I recently stood in the sanctuary of my church talking to a judge who also attends there. There we stood, me in my gold colored romper with the floral print and him in his suit, his height towering over me accentuating my short stature. We talked about healing from the past and having a clear conscience.
Let’s hit the pause button for a second, because I know you might not understand the gravity of that moment.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about shame and how it felt to stand before a judge years ago in my life. I broke up with shame some time ago, although it still tries to allure me into its grasp from time to time. I didn’t feel small in this moment of talking to him, nor did I feel any sense of shame. But to understand this moment for the full circle in time that it was…..well, I guess you just would’ve had to experience it all for yourself.
Sometimes seemingly insignificant moments creep up unnoticed. Not recognized in real time, only in hindsight. But I noticed this one and it felt like all of creation might have noticed too. Like maybe, just maybe, the sun paused in its rotation in expectation of the moment being revealed. It was that kind of moment.
I walked away from our conversation with two words doing somersaults in my mind and heart over the next few weeks:
I recently read a fascinating science about trees and the underground neighborhood of root systems that exist beneath our feet. The roots feed vital nutrients to other roots of trees surrounding them. Likewise, when trees are sick, they can transfer diseases to their neighbors with detrimental effect.
Our hearts are also like that underground root system, all issues of life stemming from them. And I want my heart to be well.
Bitterness can sneak into the back door of the heart like a thief, sometimes triggered by one event, sometimes by an accumulation of events over time.
My husband and I were having a conversation the other day about a prayer I’ve been waiting on God to answer for a long time. Have you ever prayed for something so long that at times you forget you even prayed it until something triggers your memory?
I feel your pain.
My husband was attempting to be positive and reassuring and this was my response:
“Well a thousand years are like a day to God, so who knows how long I’ll be waiting.”
There it was. Spewed onto the floor between us like a mess I just vomited up. My mouth opened and my heart spoke. I felt the tears burning and brimming too.
Bitterness. I didn’t even know it was there until that moment.
Bitterness is a dangerous thing because it grows, sometimes ever so slowly, spreading roots that completely entangle the heart. It will taint everything you see with a negative, guarded slant. It will steal your joy and peace. Your health and vitality. Your ability to smile. Your ability to correctly perceive events from the past or the present.
But I think one of the single, most dangerous things about bitterness is this: It can leave you feeling like a victim of circumstance.
I’m not talking about situations where a person was legitimately victimized, but a way of perceiving yourself and your life.
A victim mentality will leave you stuck in the inability to live the life you really want down deep.
Because it will drown you in the feeling of powerlessness, not recognizing that you have the ability to save yourself.
A victim mentality can look like the belief that you were handed an unfair deal.
"That’s just my luck. That would happen to me. Why does my life have to be so hard?"
It will cause you to blame God with a faulty, toxic belief that He caused a negative event in your life or that He is withholding from you.
It will lead you to cast the blame on others, pointing out what they should do or should’ve done, instead of measuring yourself.
It will leave you accepting things as they are, resigning to the belief that misery is your lot in life and this is the way it will always be and there is nothing you can do to change it.
Refusing a victim mentality puts the power back in your hand. Power and permission to overcome the past. Maybe an unwanted past that you created or an infraction someone else committed against you.
Maybe for you it looks like telling this to your heart:
I am not a victim of that person who chose to walk away.
I am not a victim of that absentee parent.
I am not a victim of the parts of my past that I can’t change.
I am not a victim just because life feels hard right now.
Sometimes our choices and the choices of others wound us deeply. Sometimes for generations long.
Seeking healing is not for the faint of heart. It takes honesty and courage, because accepting that you are the victim is the easy way out. Avoidance feels easier.
We get to choose the refusal of bitterness. The refusal of powerlessness. We get to choose how we will perceive the events in our life.
Photo Cred: Mistymorningme