They were the most hurtful words that have ever been spoken about me, but they weren't said to me. When Edwin and I got engaged, there were some people who were unhappy about it. My friends and family were ecstatic, but Edwin's friends weren't as thrilled. His family was always supportive, but there were some very important people in his life who were unhappy about the situation.
On three occasions, different representatives from this group tried to dissuade him from marrying me. They went so far as to say that I would ruin his ministry. Honestly, I was only 19 and I was coming out of the darkest period of my life. It wasn't that they didn't have reason for concern, but what I couldn't understand is why they didn't trust Edwin's judgement. One of the people who was most adamantly against the marriage had never even met me, which meant that there were conversations taking place. My complete ineptness was a topic of conversation. Most of the people discussing the "problem" that was our engagement had met me a handful of times.
I believe that they thought that they were speaking words of discernment, but they were wrong. Their words did nothing to build up the Body of Christ (of which I am a part), but they did manage to break the heart and crush the spirit of a young, often times foolish, version of myself. Edwin saw something that they didn't see. He believed that God wasn't done with me. They believed that I would end his ministry, but he believed that I would grow it. Where they saw brokenness, he saw usefulness.
Although they failed at breaking up the most wonderful human relationship in our shared life, they were quite successful in tearing down my self-worth. For the first five years of our marriage, I believed that I owed Edwin. I rarely told him "no" on anything. I rarely gave my input on his ministry. I didn't get involved in church work. My spiritual walk was weaker because I felt so unworthy of my husband, and of God. It took God pursuing me for me to realize that I was not as undesirable to Him as Edwin's friends thought I was. I was not only not damaging, I was able to be beneficial, and I really believe that I am a benefit to Edwin's ministry at this point.
I remember in college, one of my professors actually bragged about an insult he made in high school. I was appalled, but everyone else in the class had a lovely story made up in which the girl that my professor crushed eventually became a beautiful, successful adult. I'm not sharing my story because I'm angry or bitter. I'm sharing my story because I have come to realize that most people use their words in terrible ways, and then excuse their behavior. Life doesn't work like a country music video or a teen movie. Words hurt. In my case, words left wounds that still haven't gone away. I still become very self-conscious whenever we go to Alabama. I feel like the whole state is watching, just waiting for me to mess up and destroy Edwin's life and ministry. Although God used those words to make me more aware of my own words and to encourage me to be a better pastor's wife, their actions are inexcusable.
To be human is to make an impact on other people. We aren't allowed to take a break and "just get it all out." It's a constant job, a duty that we have as Christians to strengthen each other to do a better job at serving Christ. We don't have the right to have bad discernment. Every word must be tested according to the Holy Spirit and Scripture. To ignore this truth is to deny the essence of relationship, that I can impact you, for good or bad, and you can impact me.