This is just more Luce wandering and you may disagree. Nothing new there, then.
I think that there are many many flaws, mistakes, wrong decisions and muddy ditches (aka sins) we all fall into, but sometimes our personalities mean we’re not easily prone to one particular weakness. So, I am egotistical, selfish, impatient, self-serving, quick to anger, a bit on the self righteous side (!), stubborn, independant, cynical, mouthy, sweary and a few other things but…. but…one little quirk of nature that I have never been conscious of is…. wait for it…. bitterness. I don’t think I’ve ever felt bitter about anything, not because I’m good and saintly but just because it’s never occurred to me (I’ve been too busy being all those other things listed above.)
The other evening that changed. I was listening to friends chatting about where they’ve been, where they’re going, plans and memories, all of them married, supportive, teasing, reminding each other….. realising that my dead husband is just a name to them, that I have nothing to add to these conversations, haven’t been to these places, don’t wander off on my own to eat alone at some restaurant table, find little pleasure in wandering around a strange place on my own, have no plans and few memories to share. I sat there seeing only 27 years of heart desolation, while they saw romantic cities, rivers, mountains, countries…. companionship.
Listen, I’ve had a fabulous life, met great people, done exciting things, so my thoughts were rubbish. But there I was, overtaken by sorrow. And I realised with one hell of a shock, man! MAN! I was bitter. While I sat there, looking like butter-wouldn’t-melt, inside I was brewing up bilious, raging proper bitterness. I’d never thought about what it meant to be bitter before, but now it hit me like a bucket of cold sick. And about as pleasant.
So while they all chatted, ‘Have you been here?” and ‘We went there’, I was saying to God ‘What’s this about? Where has this come from? I don’t want it…. it’s not funny…. please take this garbage out of my head and heart.’ But a crowd of other thoughts slammed in , unbidden – why did my Mum die when I was so young? Why did I end up in that horrible situation with relatives… why did my uncle…. why didn’t my father……. why did… why did…. why did?
It was really horrible. I remembered a couple of verses, one about guarding your heart, one about taking thoughts captive….. and I asked God to help me.
And of course, He did; the conversation came back into focus, I looked at my lovely friends and saw their happiness and was glad for them. Truly happy. I’ve had my time and now this is theirs. But I’ll tell you what, chickadees, it had been a shock. If this was bitterness, boy, I never want to feel it again. It’s made me look back on the last couple of years and I think I can see now where it was growing, insidiously. What I interpreted as restlessness, a desire to be needed and relevant, and even loneliness, were the early and unrecognised shoots of bitterness .
I know what I mean by ‘bitterness’ but I wonder if we’re thinking of the same thing? I googled the word in the Bible and many of the verses quoted on different web sites were all about forgiveness. I don’t think that unforgiveness is bitterness. I think that’s a whole big fat no-no all on its own. For me, bitterness is a feeling of envy, of unfairness, of dissatisfaction at my lot and envy of the lot of others. That’s what I mean by ‘bitterness’.
That thought, about dissatisfaction with my lot, reminded me of Job, so I looked him up and look what I found! Job 10: 1
I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.
And I realised that there’s more to bitterness than meet the eye. It’s ingratitude, grumbling, anger against God, a feeling of entitlement thwarted. It’s me saying to God, “You’re so unfair!”
Me. The clay, shouting at the potter. Me, the created, railing against my creator.
What a nerve. When I know how He loves me, how He saved me. What a flippin’ nerve!
Listen, kiddiwinks and chums, bitterness is not for the faint hearted. Bitterness is horrible. It takes away your joy. Rots your brain. I know, I stewed in it for whole minutes. I never want to go there again. And the great thing is, that’s in the past, confessed and forgiven and now – with God’s help – I’ll be ready if it ever sneakily sneaks up again… I have a great big rat trap, ready to take those thoughts captive. Or a lasso, or handcuffs, or some other (and better) metaphor.
And you know what happened next? No, you don’t, so I’ll tell you. We were talking about something else and I said “Why does God love us?” and it was only a silly Luce aside/jokey thing. But it was taken seriously and the answer sorted me out good and proper “God loves us for what we will become. Who we are being transformed into.’
Transformation, eh? What a miracle. Self knowledge is painful sometimes but God can do the work that we can’t.
2 Corinthians 4:16 (message) So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.