Chili, Church Talk, and Choosing to Let Go of Being Understood

by | Oct 17, 2012 | Uncategorized

I hold my bible and notebook pressed against my chest while we finish our conversation in the empty parking lot under the oak and pine. We are the last women to leave our small group, standing in the breeze a car length apart.

As we linger over the problems of parenting and the color of our hair, church talk slips in. Talking about church is taboo for me when people begin to compare their affiliations like a chili cook-off. Someone is going to get offended, no matter how great their recipe tastes. And Jesus loves chili.

The more we talk, I realize that I’ve been cooking chili for much longer but she isn’t really interested in my experience or palette. And you can’t give understanding where the heart is closed to receive it. 

After I crawl into my van, throw my purse and stack of books on the passenger seat, I lean into the steering wheel and wish I had windshield wipers for my eyes. Because even when you know you have something to add to the conversation that is light to the dim room of circumstance, you have to drive away. And go buy some chili powder from the nice lady at Food Lion.

Because Jesus didn’t die so I could be understood.

Have you ever had to let go of being understood?

Linking with Life: UnmaskedWLWWAnn, Jennifer, Emily and Duane.

This is #17 in the series 31 Days of Letting Go. You can read the collective here. If you are a writer, I invite you to link up any post you’ve written on the theme of letting go in the comments here on Friday. Subscribe to receive the series in your inbox or feed by adding your address in the side bar under Follow Redemptions Beauty.

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  1. altarofheaven

    😉 hugs hugs hugs to you! Thank you for your transparency- I totally get this!

    Yes I’ve had to recently let go of being understood and it was hard for me. I wanted a microphone to explain the situation and Truth to ones with hands over their ears and squinting eyes. I did cry. I let go and prayed I would have the faith God would do His work by His Spirit in His timing. That’s not always easy for a talker like me to do…to wait.

    I’m thankful you share with us…with me especially when I reach out tearfully via email. I want to learn from your experience of cooking chili…I just started and I keep burning myself lol 😉

    • Redemption's Beauty

      As pastor’s wives this is something we learn to do – sometimes with a bit of angst, heated conversation with our husbands and wrestling with God.:) And though it hurts, the pain comes with greater insight that allows for quicker freedom as we grow in Him. We just learn how to let go earlier. And I am here for you Arcelia, any time. I mean that. Nothing is too small or insignificant. Hugging you back my dear friend.

  2. dukeslee

    I get this in a way that I’m unable to share in public. I’ve been hurt, quite recently, over such a thing. Thank you, Shelly. You have a gift.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Jennifer, there is so much I can’t share here, I understand. Sending you a big and know that I love you loads.

  3. Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

    Beautifully expressed as always, Shelly. Your words remind me of something I posted today… because I was feeling the same way in the conversation I wrote about. And the whole time I was writing it, I was trying hard not to sound judgmental because I felt that way. (i think the only reason I had courage to post it was knowing it isn’t very likely that those involved would ever read it. It is especially hard when it is in conversation with others who do love the Lord…to still feel worlds apart in important areas. Sometimes people just don’t want to hear above their own thoughts. Other times they just are in different places spiritually. One thing to uplift: The Lord knows your heart and calls it lovely.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Pam, I felt like the Lord prompted me to write this story during a time of prayer and I asked Him how in the world to write it for three days. The chili analogy came on a prayer walk. It is hard to write about these things without hurting someone or being judgmental, I agree.

  4. Celeste Allyn

    Dear Shelly,
    I read ÿour words and they are like tonic for my soul. Why do I/ we ever feel like we are the only ones that have feel like we do only to realize that we are all made of the same stuff…fear, anxiety,you name it.
    Part of my struggle has been the desire to be understood. I will go one further and also tell you how much I want to be heard…recognized. I have come to realize how much pride isin my heart.Sigh.
    Thanks again for ÿour thoughts and prayers towards me.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’ve actually had those same ugly realizations in my own heart Celeste. I’ve been placing them at the altar on my morning walks. I’m asking that my desire for Him will outweigh my own selfish ambition. And we are never alone in what we struggle with. The comments in this post are a testament to that. Love you much, so glad your here.

  5. Judy

    Some of the wisest advice I have ever been given was from a godly counsellor who suggested to me that it would be best ‘to come to a place of acceptance about the reality I would be misunderstood by some, regardless of the way I chose to answer questions about a deeply painful situation in which I found myself. Only in that place of acceptance could I determine, with grace, what explanation or defense I might provide, and leave the rest to God.

    Another comforting perspective – Jesus, Creator and Lord of all, submitted to being misunderstood. And aren’t we told that we are blessed if we suffer with Him?

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think that is wise counsel for sure Judy. And I actually thought about what you said here as I pondered the theme of this story, remembering how misunderstood He was, how he never defended himself.

