Do The Fires Make Us Stronger… or Just More Brittle?

It felt like I was taking blow after blow in a fight I didn’t really want but didn’t feel it was one from which I could run. As I was struck across the face with a right hook, it turned my head so that I saw a few friends in the crowd that had gathered. And they stood there motionless. They did nothing.

Was I in the wrong? I didn’t throw the first punch or even the second or third. Most of my actions were defensive. I’ll admit to throwing the occasional elbow. Still, I was being blamed as provoking what happened. I think the people who accused me were seeking more to justify their own cowardice than to actually lay blame. There was pain every time a punch landed, but the inaction of people I thought were my friends… those that accused me of being vengeful as a way of defending their loyalty to the aggressor… that was the pain that lasted and lasts still. And still the threats and punches are being thrown. “I’m gonna make sure you can’t ever get up again.”

Of course, I am not talking about an actual fistfight. This is metaphorical. But many of you know the pain of abandonment in a time of crisis by those who claim to be your friends. It can maim you or make you brittle. Some fires can temper the blade but if you don’t handle the heat or the quench correctly, you get something brittle. I wonder if that is what has happened to me.

People look to their spiritual leaders for wisdom and guidance to live life well. Sometimes we have the words because we have some insight. Sometimes we have simply lived enough life to learn things the hard way. Sometimes we are just as vexed and lost as anyone else. We don’t know what’s next. We don’t what to do specifically. Some fake their way through with bravado. This is an arrogance and insecurity that rarely leads to long-term good for anybody. In our pain and perplexity we need to remember that Christ has gone before us. He took the beatings that someone else deserved, endured the hatred and scorn of a mob that was moving with the political winds. We keep following him because to whom else shall we go? He has the words of eternal life. And he spoke those words because he loved me.

What comes next? I. Don’t. Know. Not exactly. But we do need to keep looking to Christ. I need to keep in view his victory as well as his mercy and affection instead of looking back at the mud and blood of the fight and the defeats that I fear have made me less than what I was before.

Your empathy is appreciated. But don’t waste your time trying figure out the specifics of my situation. Don’t waste your time feeling sorry for me or for yourself. It’s not about me. It’s not about you. But there is one who has traveled our road before us. We may feel that satisfaction only comes by winning the scrap. We believe the lie of self-vindication. But don’t keep looking back. Look to the one who conquered the beatings by letting them kill him… and rising in victory over violence and death. Letting go of the hurt feels like giving up… feels like dying. In a way, it is. But undergo that death and let him raise you up… free from the fight and free to love the Lord and even your foe. You will become more than you ever imagined.

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