I’ve read between the lines,
And I have been wrong every time,
Been burned up on the altar,
But I am fine
For some reason, these lyrics from Field Report‘s I Am Not Waiting Anymore have always resonated with me. I’ve been drawn to the irony of describing how wrong you can be, being consumed in flames, and yet being (not necessarily feeling) fine at the same time. While these words have always been poignant and provocative for me, they have taken on a measure of personal connection with me as I reflect on 2015 thus far.
This has been a tumultuous year in not only my life, but in the lives of so many people I care deeply about. The faith community that I’ve been a part of for eight years imploded in February, and the aftershocks just keep coming. Relationships have been lost. Things we thought we knew have been called into question. Motives have come under fire. People have left. Leaders have abandoned the folks they were charged to care for.
When the implosion started, I was terribly disoriented. I felt like what had felt like a solid bedrock foundation had all of the sudden become shaky. In fact, at times, it felt like I was standing in quicksand. With all of that uncertainty, it was easy for me to sit back and try to make sense of what was happening. This is natural, of course, especially because solid information was hard to come by back then. And even now, even with some solid information, there are folks, due to their loyalties to this person or that person, who dispute the validity of what seems pretty obviously and objectively true.
I’ve read between the lines,
And I have been wrong every time
In the middle of such tumult, I have made assumptions about people, including the ones I just described. As I’ve tried to draw conclusions based on snippets and stories, it has been easy at times to assign motive and intent to those involved, whether I’m thinking of the leaders who left or people who are still around who have chosen sides in our conflicts. In other words, “I’ve read between the lines…” Now, maybe I haven’t been wrong “every time,” but I’m quite sure I’ve been wrong a lot. And, the main point is that I cannot actually know anyone’s motives or intent for anything they say or do. This is just the truth. God is the only One who really knows our motives. Geez, I have to admit that my own motives are mixed sometimes, and I can so easily delude myself into thinking otherwise that I can’t even trust that I know my own motives at times.
Because of that, making such assumptions, reading between the lines if you will, bears no good fruit. All it does is create suspicion and the feeling that folks are out to get you. And, ultimately, when such dynamics are in place, relationships are broken. So, even if the substance of my assumptions have not necessarily “been wrong every time,” the very fact that I’m harboring assumptions is, in fact, wrong, every time.
Been burned up at the altar…
When things started going south quickly, I stepped in to help where I could. I am built to lead and care for people. And we were so hurt and disoriented that it only made sense to me to jump into the fray. And, it was my pleasure to do so. I felt like it was a divine calling, in fact. I had several opportunities to speak on Sunday mornings. More importantly, I was able to sit with lots of people who were hurting and hear their stories. At times, the pain was almost overwhelming… consuming even. At times, I felt like I was being “burned up on the altar” as I was processing my own pain while helping others walk through theirs. In fact, this whole narrative, which is still very much in progress/process can still be consuming. I still can very much feel like I’m being burned on the altar. In those moments, I would be lying if I said that I felt fine.
But I am fine…
Thankfully, feeling fine and being fine are two different things. “Feeling fine” has been fairly rare, especially early on. There has been a lot of grief, anger, sorrow, and overall pain. And yet, in the middle of all of that, I have been fine. One of the elements of these lyrics that I love is that the songwriter doesn’t say he is feeling fine. He says, despite being wrong, despite being burned, “I am fine.”
For me, that is the truth as well. Despite all of the pain, I am fine. I have my beautiful family. I have wonderful friends. I live in a great city. I have a place to lay my head, food on the table, and so, so much more. More important than all that, my faith is intact. In fact, it has grown stronger through all this. So, even though my feelings have said otherwise at times, I am fine. I am actually better than fine.