Archive for the Christian Category

Beyond the Door …

Posted in Barbara Brooks, Barbara J Brooks, Christian, Love, Personal Challenges, Personal Relationships with tags on 30 December 2015 by Barbara J. Brooks

I experienced an unexpected loss of friendship over the past year and have allowed myself several months to reflect, examine myself, and ask God to elevate me above the stench of betrayal.

Over a year ago, I received a call from her in which she informed me that I had hurt her very deeply by not offering her the use of my home at a time that she was coming to town to tend to matters concerning her brother, who had been stricken with cancer and was very ill. As she began retelling the details, she told me I simply said “No.” This made no sense to me. It had occurred more than seven years before our conversation, so the details momentarily escaped me. I could not imagine myself saying no to such a request, given what she meant to me, as well as the fact that I had such deep affection for her brother. I immediately apologized and stated, genuinely, that I was ashamed of myself for having responded as she said I did. She then added, rather off-handedly, that I had said I was going to be out of town at the time. It clicked then. Yes, she had asked if she could stay with me, and when I informed her of my unavailability, the matter was dropped. When I called her during the course of that week in question to inquire as to her and her family’s well-being, there was no indication that she was offended by anything I had said or done. Certainly her concern was for her brother, so even if there had been a “vibe,” it would have been attributed to that far more distressing matter. In our conversation in which she finally took me to task for the incident, she confessed that because of that offense, she had been “challenged” by her feelings for me over the past few years and that I must have noticed her changed attitude. I had, but I wanted to believe that the reason for her moods was unrelated to me.

Yes, I noticed the frequent instances of coldness, impatience, dismissiveness, and what seemed like unwarranted hostility, but I convinced myself that it was my imagination, that I was reading her wrong. I noticed the lies that she concocted to erect distance between us. I noticed that she only offered the most grudging affirmation of my accomplishments. I noticed the insults, insinuations, and sarcasm, but I let them go—affording her far more grace than she did me. I now know that all of those slights and offenses were the unleashing of her passive aggressive vindictiveness, which she has since replaced with unforgiveness. Our conversation ended with her stating that she was continuing to “work through” some issues. I told her that I hoped it helped that I was deeply sorry. Apparently, it did not.

The irony is that I have been nothing but a good, loyal, and supportive friend to her. I was the first person at her home, with our then-pastor, when her mother passed. I was with her at the loss of three of her siblings, and my heart ached for her. I had previously sheltered her in my home and have since offered to do so. I sheltered her daughter in my home—I have sown into her daughter’s life. I helped her with my meager financial resources when she was unemployed—more than once. Because of me, even my elderly mother loves her and has given her assistance. I was with her in some very dark times in her life. My point is not to quantify my friendship, but to substantiate this question: How does one’s value for a “friend” hinge on one thoughtless act; one incident that only occurred because of an oversight? For me, it simply never occurred to me to offer my unoccupied home to her and her daughter; for her, there was a presumption that I should have done so. Yet this incident, as opposed to my unwavering support and love for her and her family for forty-two years, is the gauge by which she measured our friendship. I sat at her dying brother’s bedside with her, yet she remains “challenged” by what, at the time of our conversation, was a more than seven-year-old grievance.

When we spoke again nearly a year after that initial confrontation, she told me that my apology was for my benefit and did not address how I had hurt her. I was shocked that she had recast what had come from my heart and the genuine sorrow (I reminded her) that I had felt into something so vile and selfish. She again, emphatically, stated that I had said “No” to her request. That is just not true, for she never made a specific request to stay in my home when I told her that I would be absent. I would certainly not have denied such a request, and if it had occurred to me to initiate the offer, I would have done so. Her insistence on this point and her disregard for truth is at once peculiar and yet revealing. She called me selfish twice in that second conversation. If I had intentionally said no to her, then yes, it would have been selfish. But I did nothing of the kind.

