By Elisabeth K. Corcoran
When we hear criticism, we are given a list of ways to handle it. All good ways. All ways I've tried. Things like look to God to define you. Done. Zero in on what he's placed in your life to do. Check. Get yourself around people who love you and know you. In spades. Put yourself back out there. So desperately trying.
I use all these strategies regularly. I'm a writer, so my life is in the public eye, for anyone to see and comment on. And I'm divorced, so this leaves me susceptible to harsh words of disapproval.
But recently I found myself stuck in a place that these strategies for handling criticism didn't work. The criticism I was receiving was based on my own wrong-doing.
I said some hurtful things about someone I cared about. I was reckless with my mouth and with this person's heart. I have been paying for that five-minute mistake for months now. Because what came out of that was a tongue-lashing that I cannot move past no matter how hard I try.
I did mess up.
But I also did every step of the amends process that I could think of. And though I was told I was forgiven, harsh words and consequences came that have left me branded and benched in one area of my life. Probably not shockingly, those labels have followed me into every other area of my life as well.
I can't just shake these things off and chalk it up to the other person being a critic who doesn't count, or being a stranger who doesn't know my heart. No. This person knew me pretty well. And this person said things and made some decisions that have scarred me.
I have done all the steps I know to move on. I have asked forgiveness from God, numerous times, and from this person, more than I probably needed to. I have asked Jesus what is true in all of this. I have actively made changes in my behavior. I have asked Jesus who he says I am, how much he loves me. All of that and more.
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My concern is that though I have moved on, I have moved on as a timid creature, dragging behind me the haunting shell of those words that were proclaimed over my life. I have moved on, but as a ghost. I have moved on, but my heart is still back there and so bruised and cowering for shelter.
If I am waiting for that person to give me a second chance, I will be waiting forever.
If I am waiting for Jesus to give me a second chance, he already has. Again and again and again.
So it looks like my next step is now squarely on me. I need to choose to accept God's forgiveness. I need to choose to let this go and surrender it. I need to choose to move on, leaving the shell behind.
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But in this small moment, dark and cold and grey outside ... dark and cold and grey inside ... I can't just yet. I am open. I am so very ready. I can't tell you how desperately I never want to think about this again. So while I'd like to say I'm bravely doing more, I'm not. I do what I can: I beg Jesus to move in and heal this part of me that is so wounded it feels like it might not recover. So come, Lord Jesus, come, I am begging you.
Elisabeth Klein Corcoran is the author of Unraveling: Hanging Onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage, speaks regularly to women's groups, and is a member of Redbud Writers' Guild. She now focuses her attention on women who are in hurting marriages or find themselves divorcing. She lives with her children in Illinois. Visit her online athttp://www.elisabethcorcoran.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/ElisabethKleinCorcoran.