Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Life isn't like the Soaps
I grew up watching soap operas, or “stories”. I remember being a young girl and sitting on the floor in our tiny living room, folding sheets and watching “All My Children” with my mom. Like all AMC watchers, we loved to hate Erica Kane.
Of course I know that the lives of television characters are fictional. But when I was growing up, I rested in the knowledge that the truth would always win out. I mean, it worked that way in the soaps, and it would be so in life—right? Erica Kane would spin her little web of destruction and her victims would get tangled in her drama. She stole many a man from the women who truly loved them. But eventually, the web would slowly unravel, and the truth would finally be revealed. Erica’s lies would be at last exposed, and lovers reunited. While the drama was pretend, I found comfort in the premise—love and truth would always win.
I once had complete faith in the knowledge that people were inherently good and that wrongs could always be righted. I was about 35 when I learned I was mistaken. I suppose I’m lucky that it took that long for my trust to be shaken to the point of breaking.
I had an Erica Kane in my life. I thought “K” was my friend and I cared very deeply for her and her family. We went to the same church, and along with her husband “D”, we served in the same areas of ministry. When the first whispers of gossip wafted my way, I ignored them. People talk, right? Surely I’d misheard. K wouldn’t say those things about me.
Then the phone calls started. D called me and accused me of saying something I didn’t say. K called and told me she was angry with me for something I’d never done. I assured them that I hadn’t said or done these things and I thought our conversations had cleared the air. Misunderstandings happen in friendships, and relationships can ebb and flow. I even laughed at the absurdity of some of the accusations. But things got worse. Other people started repeating what they were hearing from D and K. Since talking with them hadn’t solved whatever was going on, I contacted our pastor. He agreed to oversee the meeting that I hoped would lead to reconciliation and restoration.
I’ll never forget that night—D and K were sitting on one side of a long table when Tom and I walked in the room. Pastor H greeted us and said, “I want to start by saying, I know where D and K live. I know where their hearts are.” I looked at D and K and I saw smiles that told me they knew they had won. We talked briefly, but the bottom line was this—Pastor H believed that if D and K had doubts about my character, they must have good reason. I lost friends that night. D and K took over all the responsibilities on the ministry team—responsibilities that had been mine.
It has taken me a very long time to trust again. I find myself second-guessing the validity of my friendships. I don’t like that!
It was a painful time, but I learned some lessons. I learned that gossip is a terrible and awful web, and once you get caught in it, it destroys friendships. I've learned that if we look for the ugly stuff, we’ll find it (even if we have to make it up). I learned that the people we look to for leadership (in this case, Pastor H) are human and just might disappoint.
Real life isn’t like it is in the soaps. I guess that’s a good thing—after all, Erica Kane has been married 10 times. That’s a lot of wedding gifts to buy!