Astonishingly, when I expressed to her in that second conversation how deeply hurt I was by her treatment of me over the past few years, she justified her behavior as having been “reactive” and added that no one could make her offer an apology that was not in her heart. I agreed with her, for neither would I offer an insincere apology. I was not asking for one, but it was my responsibility to address her despicable behavior, especially since I was angry with myself for not having questioned those incidents when they occurred. I understand provocation, but I also understand that provocation can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. What is more, I understand that adults must be willing to own their reactions, provoked or not. To excuse her offenses as simply reactive with no regard for their hurtfulness and intentionality (as she had admitted herself), while continuing to hold me responsible for an unintentional and thoughtless oversight and reject my apology as self-serving was quite curious. That she would be unforgiving of me for one arguably minor transgression and ignore years of love, support, kindness, and “being there” is baffling and painful. Of course I have no right to demand her forgiveness, but I had every right to expect it. Moreover, I cannot help going back to the question of why she accepted my many acts of friendship since that incident, all the while harboring such hostility towards me. I find that reprehensible.

For a while, I tried to tell myself that I just did not give a damn, but that was dishonest—inconsistent with my value for what I thought was a genuine, loving, decades-old friendship. I was not at the point of not caring at that time, but since then I have moved on to an even better place. I know that we never heal from any loss or disappointment without admitting our true feelings and searching our own hearts for responsibility. I was hurt, and the sting of her betrayal and deception may linger for a very long time. Our friendship had meant something to me. I felt angry, disappointed, and abandoned as I know that, facing the inevitable storms of life, I will have been there for her in ways that she will not be there for me. I sat with her through pain and loss for forty-two years. But when my father passed in July, she had positioned herself and redefined our relationship such that even informing her of my loss would have been pointless.

I am so grateful that God has spoken to my heart as I have submitted to Him for self-examination. She closed the door on nearly forty-three years of friendship. It is always sad when the devil is handed a victory, and surely he is elated by the destruction of a relationship between two women who are united by the blood of Christ. Still, God has never failed to use even painful experiences for my good and my growth. Ironically, I was thrust into the position of having to forgive her for her unforgiveness and her disgraceful mistreatment of me over the past few years. The difficulty was compounded by her so intentionally and viciously withholding her regret for her behavior. Still, I have completely forgiven her. For the sake of my own spiritual well-being, I hold no ill will towards her. The place where I do not give a damn was on the side of that door where hurt feelings and anger dwelt. But on this side, beyond the door she closed, are my peace, a clear conscience, and a revelatory understanding of the venom of unforgiveness.






The Academy and Me

Posted in Ashland Theological Seminary, Christian, Christian Ministry, Church, Inspirational, Seminary on 31 August 2009 by Barbara J. Brooks

Seminary is a unique experience. The one thing I would tell you right now, though, is what my pastor told me when I started in 2004: Have a strong foundation before you start. My background is evangelical, and the seminary I attended was, as well. However, I sat next to individuals and was occasionally (though very rarely) taught by some instructors who seemed anywhere from just a little to quite a bit to the left of that. That is why you need a strong foundation–especially if you, like me, choose to stand unwaveringly and unequivocally on the Word of God. It was a good experience, very challenging, and I am glad that I allowed myself to be taught in this setting. I grew personally, spiritually, and intellectually. Have a strong, firm foundation in the Word, but allow the experience to challenge, teach, and where necessary, change you.

The call to preach is one of my favorite subjects. I highly recommend two books: The Irresistible Urge to Preach and God’s Yes Was Louder Than My No, both by William H. Myers. (Feel free to recommend books here, and once I do at least a cursory check of content–I am a school librarian, and these things matter–I’ll share them with other bloggers.) One title that still speaks to me since I read it several years ago is Preaching That Changes Lives by Michael Fabarez. Do not let anything deter you, if this is the unction you have received. I was nearly 50, I am a female, and had a lot of livin’ behind me, but I know that this is where God wants me. Depending on your denomination, your calling will probably need to be verified by the church, but it goes through you first.

Still at it . . .

Posted in Christian, Christian Ministry, Inspirational on 25 August 2009 by Barbara J. Brooks

I am still working on the site. This is a challenge–but a good one. I find myself inspired as the day for my return to work (the end of summer vacation) draws near.