This week we have jumped into the fray on the issue of being hurt by the church. I know this is a contentious issue and that many of you have a variety of thoughts and experiences on this matter, but I wanted to take a swim into the deep end, pulling from my past experience as somebody who has sat on both sides of the table, and who has in some minds, portrayed both sides of the spectrum, both good and evil. 

In my first post I laid some groundwork to provide some context for who I am, and in my second post, I looked at the idea, IF YOU'RE NOT GETTING BETTER... YOU ARE GETTING WORSE. In that post, I just scratched the surface, so I thought I would pick up where I left off, and then pivot. 

When it comes to emotional pain, I honestly believe that if you aren't better you are getting worse. We looked together at Hebrews 12, and we looked at the idea otherwise known as the root of bitterness. But to continue our discussion, I thought it might be helpful to put some context around the word bitterness.  

The Greek word used in this piece of scripture is pikria. Exciting right? This word is quite interesting because it's first definition is extreme wickedness, and equally as interesting, is the fact that the root of this word carries the concept of piercing through, and being sharp, and even pungent. 

In addition, as we look at both the verse and the Greek, we know that fruits have roots, and so what does the root of bitterness produce? Pungent, poisonous, and bitter fruit, highlighted by an appearance of bitter hatred. This is a stark contrast to the fruits of the spirit we find in Galatians 5.

My front lawn right now is an absolute nightmare. For the last few years I have to say that I have been pretty proud of my lawn, but this year, everything changed. You see this year my lawn was conquered by dandelions. These feisty little flowers, which are a staple of handpicked bouquets for Mom by small children everywhere, are ruthless and aggressive. It all started last fall when some seeds were flying around, and just before the snow struck, I started to notice some dandelions. I didn't think much of it, and soon, the snow covered my lawn, and I eagerly awaited the spring thaw. 

As soon as the snow disappeared and spring growth appeared, it became very evident that something else was going on. This year as other lawns grew green and lush, mine came in patchy... with a whole lot of dead spots. I applied some weed and feed, and overseeded my grass hoping to combat the advance, and hopefully, win back a green lawn, and that's when I spoke to my cousin, the landscape architect. 

"You've got to pull them out, or spray them." Apparently, my grass cannot co-exist with the dandelions, it's either death to the dandelions or death to my lawn. And do you know why that is? ROOTS. The dandelion root is actually a taproot

Many plants with taproots are difficult to transplant, or even to grow in containers, because the root tends to grow deep rapidly and in many species comparatively slight obstacles or damage to the taproot will stunt or kill the plant. Among weeds with taproots dandelions are typical; being deep-rooted, they are hard to uproot and if the taproot breaks off near the top, the part that stays in the ground often resprouts such that, for effective control, the taproot needs to be severed at least several centimetres below ground level.

Did you notice that? These weeds are so deep-rooted that even if you cut off the taproot near the top, the part that stays in the ground often resprouts. The same is true with bitterness. If you aren't actively tending to the garden of your heart, these deep-rooted seeds begin to tap into your heart and poisoning us, which ultimately ends up with pain that holds on, anger that grows, and an entire life's trajectory which is undoubtedly transformed. Transformation is happening us all the time... and it can happen by design or by default. 

You may be familiar with another cliche phrase: hurt people, hurt people. This concept is really interesting to me because I don't buy into it on the surface, but I definitely buy into it below the surface. Hebrews 12.15 points out that the poisonous root of bitterness that could trouble you will most likely corrupt others as well... that is strong language. The Greek word here is miainō not only means that it changes colors or dyes, but the word also means to defile, pollute, contaminate or soil. 

Bitterness is nasty business. It doesn't matter who you are, or what side of the fight you are on, we have to do everything we can to keep our hearts open and hearts clean. 

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
— Proverbs 4.23 NLT

It is one thing for me to drive my life into a ditch because I have unresolved pain, which has given birth to anger, which has transformed into deep-rooted bitterness, it is an entirely different thing altogether for me to defile, pollute, and contaminate others ... if this was war, we would call this collateral damage, and the victims of our bitterness would be best described as innocent bystanders. 

My life is not mine alone. There are many others directly impacted by me, so what kind of impact am I making?

Here's another question, who's got your back? 

Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.
— Hebrews 12.15 NLT

Verse 15 is pretty clear ... it says LOOK AFTER EACH OTHER... hence my question, maybe I'll re-phrase, who is looking out for you, meaning, who is looking out for your soul. The answer for many of us is... well, you. Have you given anyone permission to speak into your life and to speak to you openly and honestly about how you are doing? We are very good at hiding, and putting on masks, and even cutting down our bitterness at the surface level, but what we've learned from dandelions is that you've gotta rip that whole thing, and that's not easy to do on your own. 

We all need people in our lives who we give permission to speak to us about our soul condition. This should be a trusted individual who can deliver the truth when necessary, but also someone who you know is looking out for your best interests, even when you don't know it's in your best interest. 

It could be a parent, a friend, a mentor, a pastor, an advisor, a colleague, it doesn't matter who it is, but you've gotta have somebody! 

If you missed PART I or PART II be sure to catch up! In my next blog post I will be discussing "WHO DO YOU MEAN WHEN YOU SAY 'THE CHURCH'" 

Brett Esslinger is a Husband, Dad, Son, Brother, Pastor, Speaker, Leader, Writer whose life goal is to help people unlock their potential and fulfill their life's purpose. 

Follow Brett on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook: @brettesslinger and of course over on Snapchat at: brett.esslinger


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