As the kids would say, “I literally exploded! I, like, straight up lost it!” Maybe this isn’t how the kids say it these days. My kids say “literally” and “like”…like, literally, a lot. One night, seven years ago, the pressure mounted, and the cooker blew up. For quite some time, the steam needed to be released. It wasn’t. All that I had been holding onto went boiling over.
It was a painful year. We had recently excommunicated a member of our church due to an unrepentant heart and stubborn will. The event and the aftermath were utterly awful. The work was done, and it was time to move on mentally and emotionally. Emotions were running high, and my mind was troubled. While our leadership team was focused on this matter of discipline, two beloved women in our church were battling cancer. It was becoming increasingly apparent that it was simply a matter of time until the fight ended. They would both lose the battle in this life but join in Christ’s victory in the life to come. That latter reality should have been a comfort to me. Nothing was really a comfort because I wasn’t allowing myself to feel anything. I told a friend that I felt “locked up emotionally.” It was as if some sort of grief dam was holding back my sadness while I was drowning in a pool of perpetual dread. It was a weird feeling and, at times, an odd non-feeling. Whatever it was, it never occurred to me that the stress was building up waiting to eventually burst.
It was a long year. There was hardship at church and at home. While our congregation (especially our staff and leadership team) went from one crisis to the next, our teenage daughter was dealing with the minefield that is middle school. Whether it was a pressure cooker about to blow, a dam about to burst, or a bomb waiting to go off…it was building toward a specific moment when the wrong person pushed my buttons.
The two women who had fought so valiantly, died within three weeks of each other. I was at the hospital shortly after one dear sister passed. I was on the phone with the other sister’s husband as he described the final moments before she left this mortal plane. Hours after I spoke with this brother, one of our leaders sent a late-evening message. NEVER CHECK YOUR EMAIL AT THE END OF A LONG, EMOTIONALLY TAXING DAY! Let me back up…in the late-afternoon, I’m at my oldest daughter’s basketball game when I get a phone call about a controversy outside of the church that involves people inside the church which will have a negative impact on our youngest daughter. Shortly after this, in the early-evening I was on the phone with the aforementioned brother who was recently widowed. Then, at the end of the evening while I’m opening my inbox and catching up on messages, I hear our oldest daughter crying in the other room. In the midst of all of this, I come across a message from a fellow who had been a bit of a thorn…he was quitting the leadership team and leaving the church. He was breaking up with us over email.
“I literally exploded! I, like, straight up lost it!” I had not processed the pain that was going on at church and at home. I hadn’t been able to identify what exactly I was feeling. Where was the hurt? How was I wounded? I figured it out. Only after an angry back-and-forth between me and this (now) former leader in our church. It is crucial that we locate and treat our pain. If we don’t know what it is and how to seek healing, it’s hard to say how badly we will hurt, when we will hurt or when we will hurt others…that’s why this topic is central within the Healing the Heart Wounds of Ministry workshop. If left unattended, our pain will be amplified and the pain we cause others may be intensified. We don’t have to boil over, burst open, or go off…when we can process pain with our trusted confidants, we and others will be able to navigate rough waters calmly and coolly. (So many metaphors. It’s too much!)