Psalm 107:6 - God Delivers Out of Hopeless Despair
He delivered them out of their distresses.
After being near death from wandering in the wilderness,
the Israelites pleaded to God for relief from their misery;
He delivered them out of their hopeless despair.
Remember a time when He delivered me out of hopeless despair through a freewrite.
In 2001, I was devastated by the slander of a woman who wanted to lead Bible studies at my church but no one would let her do it. Having just returned from overseas, I did not know the drama that she had already caused my church, so I thought, "Here is a woman who wants to study the Bible and help others to study it. Why isn't anyone letting her do it?" So, I embarked on an odyssey to mentor her as a Bible study leader. The women's leadership gave the go ahead as long as I was supervising her. One of the leaders still had great reservations, and we had tension over it, but she was mature about it, and we worked everything out; but I realized I really should have listened to her red flag concerns more.
I did notice that there was a lot of drama in this woman's life, with her parents, with the other women leaders in the church, etc. But I seemed to get along with her fine. I was her "champion," and I wanted so badly to see her fly with the gifts that God had given her. At first, she showed me her "best side." Over the summer, I tried to convene a peacemaking time with her and the women's ministry director as this woman felt very wronged by her in the past. I heard countless vague allusions regarding what the women's director had done to her (but nothing specific, as I reflect back on it). At the last minute, she backed out of meeting with the women's ministry director and "let it go."
In the meantime, this woman led a small group study of Colossians. One of my best friends and her friend came. At the end, my best friend decided not to continue in the study in the fall. I should have probed into why! After this was all over, I found out she had major "red flags," but I went blindly forward. But at the time, my best friend did tell me about how one of her friends observed how this younger woman treated me at a meeting at church and said, "I do not like the way she talks to Carol." I should have seen that red flag because this younger woman's treatment only got more and more harsh, bordering on abusive.
In the fall, this younger woman led a study in Titus. She was really a good teacher, but I notice more and more how she would almost "bully" the women in the group to get the right answer to her questions. Also, we would have a prayer time once a month where we would set aside the Bible Study to have deeper prayer, and she could never fully engage in that. Also, when we focused in prayer on a woman having particular problems once, she cried and stormed out of the room.
I noticed more that she wanted "control" of the group and when she was not the center of attention, she would pout. As I was mentoring her and sharing the leadership of the class, I noticed that she did not like it when I did anything leadership-wise. She also became more and more verbally attacking toward me and dramatic about everything else happening in her life. Everyone had wronged her. I was empathetic throughout.
After one time leading where she was literally yelling at people the right answer, she asked me how she did. I dreaded having to tell her that she was yelling, but I did it gently and diplomatically. She stomped away from me and got in her car, calling me later to apologize. She would also call me periodically and chew me out about various things. One time, I prayed about it and called her back and said I did not appreciate it. She thanked me, and she said this was exactly what her best friend would have done. By this time, I was very afraid of her. She was so hostile at times toward me, and I was twisting myself like a pretzel in trying to accommodate her.
Then, I was taking a shower one day very distressed in my mind about her, and God said, "Carol, I gave you discernment. Use it!" I knew this woman was not ready for leadership, and I should have really checked out her background before I just blindly went into a partnership with her. I found out, after the fact, how much trouble she had already caused in the women's ministry while I was overseas. I was so blind, and now I was in a mess as this woman was supposed to lead the next study for the Winter and Spring, "Marriage without Regrets."
I became more and more uncomfortable with what she was doing, and I also noticed her best friend, whom I had a wonderful walk and conversation with a few weeks prior was also starting to treat me very coldly. I went and spent a day of prayer, and God really clearly spoke to me about this woman not being in leadership anymore. I prayed that God would speak to her so I would not have to confront her. I also never spoke to the women's leadership about my concerns, not wanting to gossip. I was all alone with only my close out of town friends and George knowing the turmoil I was going through. One of my out of town friends kept telling me to get out of the relationship, but I was so naive about the devastation she would bring to my life.
As we approached the beginning of the "Marriage without Regrets" study, she called me to say she just could not lead it and had too much stress in her life. So I told her I could lead it, and she could just be in it. I felt like God had answered my prayer in having her step down, but she was now "in" the study, and she did not like NOT being the center of attention anymore. I believe she was jealous of my leadership and the way the women were responding so positively to me. On our first "Marriage Without Regrets" meeting, I had people go to different rooms where a rose was waiting for them and guidelines for a listening time with God. She was very upset with me that I did not "approve" this activity with her before I did it. I simply wanted to surprise her with the other women. Also, I thought she did not want to part of leading the study anymore because she was so stressed out. In addition, she was very disruptive during the sharing time when people were talking about how God spoke to them during the "rose" time. It was disheartening, but I carried on.
Then a couple of lessons into "Marriage without Regrets" she called to say she would not be in the study anymore. I asked her if I had anything to do with her decision and if we were OK. She said, "Yes." Whew! My nightmare was over. She was leaving. I let her tell the group, and I went on. Her best friend was still quite cold toward me (and sadly is still to this day even 13 years later), and I worried about her dropping out of the study too.
A period of time elapsed, and I continued leading the study. Then, out of the blue, I get a call from this woman telling me I was to come to a meeting with the women's ministry director, associate pastor, and one of the elder's wives who was now this woman's "champion." When I asked her what this was about, she said, "I cannot tell you, and you will have to come to the meeting."
