Not So Much a Root, as a Small Tree: Weeding Out Roots of Bitterness

What a shit storm it is out there you guys.

Anyone else struggling with an inordinate amount of bitterness?

No? Oh um.. me neither.

Okay I’m lying. I am totally struggling with bitterness which is a problem because Hebrews 12:15 expressly says that we aren’t to allow a root of bitterness in our hearts. As it is, mine is slightly more than a root. I would say it’s the size of a small shrub or perhaps a young tree.

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Why am I bitter you ask? Well because there is a 50/50 chance that Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States and the Conservative Christian Right is pedaling so hard to make this “okay”. He recently was led to Christ by a well-known televangelist, and is now being heralded as a baby Christian, who just doesn’t speak good Christian-ese.

Because my newsfeed has articles about how Philando Castile looks exactly like a suspect in an armed robbery, somehow justifying the fact that he was shot four times in his car with a 4 year old child in the back seat.

Because people are using the death of 4 innocent cops, as a means to discredit the #BlackLivesMatter movement and to justify the deaths of Philando and Alton, and those doing the discrediting and justifying are, you guessed it, white and Christian. When do the actions of 4 lone individuals ever accurately represent an entire movement? And rather than viewing it as gravely wrong, but indicative of the profound frustration the black community possesses, we white people dismiss any ownership we may hold, by calling it the start of the race wars, and by firing up our opposing hashtags.

Because #AllLivesMatter made it into the sermon I attended this past Sunday, but mention of the death of Philando Castile or Alton Sterling did not. The white male preacher explained that he’s not afraid of the law because he follows the law, and if you’re respectful and don’t place yourself above the law there is really no issue. As though a 70+ year old, upper middle class, white man living in the suburbs has the same risk of being victimized by police brutality as a black man living in the inner city does. Living anywhere for that matter.

Because so many people just don’t freaking get it.

I find myself doing a lot of tattling lately. “God, did you hear what they said?! Did you hear the sermon?! Did you see that post?! If I see one more white Christian say or post hashtag all lives matter, I’m going to do something really, really rash. Not totally sure why you aren’t doing anything rash. If you could go ahead and do something rash I’d appreciate it and so would the rest of the world, God.”

God just stands their and takes it while I fume and tell on a whole world of sinners. He never does anything rash, just waits for me to stop, and tries not to roll His eyes. No one likes a tattler. Not even God.

So since the tattling has never and will never work, what do I do to quit being so bitter?

I’m not totally sure, but I think that bitterness is indicative of a heart problem of my own which would be pride. In my subconscious, I’m right and they are wrong, and that means I am better than them.

Here’s the problem, my rightness and their wrongness holds no bearing on my innate value in the eyes of God. Though I cringe as I type this (hello heart problem) I am on the same level of value in God’s eyes as The Donald. We are all equally special, whether we are sinning or not sinning. Whether we are humble, proud, studied, insensitive, whatever. He loves us all exactly the same.

That is a beautiful thing when I think about it real hard and with the help of the Holy Spirit. Because if there were ever able to be favorites in the eyes of God, I am sure I wouldn’t be His favorite, because I just can’t hustle hard enough to get into someone’s good graces. You either like me or you don’t. And I just imagine God wouldn’t were He the type to have favorites. This put the hustle to death, and gives a wide open space for God’s grace to prevail. And that is a good, good thing.

When I’m really mad though, and when I am blowing the Holy Spirit off like I do it for a living, It just really annoys me. I’ve done so much work on my heart. I care about injustice. I love Jesus like for real, and I’m not using Him to get voters, or further my cause, or to make my hashtag catch on better. I’ve studied the life of Jesus, and I feel that more often than not, I would be trailing after him, were he alive and walking on the earth. And it’s taken me a lot of hard work, and a lot of painful realizations about what an asshole I was/am to get me here. And it just doesn’t seem real fair you know?

Christians who are willfully ignorant get to just chill in the comfort of their certainty, and the rest of us who care get to do all the work. Including the work that the willfully ignorant add to the steaming pile by being jerks to everyone not remotely like them.

So yeah. It’s hard not to be bitter in this sociopolitical climate in which I find myself in.

The other day I told my friend (as an act of my will, I wasn’t feeling this on the inside) that it takes a lot of work to change what we believe. It’s harder to grow than it is to just stay the same, and its definitely more uncomfortable. And people are busy. And life is hard. And if we are never confronted with a reason to change our convictions they why would we? If we were raised a certain way thinking certain things, think of all the people we will betray when we change. Sometimes it’s everyone we hold dear. Sometimes it means we light a match to everything. What courage that takes.

This doesn’t make it okay to be wrong. If we are wrong we have a responsibility to get right in the eyes of God. But it makes it easier to understand why people are the way they are, and why they do the things they do. And it reminds me that this is Holy Spirit work. Not Blaire work. I can only live as right a life as I know how, and pray that I will be a living witness. I cannot however make people change their hearts.

For me this is the foundation of grace that will help me uproot that wretched bitterness tree that I accidentally let grow in my heart. That, and the constant reminder that my value is not connected to my rightness.

Grace and Humility. Humility and Grace. In equal doses until I die. May I live in it and never forget it ever.

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