I was quite surprised to find myself at the midweek meeting last Wednesday. Having come back into the island that afternoon, after a long weekend in Croatia, I thought I’d be too tired. But there is a tiredness which only spiritual nourishment can refresh, and my need of that outweighed the desire for rest.
My time away had been well spent. I had left the island – unusually for me – desiring to shake the dust of the place off my feet. No one wants to hear how the fortnight leading up to my departure was a storm of hatred, lies and legal action, so I won’t trouble you with the details. Nonetheless, I was under almost intolerable pressure. This time, the tension arose as a result of the bullying I am suffering on one hand, and the well-meaning advice of friends on the other. They tell me I will have no peace until I ‘chuck it all in’.
If it’s affecting your mental health, they have said, is it really worth going on with?
The ‘it’ to which they refer is my seat on the Stornoway Trust. Until I relinquish that, one friend told me, I will forever be a target for hatred and vitriol.
It appears to be partly true. Many, many people on social media have blithely shared a lie about me (hence the legal action). Some that I know, including brothers and sisters in Christ, ‘liked’ the lie. That, I have to admit, stings far more than the hatred of strangers. While my reputation with God is what matters, what on earth does it say about the church’s witness to the world when we approve slander of one another? I find I have no answer to that one and must leave it be.
However, it has helped me to reach a conclusion about one aspect of my life. I opened my mouth with this blog to begin with because I felt the church of Christ had no voice in our community. Things were happening to which no Christian should turn a blind eye; I used this platform to speak the truth.
I have since discovered that no one wants to hear the truth. Even many who identify with the cause of Christ are silent as his name is trampled underfoot. Some say to me, ‘I amn’t articulate enough’, or ‘I amn’t brave enough’. No? Me neither.
The wobble I have suffered this past week is the same one that caused Peter to sink. I have looked at myself and realised my own inadequacy. In that, I include as well the inadequacy of the church of which I am part. We are weak; we let each other down all the time. As imitators of Christ go, we are not merely pale, we are translucent.
I feel, in fact, as Peter must have. Finding myself halfway across deep water, with no visible means of support, I started to go under. Overwhelmed by waves of hatred from without and indifference from within, I couldn’t keep myself upright. And so I retreated to a place of safety. For the first time in my life, that place was not Lewis – it was anywhere else but.
The biggest doubt with which I have had to wrestle over the last while is the suspicion that I am a lightning rod for trouble. Was I bringing more hassle to the Trust and indeed to the Church by the mere fact of being associated with them? Would I, in fact, be doing both a favour if I listened to the wisdom of loved ones and resigned from one, and shut up about the other?
And then, that’s where the other pressure came in: the voice that goaded me with, ‘and let the bullies win?’ While I was away, I read a tweet by a Scottish female councillor who has been forced to reduce her public duties because of harassment. I could quite see why she did this to protect her family – but something in me rebels against doing the same.
Is that because I’m thrawn, or because I’m where I’m meant to be, doing what I’m meant to be doing?
Truthfully, I don’t know. I was very certain once that God was leading me to take a stand for his cause, both as a writer and as a trustee. That certainty is out of reach at present.
But, on Wednesday night, I remembered how it all began. We listened to Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 1, ‘so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God’.
As Christians, our trials are not ours alone. I have tried to share mine in order that others might see the sufficiency of God in all things. He carried me through the loss of my husband; he will carry me through the hatred of the world and the indifference of my brethren. If I am in the wrong, he will show me, correct me, and then he will comfort me.
In the meantime, I will exercise two virtues with which I am barely acquainted: patience, and silence.