In my previous two pieces, I shared about my experiences with this year’s Gospel Coalition Conference. First, I shared my personal retreat reflections which helped me recognize that I had some issues where I was harboring some anger towards people that I needed to forgive.
Then, in the second piece, I shared how my mentoring session with Serge.org showed me other areas where anger had been rearing it’s ugly head in my life. Anger is a sneaky sin, that can mask itself in many ways. Some seeming obvious, others much more subtle. I knew that I needed to address these issues. There were people I needed to forgive, including myself. I needed to preach the Gospel to myself every day, reminding myself how the Lord sees me vs. the lies I have been told.
The third reflection was the two moments in which someone who had never wronged me apologized for the wrongs others have committed.
This first time happened during my serge.org mentor session. As you may recall in the session I shared about my ministry work, obstacles I was facing, and how I felt like a failure in certain aspects of the work. While my mentor, Hunter, did shift the conversation to a more personal direction… the first thing he did before taking that turn was to apologize. In fact, perhaps it was my response to the apology that confirmed for him that the personal direction was the path he needed to travel down.
He recognized that the obstacles I was facing were very wrong, and hurtful ones… and he apologized to me for it. I have never expected an apology over any issue in my life. Maybe I set my expectations too low, or experience has taught me that apologizes come less often than deserved. Regardless, I have never expected a person who has never wronged me to apologize on behalf of others. This apology was spoken directly to me, not in generalities and with complete sincerity. It ushered in validation that I didn’t know I needed to hear, but clearly I did. I needed to not only hear the words, but I needed to hear a man speak them.
His apology was still sinking in, when I attended a workshop on Pastors and Women in Ministry. At the beginning of the session we were given instructions to put questions on cards for the panel and pass them forward. In the latter half of the workshop, the panel members would try to get to as many questions as possible. There was no way to get to them all and the moderator did a great job of trying to collate similar questions into one general concept. One of the questions dealt with Women’s Ministry Leaders who didn’t feel supported by their church, another one came up about women who didn’t feel like their church valued their expertise or ministry skills, a third question about how to disagree with your Pastor respectfully when you are a woman with higher education in the field or expert on a subject, and some women just wanted to be trusted to lead well.
These questions were answered, but you could tell one of the panelists was uncomfortable by the similarities of the questions. It was his turn to address the next question, but he paused with the need to address the questions of the hurt women in the group. In a microphone, to a room filled with women and Pastors, at a workshop that would be recorded and listed on TGC’s media page for the conference for the world to hear… Pastor Sandy Willson spoke to the hurt women with a very simple, “I am so sorry.”
It was sweet, tender, and genuine. It was spoken to the group at large, but in many ways I felt like it was directed right at my heart. Tears filled my eyes. Twice in one day, I would hear and receive an apology from a man who never wronged me. And, twice it would impact me more than I expected and bring in a sense of peace.
In honesty, I suppose there are some people I wish would say they were sorry for treating me a particular way. But, I believe pride has prevented that. Which has allowed me to more forward knowing that until they deal with their pride, and apology will never happen. I didn’t expect that I would need to hear from just anyone that they were sorry for the events that occurred. I had no way of knowing how their apology could lighten my load and make my steps toward forgiveness come with such peace.
I find myself able to let go of it not only toward the specific people involved in those situations, but also realized that I had been projecting their behaviors on others. I was lumping all the apples in to the bad pile, allowing one bad apple to spoil my feelings toward an entire group. Instead of tossing the bad apples aside, and being thankful for the good ones.
And so, I want to pass this gift on to you. Whomever you are. I know that at some point someone treated you unfairly, spoke unkind words to you, broke your heart and your trust, and I know that sometimes these wounds are deep.
I am so, so, sorry. I pray the Lord comforts you, that there will be people He will put in your path that will lift you up, and that you can forgive even those who don’t ask for it.