Bitterness is an Old English word meaning ‘to bite one’s own heart.’*
I still remember the first time I read that statement. It took my breath away then and it still causes me to pause.
Before I met Bill, it seemed like I was the queen of relationship failures. In my twenties, I was able to maintain a close friendship with my best friend Anna. We met at church and almost instantly became friends while I lived in Tulsa. I was pretty good at being a friend but could not seem to keep a boyfriend in my life for very long. I wasn’t good at balancing my time with friends and boyfriends. Every time someone new came into my life, I threw myself into that relationship and forgot all about my friend Anna.
I did manage to hold onto a very dysfunctional relationship for almost three years. I think about all the toxic drama that unfolded from that one relationship now and wonder how I could’ve made the mistakes I did back then for so long. I was young. I grew up thinking dysfunction was normal. I migrated toward the dysfunctional because that was all I knew. While all that was true, I underestimated the effects of that long-term dysfunctional relationship even long after it was over. I turned into someone I didn’t want to be. I became bitter.
I believed in my heart people were basically mean, manipulative and out to get what they wanted from me. Bitterness effected my world-view. I saw negativity and darkness everywhere and in everyone. Bitter words and sarcasm became tools to project my internal toxicity onto everyone else. Bitterness’s toxicity pumped like sludge through my beating heart while I was a believing Christian. So, don’t believe for one minute that just because I professed Jesus Christ as my Savior I was a healthy mature Christ follower. I wasn’t. I was angry, resentful, unforgiving, bullheaded and my heart was hard.
God was at work in my life when I had no reason to believe in him or myself. I call this the Hansel and Gretel method. Do you remember their story from the Brothers Grimm? Small clues were left for me to find along the way. These clues kept me motivated to discover something extraordinary. While on his path, God revealed to me insights as to why my relationships were always filled with drama. My favorite way to learn is to recognize something on my own. Back then, I didn't like being told what to do or how to think. So, God, being infinite in wisdom knew what would keep me engaged and on the pathway to a healthy mature spiritual life.
Bitterness had truly invaded my life and I can honestly tell you, I was biting my own heart and beating myself up for all the wrong things I had done. Bitterness convinced me I was not worthy of a healthy life let alone a healthy relationship. I was wrong. I was the problem. I cut myself off from God, family, friends and anything positive in my life. It took me years to accomplish some very intense heart and soul work. Little by little, I received a blood transfusion from Jesus that led to my healing. I’ve heard of people being instantly healed. That’s awesome. Praise the LORD! My healing and restoration took a long time. I could not give something I did not have. I couldn’t lead others if I wasn’t completely surrendered to Jesus’ leadership in my life. I don’t know exactly when it all happened. There was no “SHAZAM!” Just the awareness the bitterness was gone and forgiveness became my preferred way of living a life Jesus would be proud of.
This weekend we will explore what it can mean to have a clean slate with regards to bitterness and resentment. Someone may be healed instantly this weekend. I know that for sure. Someone may see the light for the first time. Someone else will be encouraged the pathway they are on is the right one that God honors over time. I pray for those who continue to sit in the dark and allow bitterness and resentment to eat away at their heart. If you know of someone who’s struggling with bitterness and resentment, invite them to attend worship with you this Sunday. Read Matthew 18:21-35 in order to prepare. God is at work. Come expecting him to do something in your own heart.
Make sure that no one misses out on God’s grace. Make sure that no root of bitterness grows up that might cause trouble and pollute many people. Hebrews 12:15 CEB
*Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes.1996.