows of the others, creeping around, looking for a way to take advantage of Jesus and his followers.  I never thought of him as being “part of the gang,” although that is exactly who he was.  These were his close friends, those he had chosen to travel, learn, eat and camp out with for the past several years.  He had been lounging lazily and most likely joking around with his “brotherhood” just moments before these words came out of Jesus’ mouth.  Talk about a conversation killer.

Even though this man had treated those around him as family, he still had a part of him that was dark.  And would choose dark.  He would choose to betray his closest friends/family every time.

I had never known this kind of betrayal until recently.  Within a church plant, there will be dreams shared among your team.  There will be tears, sweat, laughter and a bonding that morphs into a family atmosphere.  Jesus’ disciples were his family as we see in Matthew 12:46-50.

46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

I cannot imagine being betrayed by my actual family.  And yet, I feel like I have experienced somewhat of a betrayal through this church plant.  It breaks my heart.  I can now hear Jesus’ words being spoken with pain now.  “But behold… the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table.”  (Emphasis mine.)  We have cooked dinner with our team.  We have eaten, laughed, and watched our kids play together.  We have experienced life with our team members, just as Jesus had with his disciples.  And yet, a betrayer sat amongst them.

Back to Luke 22:22:  In the Message version, he goes on to say,

“It’s true that the Son of Man is going down a path already marked out- no surprises there.  But for the one who turns him in, turns traitor to the Son of Man, this is doomsday.”

Double wow.

I don’t know if I ever caught that before… traitor to the Son of Man.  I look back and my life and see where I have betrayed Christ.  It is more than I can count.  And yet He still forgave me.  And so… because of that forgiveness, I am moving on as one with my husband.  Moving forward in order to giving Christ my all.  Moving on in the hopes of bringing people to the Cross of Christ… so that they can find forgiveness and eternity with Him.  Betrayal and all.

The Dirt: Lesson #1

Kiss of Betrayal

It was the 4th grade.  I had betrayed her.  She had told me a secret and I had not only betrayed her trust, but I had laughed about it with my other classmate.  As we were snickering about it together, I looked up and saw Teresa’s big brown doe eyes bearing into my soul.  Tears flooded her eyes, landed on her lashes and my laugh trailed off.   My friend turned suddenly and left me to stare back at the girl that I had betrayed.  I had betrayed her to look more important to someone else.  I had betrayed her for a laugh.  I had betrayed her because I wanted to feel like I was better than her.  But I was so, so wrong.  That girl was the sweetest thing I had ever met; no judgment of others, always had a smile on her face, and was kind to EVERYONE.  And I had betrayed this girl.

Tears began to jerk at the backs of my eyes, and I turned around to avoid her gaze.  I don’t remember apologizing to her but I do remember how that betrayal ate away at my soul.  Slowly, I began to change.  At first, I avoided conversations where she was being taunted.  Soon, I awkwardly invited her to come over to my house and play.  She accepted.  After that, I began to stand up for her when others cut her down.  Years passed and our friendship began to bloom.  I looked at her as my best friend.  And she was.  We shared everything with each other.  And I did not betray her any longer.  I’m so glad I chose loyalty and not betrayal.  But that is not the last time betrayal has been in my life.  And not the last time I have betrayed.

I guess maybe I have always erred at looking at the bright side of things.  Trusting people too soon, and actually believing that what people say, is what they mean.  I am so lucky that I married a man who does that… says what he means and means what he says.  That is why I love him… and why I married him.  There is no beating around the bush with him- he will tell you how it is—and he won’t take other’s people way of trying to sideswipe issues at hand.  I LOVE that about him.  Truth is truth to him.

There are so many people today that try to ease into the truth—or completely avoid the truth by telling others that the problem lies with something a little less conflicting.

I guess I had forgotten that little absurd way of “lying” for some time.  I tell friends when something they’ve done has upset me…even if it’s stupid and shows my ENORMOUS sensitivity.  I am usually shaking when I do it- but I do it.  (Several of my friends can attest to this.)  So, my expectations were high.  Too high.  I expected too much of humanity… but not all of humanity.  Just those that I had taken into my “fold” of trusted friends/family.

No one sat me down and fed me the facts when my husband and I felt called to plant a church.  Sure, we knew all the statistics.  We had been through a vigorous week of assessments with our church planting organization.  I felt prepared.  And so full of hope.  We had cried with the team, laughed and learned.  SO MUCH.  It became almost too much learning in one week.  But no one uttered these words to me: “Prepare to be betrayed.”  

Yes.  Betrayal.  I had experienced it in middle school… and even in high school and college with a few horrible boyfriends.  But I had never experienced it to the extent that I have experienced it in my adult life as I have while planting a church.

People who we considered life friends (those who pledged to support us through our time of planting… etc) stopped calling us to hang out.  Invitations for play dates- stopped.  Church families who we were close to- gossiped, spread rumors and cut us out of their lives.  Mentors/mentorees whom we had poured our lives into (and they into us) presumed hurtful things about us… and left us.  Probably for good.

It was harsh and it was so hurtful.  I cried for days… and my husband just held me.

And we learned, from God himself, to just continue to love.  To pray for those who were persecuting us.  To pour our hearts into those who were still in our path… those whom God was sending to the church plant.  To know that He had called us to “Go!” and we are.  In doing that we left behind parts of our lives that we loved.  However, while loving and serving Him, even when we felt betrayed, He was still wholly with us.  Through thick and thin.

Being betrayed does not mean that we stop doing what God has called us to do.  To Go.  Just as Christ continued to the cross, after the betrayal of Judas.  He went.  And so do I.