Friday, September 9, 2011

A Loss and a Gain

It's been a strange week.

I recently spent two days up at a "Staff Retreat" in the mountains with the wonderful people I work with.  It was a time meant for fun, relaxation, and bonding.  It was also a time to look forward to a big change happening in our future.  The Boss Man is stepping down after 35 years of pastoring our church, and an amazing new individual is stepping in.  The Retreat was a time for us to discuss and love and grow.

We were encouraged to not let bad blood remain between us.  It's so easy to go around and gossip or discuss your issues with a friend instead of with the person with whom you have the "beef".  As I went out on my own, wondering who it was I needed to talk to and what it was I needed to clear up in my life, I went to an old familiar place.

The place we held our retreat is a site we use each year for our youth camps--a place I had attended for years, both as a camper and as a student.  Many years previous, I'd had an experience of emotional proportion while talking to a leader on the basketball court.

It was to this basketball court that I returned during the night of my staff retreat.  I had been going there for our quiet times and free moments that were meant to be just alone time.  It was here that I sat and pondered what my next move was--what my future looked like.  It was here that I was approached by a friend--though, it wasn't the friend I expected to have healing with.

This friend is someone I've known for 4 years, and I can't remember a time where we've fought or argued heatedly--that just isn't a part of our relationship.  When he sat down next to me, his eyes misted with tears of regret, I felt nothing short of surprise as he asked for my forgiveness.

"I'm sorry I haven't stuck up for you or your family when people were saying unkind things about you guys.  I'm sorry I just let it happen.  Your family has done a lot for me, and I know you guys can be a little abrasive, but I shouldn't have let it happen.  You know, mean jokes and stuff."

Truly appalled, I immediately forgave him.  No way could I hold any hard feelings against him. He hadn't exactly said unkind things about me himself, and I'm guilty of chuckling at a joke that never should have been laughed at.  We hugged it out and moved on to other topics--the change in leadership, the way the church was going, life in general.

I walked away feeling more camaraderie towards him, but my heart also squeezed with sadness about what he'd said.

Don't get me wrong--I am no where NEAR surprised that people speak unkindly about me.  I am well aware that people probably don't like me.  I don't have a high enough self esteem to believe the whole world loves me--I'm not arrogant, nor am I stupid.

What got to me was the phrase "mean jokes and stuff".  Jokes?  What joke could be told about me?  I tried to think about jokes that were told about other people that they didn't want that person to hear said about them...I tried to find a context in which one (or all) of my faults could be laughed at in an unkind way.

But I couldn't come up with one.
I still can't.

I feel like Darcy when he's talking to Elizabeth and she's trying to find a way to tease him in Pride and Prejudice.  He says his faults (which are pretty human and not honorable or good in any way) and she replies with "Oh dear, I'm afraid I can't tease you about that.  Pity, for I do love to laugh." *loose quotation*.

What's funny about my faults?  What could be said that would make my friends laugh, even if they know it's mean to do so?  It wasn't paranoia that I was feeling, but sadness.  Deep and painful sadness.  I'd almost wished he'd apologized for the jokes HE'D told and then told me what they were--at least then I'd know.  Instead, he did what was right and didn't gossip.

But every time it pops into my head, I feel the tears press against the corners of my eyes.  I attempt to put up a strong front, but anyone who really knows me knows I am an emotional pansy.  I love my friends, but I'm wondering more and more about who loves me back.  It's a horrible feeling and I'm 96% sure it's Satan messing with me...but that 4% is still pretty loud.

If anything, I've learned one lesson.  I will never allow another unkind joke to be said in my presence UNLESS it's the type of ribbing that would be done if the individual was standing there.  People tell jokes all of the time and say "Man, I wish ___ was here for me to say that to."  Then if that individual walks up, they repeat the joke for his/her own ears.

But the jokes people say--the ones they would be mortified if that person heard--I can't allow those to ever occur around me again if I ever did before.  Now that I feel this pain, I'm going to learn from it.  I have no other option.

It's funny, how life and God teach us lessons.  Sometimes the ones that hurt are the best teachers.

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