This blog is going to be the most difficult to write about my journey and I really want to do it with integrity and humility. I don’t want to point any fingers or come across as unforgiving or bitter in any way as I truly don’t feel those things. I would not have been able to do this a year ago as I was working through a number of feelings and trying to make sense of it all.
After 5 years of establishing our church plant things turned to custard for us. We were about to undertake a trip back to South Africa to be part of our previous church plant’s 10 year birthday bash. They were flying Hubby and I out to be a part of it. Well my mum and dad couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing their grandkids, so they paid for our children to fly out with us. A few weeks before we left I had a gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach – I knew something was going to happen while we were gone, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. God gave me 4 little words that helped me to understand the bigger picture. I knew something major was coming but nothing could have prepared us for what came our way. Here is a journal entry I wrote when things turned upside down for us. This was written about 7 months after the event:
“The first inkling of unease and the trouble to come came as a gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew something momentous was about to happen and I knew that it was not going to be pleasant. This feeling increased over the days and God in His graciousness and wisdom began to reveal to me little cameos of what was about to happen. I am so grateful for those pictures and words as it confirmed to me that I was not going mad even thought the world around me appeared to turn upside down – the reasonable became completely unreasonable and I could make sense of none of it. As our world exploded around us – all who were dear to us snatched away – accusations flying at us like a circus knifeman meticulously aiming his daggers – I felt like I was treading water with rescue nowhere in sight. The feeling of numbness, sheer disbelief and feeling as though I was living in a surreal world continued through the week. Was this how Jesus felt when He was put on trial? – accused by those He so dearly loved – those He was giving is life for. Slowly we resigned ourselves to letting go – at first it felt like failure, giving up to me, but we realised we would have to take it on the chin for the mistakes we made and trust God to vindicate us on the accusations that were unjust. The saying, “life’s not fair” had new meaning to me. Through hurt and angry feelings I tried my utmost to not let this derail me, to trust God no matter what and above all to forgive and forget and even pray for those who hurt us most. Each day is a new journey to me – like an addict taking one step at a time, I find myself on an emotional rollercoaster. One day I am strong and happy, the next day angry and wondering again how this happened. At last I choose to to forgive and let it go – I can’t live regretting my mistakes and beating myself up daily – I can’t live under others perceptions of who I should be, or feeling intimidated in their presence. I need to live for Him alone – an audience of one – pleasing to Him and with intimate relationship with Him. This is what allows me to move on – to walk in freedom and peace. I feel the warmth of His favour as I do – He gives me new purpose to life.”
As a result of some leadership mistakes and personal issues we were dealing with, we came under pressure to hand over the leadership of the church plant. Gossip and speculation had entered the church and no matter how hard we tried to resolve it, it was not to be. The result of all this was a very ugly situation and our primary concern was for the church. Keeping the church together was our focus – so we chose to walk away. The last thing we wanted was the church folding as there were great people in the church.
We repented for everything you can imagine – for mistakes we had made and even accusations that were inaccurate – we believed God would vindicate us and carry us through. We had one week to pack up our home and put our things in storage before we flew to South Africa. We arrived in SA absolutely crushed, heartbroken and grief-stricken. Our children were amazing – their lives had been shattered too – they had to say goodbye to friends they had made and get their heads around the fact that we would be moving to a new city when we returned.
Going to SA was the best thing that could have happened – God knew the perfect timing for all this in our lives. We were surrounded by family who just lavished us and loved us through our emotional time. People encouraged us even though they had no details, and God started to stir hope in us for the future. When we arrived back “home” we travelled to a new city where we submitted ourselves to a relating church and became accountable to them for our lives. It has been 21 months since that incident and I have gone through various emotions . I can truly say though that we felt like God saved us again and we have been looking through different lenses at His church and kingdom. It has been very refreshing for us to see things in a new way, although very painful too.
The hardest thing for me was that the relationships that we thought were so strong weren’t actually there – people didn’t know how to treat us and so those ‘closest’ to us either avoided us completely or just made superficial conversation with us. It took me a long time to stop feeling bad for our mistakes – forgiving ourselves was the hardest thing of all. I realised too that God loves us no matter what, but that sometimes we as people can be unforgiving. We are so secure now in Him – part of my identity before was wrapped up in doing and serving in His Kingdom and now I have realised He just wants relationship with me, first and foremost – the rest is just icing on the cake.
I realise that forgiveness is an ongoing thing, not necessarily a once off event. I have determined never to be bitter about what we went through – we have learned things that have strengthened us and made us more reliant on God than ever. I also realised through this hardship that there are people who have had greater heartache than we have – who have lost children or loved ones, who are starving to death or living in war-torn areas and it has made me far more compassionate to other’s sufferings. I hope this blog entry encourages those going through hard times that pain does diminish, that forgiveness is key and that God does restore and continue to love us through those hard times. May you be blessed today!!!