I get a fair amount of email. Some of it is a blessing and quite encouraging. Some not so much in either category. But the ones that break my heart are the e-mails from wounded and deeply discouraged people who have been devastated by life, the church and especially other churchgoers. I try to be encouraging. I try to offer perspective. But I wish I could do more. I wish I could help those battered and limping follower travelers find the abundant life that I wrote about recently.
An email from a pastor has been weighing heavily on my heart and mind. He was deeply discouraged and ready to give up his ministry. I suggested that he read the book TrueFaced because the practical theology drawn from Romans helped me recover from my own church wounds. I had hoped that the book would resonate with him as much as it did with me. Recently he responded.
I did read the book. I have to say I struggled with it. I agree in theory but one of the main groups of people that have nailed me most is the let go and let God, being and not doing, grace is the only word in the Bible, people. They aren’t all that gracious. I don’t mean to disparage the book or you. I felt bad that I felt that way during my reading of the book. He had good things to say. I just heard most of it through the mouths of some of these people who have hurt me. It’s not that I disagree, it’s that this brand of folk who have nailed me say similar things and yet never once in my experience with them did it ever ring true in their actions.
His response sent me out walking and praying and thinking. I had hoped that my words and the message of the book would begin to turn his spirit. And I felt a gentle message stirring in my heart as I walked.
Be patient. Encourage. Love. It is my timing and not yours. You were not ready to receive this message when the wounds were fresh.
I thought about my journey and I realized that the well-known theory of the five stages of grief applied to my healing. You have likely heard of the model introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying”. The stages are known as the “Five Stages of Grief”. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I realized that I had to go through those stages to get to the point of healing. Hopefully I can shorten the stages significantly as I mature in Christ and trust who He says I am. But I hope it helps those of you going through this difficult process to know you are not a failure if healing takes longer than you hoped.
How did the stages play out for me? I will give the secular example followed by the spiritual parallel.