When will we really, really become aware of the pain we inflict on people? When will we really take responsibility for that pain? When will we learn that our words and treatment of people can leave scars that last forever and can change the course of a person's life forever? I ask this question of myself as well. I ran into two different people this weekend who told me two different stories which are startlingly similar.
On Friday I ran into a man who used to attend our former church home. Russ is a talented musician and was an active leader in the music department. Last year Russ came home from work one day to find that his wife had moved out and wanted a divorce. Russ was caught off guard and he certainly didn't want his marriage to end, but his wife had made up her mind. The music director at the church told Russ that because his personal life was in disarray he had to ask him to leave the music department!! Russ NEEDED the comfort and care of his church family. Russ NEEDED to be embraced and cared for. Russ didn't do anything wrong, but was deemed unworthy to be in the church orchestra.
It has been nearly a year since Russ's wife left and he has never once stepped foot back into a church - any church. He is broken and angry.
Last night we ran into a beautiful young, talented, gifted, spirit filled friend of ours I will call "Linda". Linda is a talented leader who has a heart for the hurting and a calling into ministry. In recent weeks Linda has been talking with a church who was considering hiring her for a certain position and she was very excited about this opportunity as this is her heart and passion. The talks were going well and she was excited about being a part of this church family.
Three weeks ago Linda was asked to be a part of the church service - a chance for the church family to get to know her better. A few minutes into the service the announcements were made and it was then - at that moment - in front of everyone - that it was announced that the job she had been in negotiations for had been given to someone else and that person was introduced to the congregation. Linda was put in an awful, painful, and public spot and she hasn't been to church since!
Intellectually we know that Christians are only human, but it is especially difficult when Christian leaders take us for granted or cause us pain. Why can't we learn to simply communicate with one another? Do we care what the long term impact of our thoughtlessness will be? We’ve been given a perfect example of how to handle most life situations through the life and times of Jesus Christ. Simple respect should be the least we can give one another.
Several years ago I was tapped to direct a major production at our church. I was, in fact, the director of Drama Ministries and I had already met with the set designer and had set up a rehearsal schedule and was well on track to get the production underway. Then, in a meeting with the rest of the arts team, just weeks before rehearsals were to begin, the Music Minister turned to another woman on the team and said, "I want you to direct this production". I was stunned. It took me several weeks to get a meeting in which I was simply told by the Music Minister, "I'm in charge. That's it." To this day the pain persists and I struggle to make sense of why.
Out in the non-church business arena I have auditioned for many a role I didn’t get, and have applied for many a job I wasn’t given, but I was always treated with respect and was given the courtesy of a letter or phone call. Public humiliation is never okay, but it’s especially difficult when a part of our own body causes such pain or discomfort.
We can do better. We can and should treat one another with more respect. At the very least we need to learn and practice the art of apologies and forgiveness. We, the church ought to be setting the bar, the standard for excellence and respect. Won’t you join me in doing more and doing better?