The Best, the Worst, and the Best Thing Anyone Said to Me

I’ll take a quick hiatus from the Fruits of the Spirit.

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“The more your realize how little people think about you, the less you’ll worry about what people think of you.” – he said over coffee.

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After the divorce from John, I went through a divorce with my church community.

I was having coffee with a man who served on the leadership of the church during the process of my “divorce”.  We were trying to listen to each other.  Among other things, I explained how misunderstood I felt.  I had a sense that everyone at church blamed me for the end of my marriage.

In fact, he affirmed, yes…he did think I initiated the marital divorce.  He didn’t necessarily blame me for the break up of our marriage, but he assumed I had made the fatal decision.

But, he assured me I should not let that be a cause for the church separation.  To solidify his point he said, “Maria, the more you realize how little people think about you, the less you’ll worry about what people think of you.”

He was trying to comfort me, to let me know that most people at church were not concerned about whose fault it was.

I drove away from that meeting repeating his words and feeling assured that I was making too much of caring about how people judged my divorce.  It was one of the best things anyone said to me around that time.

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But as time went on, I kept repeating those words to myself.  And as the church divorce became as real as the marital divorce I kept hearing the words in my head, “The more you realize how little people think about you….”….”no one cares” creeped into my head.

Now please pause.

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Insert picture of cute sloth to divert from feelings of sadness or pity.

There is a good ending to this story.

The church divorce, like my marital divorce, ended relatively amicably.  We are all friends.  In fact, last week I started working at the church.  I am happy to be there in a new capacity and I believe they are (mostly) happy to have me back in any capacity.

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Insert picture of me with my friend Karen this past Saturday….see, I still smile.

But nonetheless, over the last two years I have had many dives into despair and paranoia and sadness and anger.

The church was a place where I felt elevated.  My ego was affirmed in so many ways.  I was asked to be an elder.  I was asked to go on a mission trip to Ethiopia (one of only three people who went initially).  My parenting was affirmed.  My voice was encouraged.  My picture was taken.  Man!  I was adored.

And then I wasn’t.

Friends (not church friends) questioned how any divorced person could hold a place of leadership in a church.  I was too dismayed by the marital divorce to be of much service to anyone except my children.  No pictures.  No voice.

And then the idea that “how little people think of you.”

Life just goes on for everyone.  It has to.  And then somehow, those words, “The more your realize how little people think about you, the less you’ll worry about what people think of you.” became the worst words I ever heard.

I didn’t think anyone cared that I was gone.  And I didn’t think anyone cared that John and the boys and even…well, anyway, I didn’t think anyone cared.  And no one thought of me or missed me.  And I was not a worship assistant anymore.  I was off every list…I asked to be off the lists…but that’s not the point.  And everyone always liked John more than me anyway.

The ego was crushed!

And thank God the ego was crushed.

Matthew 10:30 

Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

I think ego is the biggest invader into our relationship with God.  When all outward affirmations of value seem to be lost, AND you still have faith that God loves you, and you still have friends who won’t let you go, and you still have an ability to experience joy and peace…..when you realize you don’t need that thing that was your idol to be happy…that is amazing!

For me…that is when “The more your realize how little people think about you, the less you’ll worry about what people think of you” becomes the best thing I have ever heard.  It didn’t matter what other people thought or didn’t thought anymore.

Every word that Jesus spoke is precious.  And most words that Jesus spoke have meaning deeper than the surface can reveal.  And many words that Jesus spoke can’t be understood until life has given you the experiences to understand them fully.

Take for example:

Matthew 5:3-12

He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

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Many years ago, before this big snowball started rolling, I prayed, “God, help me care more what You think than what everyone else thinks.”

God put that prayer on my heart because God knew the trajectory of my life.  God knew I would need to look up one day and be assured the Creator of this beautiful world heard my prayer and had already answered it.

So when the time came for me to think (mistakenly) that no one cared about me, it would hardly matter in the face of God’s love.  And once I had God’s love to sustain me, I could open those eyes, which once were blind, and see JUST HOW MUCH those who are most important in fact DO love me.

Paradox.

Beauty.

Mystery.

God.

Amazing.

 

–dedicated to Sarah – because she inspires me to be real.

–and thanks to all who prayed and sponsored my run…I made my goal of improving my time from last year by 15 seconds per mile.  🙂