  6. Amy

    Shelly, this is one of the things I like about being in China — many of us are from different denoms, but it’s can be years of knowing someone before we even begin to think to ask; it’s just not one of the first questions.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      That is so refreshing Amy. We get so distracted by things that don’t really matter when it comes to expanding the Kingdom here.

  7. Mia

    Hi dear Shelly
    I think we all experience those times! But the dying to self when that happens is not easy. I have found with my new blog that when I write my heart and soul out on a very interesting subject ( according to me, of course) not many people seems to agree. but when I write from common sense on a very ordinary subject ( again according to myself!) people seem to like it. Oh, the fickleness of man and our God’s WAY OUT THERE wisdom. We are truly a peculiar people.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      My husband often points out that most of the widely sold products are mediocre in value. I think we find comfort and security in what is common unfortunately. It’s why creatives are a rare group of people.

  8. glendachilders

    I grew up in a ministry home and we have been in ministry our entire marriage. If you ever need to chat, pray or cry with someone, I am available. I was always blessed to be able to talk private ministry stuff with my mom.

    Letting go of not being understood is hard.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Glenda, you are so kind and thoughtful, thank you. Just may take you up on that some time. We pastor’s wives are a lonely bunch.

  9. Patricia (Pollywog Creek)

    Yes…when our desire to be understood begins to cause divisiveness…we simply must let it go. It’s good to clear up confusion, but to belabor a point is…well, pointless…and hurtful. God knows our hearts and motivations and sometimes we just have to smile and move on. It’s a practice in extending grace, don’t you think?

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Exactly Patricia. I think that sometimes walking away is the most loving thing we can do.

  10. wynnegraceappears

    Shelly, the walking away and not picking up the offense, is that Forbearance? That sounds like Jesus in you to me.
    They missed the blessing by not digging deep down in your pot of beans, all rich and savory, rich and spicy, meaty and full. You share well and are transparent and lend words to weary sojourners who dare to listen.
    A blessing was missed by a closed heart? Or maybe they didn’t have ears to hear at the time. We are blessed by you, every time.

  11. Dawn@Dawnings

    Love this. It’s a blow to our ego when what we can contribute is dismissed rather than appreciated and grasped. Who hasn’t been there? And it’s something so hard to let go of sometimes. But we must. Humble ourselves.

    Beautifully captured moment, Shelly.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      And sometimes it isn’t even the ego as much as tending the sheep who are deaf to wisdom from a shepherd who wants them to roam in fields where they can eat to their hearts content.

  12. Dea Moore

    I haven’t needed to be understood for years but it took years to get to place where I didn’t want that anymore—at least not from people that aren’t family. Sometimes I need it too much understanding from Jeff. I think the need is greater because of that letting go of that need from others. Biggest problem I have is understanding myself! 🙂

    Man, I want to hear that story…how you got from there to here….Someday….

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It’s still unfolding Dea. But I hope to tell it to you one day. Much love to you friend.

  13. Jo Inglis (@Piano_Jo)

    So glad to have come across this post & yes I totally get it too
    It takes courage to walk away – I had to eventually walk away from a close friendship 3 years ago because the other person’s heart was closed to receiving understanding. It hurt so much, but in the darkest days God revealed what really mattered. My husband was a church leader at the time and on the same day he had the choice to respond to another vitriolic e-mail from the friend mentioned above (face to face conversation had ceased by this point) or to respond to a call from a family whose teenage son was dying of cancer, and had taken a turn for the worse. Simple choice really.
    In letting go of the friendship, wrestling with forgiveness, God has many times, in different ways, shown the thing that really matters – I hope to write about it one day!
    Jesus died that we might be forgiven not understood
    Blessings Shelly
    (PS husband now works as a healthcare chaplain – we have these two situations coming together to thank for that)

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Jo, so thankful for what you have added here in the comments. I am a pastors wife, can understand your circumstance here from experience. And I do love the way God redeems these situations in ways we can’t even imagine at the time.

  14. Lynn Morrissey

    “There is a time to speak and a time to keep silence,” says Solomon in Ecclesiastes. He was wise, and so are you, Shelly. There is always a time to love, and perhaps by letting go your desire to be understood when you wouldn’t have been, you were showing love—because perhaps, had you tried to force-feed your friend, she would have refused to listen in the future. Sure, we all have varying palates, but hopefully, this lady was not changing the basic recipe that makes chili, chili. Sadly, even when that happens, sometimes you must still let go your need to be understood, and your heart cries out to God to help the one who just can’t or refuses to *get* it. You put that person into God’s hands. I so admire your courage for trying. You did all you could, and now you love and pray, knowing that He can work wonders. On another note, a long-time friend of 37 years has broken off a friendship with me with absolutely no explanation. It is a pain beyond compare. I am trying to understand what I might have done to alienate her. I’ve prayed and prayed and racked my brain. This is not quite the same thing as what you are saying, but I would like to understand and ask forgiveness if I have sinned against her. But this side of heaven (after over a year of trying to reach out to her and finally having received a hollow near-Dear-Jane letter without any hint of explanation), I know I will never understand why she has ended our very close friendship. So this, too, I must let go–sans understanding.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Lynn, so sorry about the loss of that friendship, I know that must be painful. And you did what many people aren’t brave enough to do. You addressed it head on for the sake of reconciliation and that is all one can do to repair a friendship. Perhaps in God’s time he will show why and I know if He doesn’t you will live into that by faith too.

