When my sister and I were young, we fought all the time. Between groundings and spankings, nothing seemed to work. My mom decided that she would try a different method. She separated us and had us write nice things about one another.
Apologizing has never been easy for me. I’m pretty prideful and carry a lot of wounds. I have operated under the idea that if someone hurts me, it cancels out my sin. If we’re honest, we all operate that way.
My relationship with my sister taught me how to lay down my pride and apologize. There were times I hated her but when my mom would force us to write nice things about one another, I realized I had ample things to say.
I’ve alluded to it in past blog posts but haven’t dared to say it out right. Two years ago, I was excommunicated from a church. I was asked to leave and never speak to anyone in the church again.
I remember that day like it was yesterday. I remember sobbing on the rooftop of my work. I remember the shock. I remember going back to work after I received the phone call from the pastor.
I was very sick. I have high-functioning schizophrenia and this was before I was diagnosed. I was out of control. In the span of three months, I had become obsessed with one of the pastors, removed from my community group, freaked out said pastor’s girlfriend and harassed the church with incessant emailing and texts.
I needed a doctor. I needed treatment. What I got was being removed from the church.
I felt too dirty, too broken to step foot in another church. Excommunication will wreck you. It will mess you up. It will terrify you of other churches. Even now that I stand on the other side of diagnosis and treatment, I am too afraid to fully submit to the church I’m in now. I’m getting closer though, which is reassuring.
I shared the details of the story with my doctor in the hospital, when I was lucid enough to explain everything. I sat there in tears, asking him what he thought. What could I do to fix this? He explained that my behavior was not my fault. I had been very sick and could not have been expected to be well-mannered. He went on to say that the reaction the church had to me was irresponsible.
I became a victim that day.
For over a year, I had been angry, sad and frustrated. My heart has ached for an apology that they refuse to give. And man, have I sat in a pool of self-pity.
But God kept pressing into me. Something wasn’t sitting right with me about what the doctor had said. Schizophrenia doesn’t change your personality; it amplifies what’s already there.
And then I was presented with the same triggers that had set me off when I was sick. I resisted them all but I felt every evil bone in my body. I felt all the hatred and jealousy and malice and control and striving that ran through my body while I was in that church. The only difference was that, because of medication, I was able to resist the urge to give in.
That realization broke me. What did it mean that I could be a victimizer as much as I had been a victim? I sobbed deep tears for the hurt I had caused. Because yes, my illness denied me an ability to say no to temptation but the person behind the behavior was still me.
I told God how sorry I was. For the first time in two years, I experienced true relief from the pain I had from what had happened.
I know that, at one point, the pastor had been reading my blog. He doesn’t know I know that but I do. My heart is grieved over the fact that reconciliation and peace is not a possibility here. But in the off chance that he reads this, I want to say how truly sorry I am for the pain I caused. Nothing will change what happened but I can be repentant here. I wish someday we could apologize to one another in person but I understand that may be unrealistic.
I think we all believe that if we’ve been hurt, we can’t apologize for our part in the mess of things. But I think part of loving people is in the saying sorry.
In the moment I told God how sorry I was, He whispered gently in my ear, You’re now ready for the blessings I have for you. You’re ready for the life I have for you.
I don’t know what that means. All I know is that I have finally, finally moved on.