Monday, August 3, 2009

The Ride Home to Mercy

Saturday night.
Route 68.
Somewhere between Lexington and Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

I am driving our family home from Quest Community Church.

Neil is normally sound asleep for these trips home, but tonight he sits ramrod in his car seat, his hands folded in his lap. He feels the tension of his mother. He is alert. His eyes are wide and bear into the back of my headrest like poker irons. I am affected by his innocence, his sensitivity to my inward suffering.

Brent sits in the passenger seat, his forehead cradled in his palm. He, too, is stoic, silent.

I sniffle.

“The thing I don’t get,” I say, breaking the silence, “is how to distinguish between justified anger and anger that is sin.”

“I don’t know.”

“I mean, I tried so hard to not let my anger cause me to sin tonight. And I still screwed up. And it was at church!”

“I wish I had answers for you. I don’t.”

“But you know that story in Matthew about when Jesus went off on the Pharisees? He was really angry at them. He called them names, even – ‘a brood of vipers’ and ‘whitewashed tombs.’ And yet He was without sin,” I sigh. “I just don’t get it. When are you allowed to correct someone, and when are you supposed to keep your mouth shut and keep a lid on your anger?”

“I don’t know.”

“I wish I knew, because it would really solve a lot of problems for me.”

We were talking about an angry outburst I’d had with a person at church after the service. I had been indignant and had told her so. I left in a fury after giving her an earful.

And then, Sunday morning, after I woke still feeling the weight of the incident, I blogged about it. Then I blogged some more about it last night.

But earlier today, I removed the blog entries. Some told me that I was pressured by my church pastors to do so. Others said it was inappropriate for me to have posted them to begin with.

Yes, I did have a thoughtful conversation with one of my pastors, Justin McCarty. But I did not remove the entries out of duress or guilt.

I removed them to make things right.

As Justin and I sorted through the events of that night, some things became very clear.

All of us, together, who are believers, are the bride of Christ. When we are at odds with each other, we give a foothold to the Enemy to tear us apart. This muddies the message to the world and further serves the Enemy’s purpose of ripping into Jesus Himself.

I can discuss the issues that triggered the heated exchange – but I should do so in private with the person who was at the center of it. It doesn’t really matter who is right and who is wrong. What matters is that we give each other the benefit of the doubt before we present the scenario to the rest of the world, especially if non-believers are looking on.

Who says so, you ask?

Jesus did.

It’s right there, in Matthew 18: 15-17.

"If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you've made a friend. If he won't listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won't listen, tell the church. If he won't listen to the church, you'll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God's forgiving love.”

See, I didn’t realize that. My purpose in publishing the blogs, as I explained to Justin, was to lay out the sin in my own heart, to discuss with you the anger that torments me and pushes me to become the beast I detest. But in doing so, I dragged in details about the person at whom the anger was aimed. I made our debate a debacle for the world to point at and say, “See those Christians? They can’t get along. They don’t know truth. They don’t know God.”

“Now,” I said to Justin, “I see this as a real problem. I can’t do this. When I’m angry, I’m not rational. At the time this was happening, I thought to myself, ‘Confront her in love and try to teach her gently.’ And then I told myself, ‘No way, Heidi! There is no way you can do it. You will completely lose it. You should just extricate yourself cleanly and quickly.’ But then she stopped me to talk. And I just let loose and gave her a piece of my mind!”

“I see,” Justin said, “but there was something else you could have done. If this is a real problem for you, in the future, just say to the person, ‘I am very emotional right now, and the words I would have for you are not constructive. I would really love to talk to you about this later after I cool down. Can I have your name and phone number? I promise, I will call you, and we will discuss this.'”



And, frankly, DUH.

Why hadn’t I thought of that before? All of these years I have struggled with arguments, anger, strife – and all of these years, I could have said to each and every person, “Can we talk about it later? I would love to talk to you about this after I calm down a little.”

Justin asked me to do something else. He asked me to seek out this young woman and tell her I had not realized that I should have discussed this with her first, before blogging about it.

I can do that.

I will do that.

To be truthful, we both were in the wrong. My reaction to her was wrong and sinful. My reaction to her was unkind. My reaction to her was unloving. It’ll be up to her to decide whether to forgive me for it, and it’ll be up to her to decide if she wants to ask for forgiveness, too.


Can we go back in time, to the moment that Brent and I were driving home in the car? There’s just one more thing I want to say on this …

Saturday night.
Route 68.
Somewhere between Lexington and Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

Neil was finally snoring softly in the back seat as I rounded the sides of looming Kentucky Palisades.

“I just realized something,” I said to Brent, who was still silent and mulling my dilemma.


“Well, First Corinthians 13! It says something about this!”

“Really? What does it say?”

“It says, ‘Love is not easily offended.’ Or, something like that … ‘Love is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs.’”

Brent gasped. “’Love is not easily offended,’” he repeated softly. “’Love is not easily offended.’ What if God was easily offended with us?”

“Yes. What if God was easily offended with us? I guess I have a lot of praying to do.”

“I guess you do.”

And I drove the rest of the way home, my ride home to mercy.


  1. To be clear with all reading, I'm not your leader. I'm your friend. I loved that post. Working it out with her is the right way. Way to go Heidi! It takes a lot to admit you're wrong in whatever ways you were (which btw only you can affect).

    I love that I get to know you and we both get to be at a place where we can grow past our hurts, trusting Jesus even in the hard things.

    It's always a good question to ask, "Given the exact same circumstances, what could I have done better?" Great job asking and answering that question. See ya, Wednesday.


  2. Thanks, Paul.
    Admitting sin is hard for all of us. I hope that this experience will help readers see that we can be reconciled to each other and to God. Please pray for my future conversation with this young woman (I don't even know her name. Looks like I have some detective work to do).

    I also enjoy that I get to know you and Christina! You guys are tremendous & of course I love Christina to death for all that she does for Neil.


  3. ..if i might be allowed to make a glaring point(at least to me)...the real problem here..Heidi"s uncontrolable unresolved Anger issues..were nicely and politely ignored.. swept under the rug so to speak..before things had a chance to escalate out of control..which on one hand is a good thing(for the church)..However..The REAL problem (uncontrolable anger/rage)remains for Heidi AND HER FAMILY to deal with...the carefully selected scripture quotes and wise cliches cited do nothing to address the underlying issues Heidi as well as ourselves must eventually face if we are to experience the profound transformation into the likeness of Christ...if our particular flavor of Christianity cannot address these types of personal issues commonly faced by ALL..then maybe its time has come.....

  4. You are kind to be so supportive, anonymous.
    All of us have issues at the core. When the right things are triggered, we can fall into sin. The point is, how do we respond?
    We will not be perfect in Christ until we reach our eternal destination. In the meantime, we have to rely on the Holy Spirit for strength in the midst of adversity.
    The closer you are to God, the more you will be attacked. I am trying to show through my journey what it's like to be a Christian and how we have grace when we succumb to attack.
    Dealing with my anger? That's the job of the Holy Spirit, if I put my faith in Him to help me.
    I know it's uncontrollable anger when I am relying on my own strength. But God promises me that all things are possible through Him. And He promises, "Ask, and it shall be given to You."
    Regardless of whether a church or pastor gives a person enough support or acknowledges their struggles, we can still ask for His intervention. And He will give it to us.

    I really am choosing not to take offense here, on any front. This is what got me into trouble in the first place. I am using this experience as a valuable life lesson to change the way I choose to behave, both now and in the future, with the grace and mercy of the lovely Lord Jesus.