I read some untruths about myself the other day. A disgruntled leaver (part of a duo) had sent a back-handed last word to my husband and me via my mailman. When the letter came, many months back, Dave kept it from me. "It will just make you mad," he said.
For a long time, though I thought of the letter on occasion, I resisted even asking. I didn't want to be mad. I wanted this chapter of my life to end. I've come to believe that some good byes turn a page with decisive finality, and sometimes, though you might wish it to be different, the ones who leave just aren't part of your story anymore. So for a long time, I didn't ask.
But then I did. I had a sense that all the loose ends had finally been tied, and that all that was left--before I could really put this hurtful scene away for good--was to know the contents of that letter.
When I asked, Dave repeated his warning. "If you feel you need to, go ahead and read it. But I still think it will make you mad."
It made me mad. It made me furious, actually, because the accusations were both harsh and untrue. Things I did say were ignored; things I didn't say were invented. I was made out to be more than what I am; my husband was made out to be less. Motives were twisted. Words were rearranged and taken out of context. Silly comparisons were made between our actions and theirs. Within about five minutes, all the joy I usually carry around with me had drained right out my toes and been replaced with bile.
I fumed all that day, and all the next. And though I stopped thinking about the lies during church (which was wonderful, by the way ... from worship, to Dave's message, to the fellowship afterwards), as soon as I got in my car and pulled out of the parking lot, the whispers started in again. "Who else did they tell this to? Who is out there believing I'd say such a stupid thing? Who has been turned against me because of these lies?"
I came home and meditated on those thoughts while I made lunch for Dave and the kids, and again while I changed into my gardening clothes, and again while I yanked weeds from the spot where green beans are supposed to be growing. I thought about them as I tackled a nettle patch, and dug the earth to brown again, and tossed bucket upon bucket of weeds into the chicken yard.
I pushed myself hard. Bitterness, it turns out, can be invigorating. All that pounding, stabbing, ripping and throwing made me feel a whole lot better on the outside, but inside, a battle raged.
About two hours into my therapy, a gray curtain settled over my garden and fat drops of rain began to kick up the dirt. I ignored the wetness for about five minutes, but when it became clear that it wasn't going to let up any time soon, I took my trough and my cushion into the greenhouse and took to ripping out the weeds among my tomatoes and artichokes.
God drove me to the greenhouse, and then His voice found a way past the pounding rain and my thrashing thoughts. I know the truth, my heart heard.
I know about the audience of One, and I allowed myself the tiniest measure of comfort from remembering that God does know the truth, and that my conscience is clean before Him. But to be slandered ... to have words put in my mouth that I'd never say ... to be completely misrepresented ... I just couldn't let it go.
Within seconds of hearing that quiet reminder, a hankering arrived from out of nowhere and convinced me stop digging and just enjoy the sound of rain. Dropping my trough, I moved to the center of the greenhouse, where one strip of dirt has yet to receive any seeds, and stretched out on my back. With my cushion serving as a pillow, I spent several minutes watching droplets of rain splat against the plastic ceiling above and form themselves into rushing rivulets that tracked off both sides of the roof. There's no other sound that calms me the way pounding rain does. It worked ... but only for a short while. Soon, my tortuous thoughts began to sneak back in.
But God intervened again. Just as the nastiness began to form anew, just as my heart began to quicken and a frown began to settle, He spoke again.
You have such a short time on earth. Is this really what you want to spend your time thinking about?
It wasn't. It isn't. So I asked Him to clear those thoughts from my mind, and He did. In their place, I spent twenty minutes thinking lovely thoughts about the One who tends my life, and surveys all my corners, and knows the gentlest ways to pull the weeds that need to go.
Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about. --Phil 4:8-9 (TLB)