Making space for grace

Romans 13: 8-14
Paul exhorts the believers to owe no debt to anyone except the ongoing debt of love, and encourages the believers to live pure lives, free from the dark deeds to which they may be tempted.
Matthew 18:15-20
Jesus teaches his followers a gracious process for making right with those who have hurt them – going first to the individual, then, if necessary, taking along a couple of witnesses, and finally, taking the matter to the church. Then he encourages his followers to agree, for in doing so, they find power in prayer and Christ’s presence in their gathering. (Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Relationships in churches are complex because people’s lived experiences are complex – hurt and harm, sorrow, disappointment, anger, dashed hopes, broken relationships, as well as joy, love, undiminished hope and all the things that sustain us. Mistakes, misunderstandings and mountain top experiences all co-exist in an awkward and often inconvenient way.

Writing about this in an article on Patheos, Benjamin Corey suggests 5 things wounded Christians should probably avoid. He writes:

Life brings wounds. The Christian life sadly, is no different. While Christian community ought be the safest place for one to run and hide, it’s often a place where we experience some of the most painful wounds. Sometimes we’re wounded and pushed to the margins. Other times, we’re the ones who do the wounding. We’re human. We hurt. We injure.

I’ve singled out 5 things that might be good for a wounded Christian to avoid.

1. Speaking before we’re actually ready.

When we speak before we’re ready what we say and how we say it often is a reflection of our woundedness – but rarely comes across as that. Instead, it comes across in all the ways we don’t actually want it to. Speaking from a place of pain too soon will usually accomplish something other than what we want it to. Instead, take some time, take some space, and give yourself freedom to find the right voice at the right time.

2. Making hasty life decisions that will have long term impact.

One of the crossroads we often come to as wounded Christians is being faced with some critical life choices that will have long term impact on ourselves and others. As with when and how we use our voices, so too can we get into problems – not just when we speak from a place of pain too soon – but when we make life decisions from a place of pain too soon. Sometimes we crave major change in the midst of pain because we’re desperate for something to give, but so often the choices we make from that place of hurt aren’t actually good for us in the long run. It’s a good idea to put off some of these choices until the dust settles and we can think a bit more clearly.

3. Using our wounded hearts to inflict pain on others.

There’s an old saying that “wounded people wound people” and I don’t know of anything more true. It’s just soooo hard not to. It often reminds me of an old German Shepard we had a few years back- she’d let you pat her, but if your hand got too close to the bottom of her spine and the source of her arthritis, she’d bite you. I think what grieves me about much of Christian woundedness is that often it’s caused by other wounded people who are typically kind but will bite you if your hand gets too close to the source of their hurt. If you’re one of these folks with wounds, let me encourage you to opt out of the cycle of passing our woundeness down the line. It’s hard, but I think if we develop some self awareness, it can be done.

4. Blaming God for whatever happened.

I don’t know what it was, but I do know it wasn’t God. Maybe it was someone who claimed to speak for God, an abusive leader in a quest for power, a fickle friend, or too many years in an oppressive theological system– but whatever it was, it wasn’t God. We must resist the urge to walk away from faith in God because of wounds suffered at the hands of other humans.

5. Letting go of hope that things could be better.

There’s plenty of things we can live without, but one can’t live without hope. As hard as it is, we’ve got to keep hope that new life can be breathed into those broken or seemingly dead areas inside of us. Sometimes we don’t know how, sometimes we don’t know when, but we’ve got to maintain hope that it can. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is found towards the very end, and is a vision of God who “makes all things new.” The one thing I hold onto is the hope that one day God can and will make things new – that God will bring beauty from ashes, bind up what is broken, and water seeds of new life. It is this hope that keeps me going when nothing else does.