We all believe lies. We do it all the time. Sometimes we even believe lies, knowing full well that they’re false. Sometimes we do that because believing the truth is too uncomfortable or inconvenient. Sometimes we do it because the truth that we know somewhere in our hearts isn’t burning brightly enough to dispel the darkness of falsehood. That’s where I am today.
One of the lies I believe is that there’s something deeply wrong with me. Something that makes me deserving of every difficult thing that transpires. Something that justifies the reactions of those that recoil from the degree of my messed-upness. This has been a long-standing one for me, but something happened about two years ago that kicked it into high gear.
I was living in Ecuador. I was a missionary. I was working for a church doing youth ministry. I was also struggling with pretty severe depression.
I was working as part of a ministry team with four other guys who I would have told you were among my closest of friends and confidantes. As it turns out, trusting them to walk with me through my struggles was a very bad idea. As things got darker and more painful for me, they began to become more accusatory. A staff meeting one morning turned into an intervention where I was grilled for hours on why I wasn’t getting better. A week later, the group cancelled the scheduled staff meeting, met in secret on another day, and decided to fire me. They didn’t know how to handle a struggling Christian … particularly a struggling Christian missionary. We got paid money by our supporters back home to share the gospel with Ecuadorians, for crying out loud. We couldn’t be seen to have problems. When they fired me they told me that they had to think about how it made the church look. The pastor sent a couple of the guys I would have told you were friends of mine to my house to tell me my services would no longer be required, and to get my church key from me. Then the four of them just evaporated. They needed the problem that was me to go away. So they fired me and pretended I didn’t exist until I moved back.
That was the second most painful thing that ever happened to me. The first happened only a few months later.
When I moved back to the U.S., I was caught in the throes of depression and culture shock. I was looking for absolutely anything to numb the pain. My wife had just told me that she was going to take care of her and her struggles now, and that I was on my own to get my support from my friends. I did something stupid and sinful. In a paroxysm of grief and selfishness, I cheated on her. It wasn’t a relationship. It was a one-time physical thing. That doesn’t mitigate the horrific nature of it for a moment. I broke my vows. I was unfaithful to the only woman I’ve ever loved. I repented immediately. I begged her forgiveness. She asked me to move out so she could have space to work things out on her own. I did. She waited a few days and told me that she’d decided she had no intention of reconciling. I begged. She refused. I set up counseling. She went a couple of times and quit. I cried out for mercy and grace. She demanded what the law entitled her to have. She refused to believe that I could change. I had to go away. She had to be free of me. My divorce was final in June of 2013. I don’t know how to stop loving her.
It was the ultimate one-two punch. I was toxic. I had to be avoided at all costs. Grace and mercy didn’t apply to me. I got justice. I got what I deserved, and I knew I deserved it. My faith that the gospel is true of me started to take a hit. I was charged, tried, found guilty, and condemned. My sentence was to be set aside and not considered. The leadership team and elders of my church in Ecuador put me aside and walked on without me. My wife cut her losses, ended our marriage, and never looked back.
Yesterday, my boss fired me. She told me that she does things “by vibrations,” and that “the universe” was telling her that I wasn’t a good fit for her agency. She said that she’d been given a list of secret phrases and statements by the universe by which she would be able to identify people from whom she must protect herself and the company. I had used one of the phrases. When pressed as to what phrase I’d used, she said “Rick, you know I can’t tell you that.” She told me that she liked me and that she was happy with my performance and that she appreciated everything I’d done for the company, but that she had to let me go.
It just keeps going on and on and on. I’d hoped to end this post with something positive. Some turn-around that says “You know what? Something is wrong with me! I’m deeply flawed and broken, and I’m loved with an everlasting love by my Father anyway, and He cannot change!” Maybe I’ll write that post tomorrow. If this blog is for me to wrestle with the realities of the gospel and to try to apply them to my life and the way I live it, then this is one of the wrestling days.
Today the fact that I know those guys in EC responded sinfully to me doesn’t make a bit of difference. Today, the fact that in a perfect world, my ex-wife would have chosen to respond to me in a gospel-driven manner and that the same gospel that is true of me is true of her, isn’t getting through. Today, it doesn’t matter that my boss is clearly completely mentally unhinged and trying desperately to control her environment by removing any variables she doesn’t understand. It doesn’t bring me comfort. I’m believing the lie today.
Today I’m getting my butt kicked. Pray for me.