We were ministry leaders when our staff supervisor changed our structure. For no special reason, I was told first and asked to explain to Debbie*. She had been in our ministry longer than I had, and she was older than I was. Debbie listened quietly, but I could see her heart was not quiet.
In the next weeks, her quiet became deafening to me; I knew she was offended. At our meeting with our supervisor, Debbie’s husband came to help her work through the injury. The staff member tried to explain what happened, making it known the change did not come from me, but the damage was already done. Life in the church can be painful. When “Body parts” are moving, we can inflict damage on each other. I confessed my inadequate sensitivity; I asked for forgiveness. It was denied. I felt sick.
For months it weighed heavily on my heart. My Christian sister withdrew from ministry. I noticed she stopped coming to church. Her husband looked sad. I felt responsible.
God was moving in my own family during these months, until He took us to Asia as full-time missionaries. I knew I was leaving behind a damaged sister in Christ, and I felt helpless. I prayed. I hoped. And ultimately I packed up my stuff and my concern, and I left. I never stopped praying God would work in the heart of my sister in Christ. Sadly, much pain in the Body of Christ comes from other Body members. Though the Spirit lives in us, we often default to our flesh, and that causes pain.
Several years later God brought us back to our church for a time of transition. During those few months, I noticed the absence of my one time ministry co-laborer. I remembered how 2 women who once served alongside each other (Phil. 4:2-3) experienced conflict in church life. It didn’t seem right. I knew it didn’t honor God or His name. Perhaps that’s why Paul urged them to get along and “stand firm.” I knew what God wanted. It required crucifying my pride and taking up my cross (Luke 9:23).
Years had passed. I picked up the phone and called Debbie. At her door, I told her I knew I had hurt her years before, doing damage that drew her away from the Lord. I told her I knew she hadn’t been ready to accept my apology before, but I wanted to ask again for her forgiveness, so she and I could be free. I waited. I prayed. I braced myself.
She threw her arms around me and hugged me, tearfully telling me she had wished she had forgiven me and offered her apologies. She wanted to be free of the burden, but knew she had rejected me. She wondered if she would ever get another chance. The Lord made sure she did.
When I left I felt the joy of being forgiven, the joy of reconciliation, and the joy of knowing a stain on the Body of Christ had been wiped clean. I love His name, and I don’t want anything I do to injure it.
Have you been hurt? Have you hurt? Has it been years? Maybe it’s time to go prayerfully knock on that door and be set free!