I know that I continue to use our experience in Israel in my blogging, but the experience is still fresh in my mind. The emotions and pictures in my head of last year are still vivid and still provide a constant backdrop for life here in Orange County. One constant burden on me in Jerusalem was the Palestinian-Jewish conflict. Given the news these days, I am sure it is now a burden for many. Ryan talked about the "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" tribal mentality in the middle east that prevents peace from ever happening. It is heartbreaking to think that there is no real "hope" for people to truly live side by side in love as long as there is no forgiveness. Until one side lays down it's arms and says "I will pursue peace, even if it kills me" I personally don't see an end to the conflict. Of course life has given us examples of people who have done this - Martin Luther King for one. And as Ryan also pointed out, a Middle Eastern man named Jesus who did lay his life down in the name of grace and forgiveness.
My commentary though is not so much a result of the current Middle East unrest, as it is from an unrest in my own soul right now. When I came back to the states I vowed to learn from our experience and to realize that if someone throws a stone my way, I cannot throw it back or else a cycle will begin that does not follow the path of Jesus. Of course by even writing this blog I guess it could be perceived as a stone being thrown. My perspective is that I have been hit recently and sit wounded and questioning. I wrestle with what the right thing to do is and am sad to find that some consider our family even worth the effort to hurt us.
Since returning to California our family has run into several strange and painful situations that we have not understood. People from our past church who we considered family and who we cherished as brothers and sisters in the faith have stopped talking to us. I have personally run into people who have turned and walked away from me in the local mall. I was actually so stunned one particular time that I followed the person thinking they didn't recognize me, only to have them make it obvious that they didn't want to talk to me. We have had emails from people requesting that we do not contact them or pursue friendships with them. This past week a friend confessed she had heard in the rumor mill some very hurtful and untrue things about Ryan that helped me to understand a little bit the behavior we have encountered. I honestly don't know which emotion rings stronger in me...the sense of deep hurt and betrayal that someone would spread such blatant lies about us or the equal sense of hurt that people would take those lies as truth without ever checking our side of the story.
I feel hit on several sides by stones right now and of course I ponder my response. Our family has worked for many wonderful churches and pastors and consider them mentors and friends. We are welcomed back at those congregations with open arms. We believe that all believers are a part of the same mission to show the world the love of God and one of the best ways to do that is through the love and forgiveness that we extend to each other. I believe that many followers of God strive to do this and perhaps including even the people who have recently thrown stones our way. I can't think the worst of them that they realize what they are doing to injure so gravely a part of their family in Christ. So what do we do? I fantasize about locking everyone in our former church together along with our family until we can all come to a true reconciliation. I think it is best perhaps to say nothing, although by writing about this I have already rejected that option. I could throw a stone back but we all know where that will lead and truthfully I have no desire for that. I could take the moral high ground and say that we have been above reproach at all times but that is a very frightening stance to take - since the only people Christ ever seemed to have issue with were those who "claimed" the religious high ground. I could apologize for apparently doing things that, whether real or perceived, have led people to be cruel to us. I honestly don't know that to do. The only thing that I can take away from it all is to look into my own life and to make sure that I guard against listening and believing things about other people without talking with them personally about it. I need to ask God's forgiveness for the stones I have thrown and to admit I have indeed thrown them.
Being a pastor's wife comes with a high price some days and one of those things is that we are de-humanized by others. People forget that we are, in fact, human and that we bleed and hurt just like everyone else. We aren't perfect and you can't expect us to be. And when our husbands are under scrutiny and when they are slandered and hit, it might as well be us as well. If anyone reads this who has been hurt or angered by Ryan or me I welcome dialogue and the opportunity to weep and wrestle together until true reconciliation can come about. Here's to a new year and hope for peace.