One of the hardest things about working on a team is people. Missions is full of interesting people. Perhaps not normal people. Odd people. Awkward people. People with no people skills. Determined people. Pioneering people. Hard-nosed people. And among them are a few sweet people. They keep everyone else from killing each other, I think!
We've got some people on our team. Tough people to get along with. People who step on toes but have no awareness that they did. Even worse, if they were told, instead of reacting with gentleness, they react with anger. Difficult people.
Last week, inevitably, another conflict with one of these people. Sadly this is with a person who has not learned to bite his tongue when angry, so he inflicts large scale damage. It's been a rough week.
The whole things started off with people who didn't respect basic boundaries. Nothing huge or scary, but really simple basic stuff that a normal-brained person would get, but sadly we seem to have a member of our team who doesn't get normal social graces. A request in light of his actions set another member of our team off on a jaunt into anger. That person is the one who fights dirty. There is no past in his anger. Everything is in the present, and every past detail is brought up and hurled back at people. It's tiring.
I was closest to the eruption, so I bore the brunt of it, but I am not alone. I've watched the hurt in others eyes this week, too, heard the comments, the seething anger underneath. It's sad.
This is the stuff we don't write home about, right? We're missionaries, remember? We're supposed to be good, have it together, and get along. But I have a suspicion that we are not the only team with people on it - people with their problems. I just have the ability to write because I am anonymous.
So this week I listened to someone tell me that I do everything wrong, that I am lazy and not keeping up. (This person knows full well that I am so anemic at the moment that when I stand up, I go dizzy, and if left in silence for more than ten seconds, I will be asleep. That my long muscles ache, and I feel daily like I've just run a mile.) I listen to them tell me that I am a bad mother because I don't parent like they do. Worst of all, I listened to them tell me that I am just damaged because I have lived through sexual abuse.
Eventually, I politely told this person that I am sorry that I am not meeting my obligations in my job and will from now on be there and be doing what I have agreed to do regardless of how I feel. Then I told this person that I need to be going and since we seem to be only going in circles, I am going to end this conversation here, and I walked away.
I've had a rough week. I've alternated between being strong and wanting to curl up in the fetal position and cry. Between calmness and burning anger. Between exhaustion and tears. I'm back at 100% running on empty. (The goal right now with my health is to let me physically crash so the medical system here will take me seriously that there is something wrong.... perhaps this is doing me a favor since I will crash faster running at full steam.) It just feels so unfair.
And then I am a mother! I am a good mother! And I fight like a mother bear when attacked on my children! I know the accusations are false. They are so false that they are ludicrous, but they hurt. People parent differently. I was accused of not loving my kids.... oh, if I was a swearing type of a person, I would throw in few choice ones here! My kids feel loved, safe, secure, and cared for with me. They have deep meaningful discussions with me when they are alone because they trust me. They know their mom will tell them the truth and will be there. I do make them work. I firmly believe that chores are a part of good raising and will help them be successful as adults. I do not baby my kids and do everything for them. It is not a sign of lack of love, but a determined love. I love them, so I raise them to be capable. I work with them, and sometimes they enjoy working. Sometimes they don't, but that is ok.... life, sadly, is not all enjoyable. But, grrr.... to accuse me of not loving my kids simply because I chose to parent in a different way. I walked away because the temptation to yell.... throw something... blow up... whatever was too strong. Those are lies. (What is that I always tell my kids? Don't respond to idiots telling lies about you - they are too stupid to listen to you and those that love you won't listen to them.)
The second thing that bothers me is that some people still consider me "damaged goods" because I was sexually abused. Hmpf.... working in the wrong profession then, I think, if you don't believe in the transforming power of God! Do I have areas of scars? Probably. I wince faster when I see someone's face get that serious, far-away look when some topics are brought up. I am more sensitive to listen to pain that they may not talk easily about. I watch children and who hangs out with them and how they act. Jesus has scars, too. I will never be the snow-white, beautiful image of innocence - that bland, unaware innocence that never believes evil can happen. But I will be the one in the trenches fighting for those who hurt. And if occasionally in that, I feel triggers of my own pain, and I cry, so be it! I would rather be damaged than a damager - like those who throw words like spears.
All week, I have been thinking, when I have been thinking straight and not crying, about my grandpa. Not only was my grandpa one of the kindest, gentlest men I have ever met, he loved me. There is a special place in my heart for him because he had a special place in his heart for me. I was not "the strong willed child" or "the trouble-maker" to him. I was loved. But it was only a few months after I got engaged that one of the side diamonds fell out of my engagement ring. I was horrified. My fiance was not in the country, and my ring had broke. My mom gave me a little piece of black construction paper with two shiny things scotch-taped on it. Seriously, they looked like glass glitter.
My grandpa was always helping people. He had helped this old neighbor move and clean out his house. As thanks, after the months of work it took, the old loner had given him this black construction paper with two pieces of "jewels" scotch-taped on. He told my grandpa they were diamonds and would pay back the debt the man owed him. My grandpa just smiled and said thank-you. He passed them on to my mom saying that they are most likely nothing, but could be worth something. They sat in a box on my mom's dresser for another few years.
When my side diamond fell out, my mom gave me this old paper and told me to ask the jeweler what they were. Perhaps they were diamonds. Well, I'll tell you something - jewelers are not usually impressed with stones that come scotch-taped to construction paper! But I explained the story of the old loner and his gift to my grandpa, and the jeweler agreed to look.
He held them up to a light, squinted through his special glass, and said, "Well, these are definitely NOT diamonds...." I was just in the middle of saying, "Well, I guess it didn't hurt to ask...", when he said, "wait a sec...." and rubbed the stone with his finger and peered again. "Hmpf, that was just glue from the tape, not a fault....." He peered some more, then whistled and muttered, "what do you know!" They were diamonds - two larger, quite good diamonds. He set them in my ring, and I've had them in that ring for 16 years - until last year when one of them got knocked out helping hold my son for 40 stitches. I miss the diamond, not only because I have no engagement ring to wear (no money now to fix it), but because my grandpa's diamonds and their story are gone. I guess there is one left, but... not the two. My grandpa is gone, now, too, and with him the quiet gentle love that he loved me with in his own special way.
I think about those diamonds now. They were diamonds. They had value. How they were treated did not change their value. They may have been unearthed from a lonely, odd, old man's house, scotch-taped on torn black construction paper, but they were still diamonds. Valuable.
I try to remind myself of that this week. I am who I am, not how people treat me.
Sometimes it helps.