I called the women's ministry director, and she alluded to the fact that this woman felt I had done something to force her out of the Bible Study. All I know is that her counselor was apparently so concerned that she told her to not talk to me about her concerns and go directly to church leadership about me. When I told the women's ministry director that this woman was doing to me exactly what she had done to her the summer prior, she didn't make the connection.
I was DEVASTATED! Especially since I had been so careful with my words and gentle with her even though she was bordering on abusive with me. Now she had tried to rally church leadership against me (and her counselor whom I now have a cordial relationship, and I have always wondered if she has any idea how her "counsel" devastated me or if she even knew it was me), and I felt like no one was interested in hearing what had happened in our relationship (one of the steps of peacemaking is letting everyone tell their stories before passing judgment). Since I had not talked to them about any problems, I think they thought I was the problem. I know that I could grow in how I relate and was willing to take responsibility for my part in the conflict, but it was devastating to be labeled "the problem" with no opportunity to tell my story.
I told the leadership that I would come but my husband would be there with me. They did not like that, but that is what was going to happen. It was awkward because this woman's husband did NOT want to be there and thought it was her problem to deal with on her own and did not want anything to do with it. The elder's wife was to be there in place of her husband to be her "champion."
I agreed. On the day of the big meeting, she backed out at the last minute, preferring to talk on the phone. I wanted a face to face meeting and by this time had involved a Peacemaking Ministries coach who encouraged a face-to-face meeting and for me to really examine my heart where I went wrong. She also encouraged me to tell my story and not be afraid to tell the other woman where I was hurt.
So the phone call came, and her husband was there. This woman told me off, but never really told me what I did. I was confused, and I asked what I had specifically done to her, she could not give me an example. I still, to this day, do not know what I did, nor what she told the leadership I had done to her to warrant the "meeting." My husband thinks that she backed out of the meeting because she knew she would not have anything to back up her claims (whatever those claims were). In this case, I still do not know what I did. I like to know how I can do things differently the next time. From my perspective, I was so gentle and diplomatic, probably too much so and more so than I usually am because I was so afraid of her!
After she told me off, I told her that I would pray about what she said (I cannot remember what she said!), and I had some things to say about our relationship when she was ready to hear it. Her husband said, "No response is required," and they hung up! (Even the Peacemaker Ministries coach was speechless after I told her what happened.)
Shortly thereafter, they left the church. Eventually (a couple of years later), she left her husband and children for another woman. She has little, if any, contact with her children. He has never talked to me about the situation, and the best friend still feels like I did something wrong to her friend, even though they never speak anymore.
The aftermath of that phone call was devastating for me, I felt abandoned by the leadership of my church (Except the one leader who I worked everything out with the previous summer. She eventually left the church, as I did (because peacemaker principles continued to be violated over and over again), and we go to the same church now and have warm regard for one another.).
The good thing is that the "Marriage without Regrets" study continued to the end. I really wanted to quit, but God told me while meditating in Nehemiah to continue "building the wall." I have continued to "build the wall" in women's lives, and I have two dear friends out of that study, Kim and Rachel.
All but her best friend stuck that study out to the end. That was more devastating to me than even the relationship with the woman because it was all based on secondhand knowledge. It left me so powerless because I could not change this woman's bad opinion based on false information. When I asked her if I had done anything to offend her personally, she acknowledged that I had not; but she still chose to evaluate me based on secondhand knowledge from her best friend (who was jealous of my relationship with her) and another woman who was also very emotionally unstable and who has since apologized to me for the way she treated me and slandered me to others based on a silly misunderstanding about an invitation to dinner, of all things! Even after my former partner left her husband and children, we talked, and her bad opinion of me had not changed. I am a people-pleaser at heart, but I cannot make her like me so I have since let it go.
All that said, I finished the Bible Study well, but I was devastated. My confidence had been shaken to the core. The rumors about me were devastating. George told me that he "lost" me for months. I would sit at dinner staring off into space. I went on countless walks trying to stave off the deep sadness I felt.
One particularly devastating day, I was lying on my bed, and I cried out to God in my distress (like the verse above). I asked God, "Lord, would You please take me out of this deep pit and affirm my calling." Seconds later, the phone rang, and a woman who had heard about how great my "Marriage without Regrets" study had been wanted to know if I would lead one with her and a friend and anyone else who wanted to be in it. This was God's confirmation and answer. Immediately after finishing the first "Marriage without Regrets" study, I led a group of four women over the summer of 2001, and it was the best study I had ever had with the result of these women wanting to bring in their husbands and some of the other women who had been in my first "Marriage without Regrets" study. We were together for many happy years!
Years later, the woman who called me that day wrote me this with a LIFESAVER roll of candy attached:
God threw me a LIFESAVER when our paths crossed again (my best friend had led her to the Lord so I knew her a bit when she was at University of Oregon). I was drifting away from the Lord when you came along and reminded me that His way is the true and the best way. Thank you for helping me get back on course with the Lord and for challenging me to make my life count.
Thank you for being my friend.
Love in Christ, L_________.
Greater love has no one than this, that he
lay down his life for his friends.
She knows that she was God's LIFESAVER and answer to my prayer of distress. He delivered me out of hopeless despair and set me back on the straight path of my calling. Praised be to God!