There was a time in our ministry when I was so wounded that I curled my heart into a ball, tight and sealed, that I might protect myself from possible future wounds. The criticisms and misperceptions were hurtful enough, but that people believed them, didn't trust us, and seemed to take sides? I could barely breathe under the strain and the pressure. My wounds consumed my thoughts, my emotions, and my every weeping prayer.
And Jesus, who faced mean-spirited critics, said we should not be surprised by these things. Paul, too, assumed criticism, misunderstandings, disagreements, and attacks were an aspect of his calling. He certainly knew of what he spoke.
With my gaping wounds, I finally saw the inside of myself and all the healing and growth I didn't even know I needed before. I suppose this is how God makes good out of what was meant as harm, just like Joseph said about his own familial wounds.
I'm glad this happened early on because I am not surprised by criticism anymore. I don't like it, certainly, but I'm not completely caught off guard, nor do I have a visceral reaction to it any longer. But this I'm noticing: I can take it in, I can prayerfully glean what truths I need to take from it, I can remain somewhat calm, but I still want to wrap my heart into a tiny little ball, tight and sealed off from others for a while. I want to hole up in my house or dart in and out of church without really communing. I want to stay on the surface, protecting myself from what vulnerability might mean.
In all our years of ministry, there is simply nothing like criticism (or perceived criticism, since I am my own worst enemy) that has made me want to throw my hands up in surrender and completely walk away. I just want to put my head down and my heart away and never put myself out there again.
Fight! I must fight to keep my heart in the game, where I know for sure God wants me. I must fight with the renewing truth of the Word, which God uses to draw my eyes back to Him and reorient my motivations for fulfilling my calling.
Run! I must run to Him, the Person of God, to feel His embrace, to know His protection over me, to hear His approval regarding my obedience (or His gentle rebukes regarding my disobedience). How silly my need to please others appears next to Him and His powerful love.
Hide! I must hide in the shadow of His wings, knowing that Christ alone is my justification, and the One who must live this life through me if I am to do any ministry that matters. In the warmth of His covering, I also discover my need to forgive those who have hurt me, as I have been forgiven, for His compassion teaches me compassion.
I am trying to remember that running and hiding is good, as long as I'm running to and hiding in Jesus.
Your turn: what verses or actions are helpful to you when you're wanting to run and hide because of criticism?
Similar posts that might be helpful:
When Ministry Brings Wounds (The comments on this post are extremely helpful, I think)
Waves of Love (How God's approval bests the approval of others)
Taking Your Temperature (People-pleasing vs. God-pleasing)