The words written by Madeleine L’Engle in a poem, Psalm 55: 12-14: A Contemplation of David caught me, held me, stayed with me. I need to take the time, make the time, to study that Psalm, to know David’s heart and situation when he wrote it. And I will. I love the Psalms and need no encouragement to read them, pray them, study them.
But her words echoed as if she’d somehow known a recent struggle waged within my sorrowful heart.
There is a vast difference between disappointment in the words and actions of someone who you know but do not count as friend and the deep wounding of betrayal by someone you love or like, someone you trust. It’s even worse if that person has said he or she is a Christian, a follower of Christ. And if you have served in leadership with this person, counseled that person in that leadership position, and then discovered betrayal, the wounds leave scars.
Have you ever put out a Welcome Mat with large letters, maybe letters that glowed in the dark and played chimes in the day? Of course, this is an imaginary welcome mat. When I am betrayed, I snatch that welcome mat back and put out an imaginary one that shouts go away.
Madeleine L’Engele wrote: “Dark from dark is never a surprise; hate where there is always hate is bearable.” She goes on to show in words the hurt when dark comes from what was perceived as light. I wondered where that came from, what that had to do with Psalm 55 and the verses cited in the title so I read them. Here they are.
For it is not an enemy who taunts me— then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me— then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to take sweet counsel together; within God's house we walked in the throng.
I ran the fingertips of my heart over her words, over the verses from the Psalm, and wondered what do I do with the anguish, the anger, the wounds of a recent betrayal. Do I lash back? Do I manipulate and plot revenge? Do I plot and plan?
But the emotions that replaced all those dark ones were confusing at first. I felt keen sorrow, intense grief. Not over myself but for this person who had done the wounding, the one who had wounded others. I had seen good in this person. I had experienced good as he helped me with needs. I believe there are evil people in this world but this person is not in that camp. I prayerfully checked to see if all affection for this person was gone, erased like chalk from a blackboard. Nope, the affection was there nestled against my wounds over being betrayed.
I had a conversation with God, once again acknowledging that we are all sinners. None of us is perfect. Especially not me. So somewhere in this untidy mess, I played a role. Might have been prideful; probably preached rather than listened; likely harsh rather than gentle. Forgiveness took the hand of repentance as I prayed and asked for God to open the door to interactions with this friend. I won’t push for this. I’ll trust God with this. But in my heart I have already forgiven my friend and when it is God’s time, I will ask for forgiveness. The Bible is full of verses on forgive and variations on that word and concept. This one works in all situations.
Matthew 6:14-15English Standard Version (ESV)
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.