Spiritual Direction – My Life Story: Chapters with Hurtful Encounters

Sue’s Note: As long as imperfect people populate an imperfect world, interpersonal conflicts will exist. Often, they’re unexpected; at times they’re unjust. Always, they sting. If we’re not intentional to forgive and re-establish emotional and spiritual equilibrium, they grow bitter roots in our souls.

While I have no solutions, I have learned there is only one soul over which God has given me responsibility to steward. The only soul-adjustments I can make to deal with hurtful encounters are within me. I don’t like them—in fact, I abhor them—but I’m learning hurtful encounters are often the catalyst that leads me to recognize my behavioral blind spots and helps me take steps leading to my soul’s refining. It may even—always my hope and prayer—lead to relational healing.

Today’s post deals with a hurtful encounter I experienced.

     The conversation came as a complete shock. Huge waves of painful emotions flooded over me. Perhaps you can relate.

          First, disbelief.

               Yikes! No way did I see that coming!

          Then, anger.

               It’s not fair! I don’t deserve this!

          Followed by bewilderment.

               “Why me?” “Why now?”How could I have been so misunderstood?”

          Finally, an all-too-familiar voice of condemnation kicked in.

               Where did I go wrong? Why am I such a failure?

     My head understands feelings are simply feelings. Disbelief, anger, bewilderment and condemnation are all normal reactions to an unexpected, hurtful encounter. I know what matters about feelings is how I choose to manage them.

     Will I react in a manner I’ll regret later? or

     Will I respond in a way that has the potential for healing?

     Even though the first option is where my petulant, immature self would like to go, truly, I desire the second, much more mature option.

     How do we process hurtful encounters?

     For me, crafting words is therapeutic. The morning of my hurtful conversation, I set aside a housekeeping task. It could wait. Instead, I began typing. Over two hours passed when I felt my tummy grumble, glanced at the clock and realized it was way past lunchtime.

     In several pages of paragraphs, I’d documented a lifetime of other heartrending or traumatic experiences. I recalled life lessons learned and ways in which God had woven extravagant grace into a heartbreaking mess many times and in many ways.

     As I wrote,

          I thought, and

               I prayed about the best next step in this current dilemma.

     My soul encouraged me to remember my story is my story, and the stories of others are their stories.

     A challenging chapter is being written in my friend’s story.

          I care.

               I’d like to help.

                    But, HOW?

     As I asked God to show me how to respond wisely and graciously, the ‘still small voice’ seemed to say the best course of action is to simply WAIT. Let God accomplish what only God can accomplish.

     Okay, I’ll wait, but Lord you know I don’t WAIT well!

     I’m a ‘doer,’ a ‘fixer,’ a ‘goal-setter,’ an ‘advice giver.’ I’ve tried before to help someone edit the details of a chapter in his or her story. My motivation may be pure. My heart may be in the right place. My assessment and advice may be spot-on.

     But, taking on the task of helping ‘edit’ another’s narrative doesn’t work. In fact, in modern-day terms such behavior is called co-dependency.

     Reigning in my co-dependent tendencies is challenging, but the Spirit keeps showing me God does a much better job than I when it comes to re-writing a life-story narrative.

     God understands the heart and history behind every reaction and choice.

     God cares about every chapter.

     God can heal any pain.

     Best of all, God desires to guide any willing soul toward a beautiful solution.

     In this dilemma, as I waited, I prayed, both for my friend and for myself. Our pain was real. The situation was difficult. Emotions are complicated.

     Today, I’m praying for you, my reader friend! I believe some are walking through a similar circumstance. I hope and pray these words will encourage you and point you toward our never-changing God is our always-changing [sometimes in not-so-nice ways] worlds.

Blessings on each of our stories…

Sue Reeve

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