Friday, March 14, 2014

Collateral damage 8

I have finally admitted to myself that on numerous occasions I've been the collateral damage in other people's wars with sin and each other. This has changed the way I think about myself and my work for the Kingdom. I'm still sorting out whether this is a change for the better.

I first considered this about six months ago when I was trying to figure out why I was having trouble visiting churches for Sunday worship, and having trouble even considering getting involved in a new congregation.

I had a revelation at that point: I felt like I was a soldier, or a first responder, or a battered spouse, or a disaster survivor or any number of other people who have developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I realized I had a pretty bad case of PTSD from my years of church leadership and the series of crises I'd been through.

I also realized that even though my Christian friends were encouraging me to find and get involved with another church, that was not a good idea for me. I needed to deal with the PTSD first. I pictured a soldier being told the best way to deal with their PTSD was to get right back out there on the battlefield. That's how this felt to me: hey, you're a mess because of church—now get out there and find another one in which to serve.

Once I figured this out, I began to wonder how I'd ended up with the PTSD. It was then I realized I'd repeatedly been collateral damage in other people's wars. As a leader, I had tried to help, to lessen damage, to find resolutions to issues, to make wise decisions, to help people move forward, to bring healthy ideas. But in a church community, a leader's authority only carries as far as people are willing to listen and be influenced. When people are bent on thinking and acting in certain ways, you may think you're a mediator or a person with some authority. But you're not. I realized in these situations  I'd had no real authority to actually change anything. People were going to do what they were going to do.

Instead of being a mediator, a diplomat, a judge, or a policeman, all I'd ended up being was part of the collateral damage.

It's quite a different way to think of yourself: as a person who thought they had some authority or power to make a difference, but in reality had none. You go from believing you can exert some control over a situation to being someone who's just swept away by it.

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