      • Lynn Morrissey

        Thank you so much for your compassion, Shelly. THat means so much!

  15. Alecia

    It’s SO hard letting go of our “right ” to be understood. I want to be understood, loved, and accepted, but sometimes this just isn’t going to happen, learning and leaning on grace with this. Thank you for sharing your story and your heart!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’ve been asking God for the ability to be content with being understood, loved and accepted by Him only. It’s been a challenge. So glad you joined the conversation Alecia.

  16. r.elliott

    This is hard…and probably something at some point everyone has experienced…it makes me think of how much more Jesus would have loved to have said to His disciples…I wonder if His heart was sad at moments…thinking…oh if they would have only asked that next question…what wisdom could have been shared. For me…it has been a good process…to walk away silent…to let the silence humble my heart…praying for myself to be transformed. I love your heart here…thanks for being vulnerable.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think the comments speak to what you said being true – at some point everyone has experienced being misunderstood.

  17. jblovez2read

    Being understood is probably one of the things I struggle with the most. I just about eats me up when I realize that the other person didn’t understand what I was trying to say. Of course, this is just pride. It is something I need to work on and realize that, just like you said, Jesus didn’t come so I could be understood.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I empathize with you, it is hard. Praying you can let it go and live in peace with that.

  18. Megan Willome

    I don’t think I’ll ever look at a bowl of chili the same way again.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      You made me laugh Megan. So glad to see you here.

  19. Lalaine Basa

    I can totally relate to this. I am so quick to defend and justify myself, lest someone misunderstand and I look foolish!And yet,Jesus,our Master and Savior “did not open his mouth” when accused wrongfully! I have much to learn in “dying to myself” as a true disciple of Yeshua the Messiah,to hold my peace, knowing that GOD is my defender.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think one of the worst feelings in the world is to be misunderstood. And the most brave thing is to walk away from the need to be understood. I’ve watched my husband do it as a high level leader with grace and dignity and honor because he follows Christ not the men.

  20. pruningprincesses

    As my daughter gets older, this letting of being understood is almost daily…..Blessed by the way you describe unselfishness. It is so much more intriguing this way!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh yes Laura, I went through the middle school years learning how to let go of being understood (with a few tears I might add). But redemption comes, trust me.

  21. Lori McClure (@lorimcspeaks)

    A million times, yes. My father is a minister, and so is my husband. Though we’ve taken a break from ministry for the last few years, I can completely relate to this. Being misunderstood can be incredibly draining. I feel like I had morphed into what people wanted so many times, it was hard to remember who I was anymore. This is just part of the reason we took a break. Thanks for sharing. It makes me realize how much I’ve grown in our time of rest. It makes me grateful 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Lori, not sure if you know but I’m a pastors wife too. I’m thrilled to know that about you. And I can relate to all you’ve said. Thankful you have had the opportunity to rest and grow, it’s important for those of us in the trenches.

  22. simplystriving

    You crawled into my head for this one, Shelly. Yes. My eyes have screamed tears. just trying to be heard… but this is not the place to share. Just know, friend, I’m loving you.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Love you too Nikki. And you know I’m always available if you need to talk lovely friend.

  23. joepote01

    I loved this, Shelly!

    “Because even when you know you have something to add to the conversation that is light to the dim room of circumstance, you have to drive away.”

    I am learning to get better at simply driving away.

    Yes, I often have something to add. Sometimes something that is far more insightful than anything said in the conversation up to that point. Yet, if I already know it will fall on deaf ears, then there is no point in saying it.

    You’re right. It’s not about being understood. It’s about finding meaningful ways to share God’s grace!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I guess it all boils down to where we find our acceptance doesn’t it? I find myself cringing about my need for approval from others when it is exposed.

  24. Joy @ Joy in this Journey

    Oh I’ve done that. I’ve waited for a sign or an invitation to contribute my dish to the buffet. If I don’t get it, I leave and take it with me. I’m not going to force it on anyone. I only want to share when it’s welcomed. But sometimes, it isn’t that I have something to give. Sometimes it’s just that I want them to ask me how I’m doing. I guess it’s hard for me to volunteer that I’m struggling or sad or whatever. If no one asks, I keep it to myself. But then I walk away feeling more alone and isolated than before. It’s such a tough tension.

    Thank you for linking up to Life:Unmasked!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I leave most bible studies feeling that way Joy. As a leader, most people look to me and assume I don’t need anything. It’s one of the hardest parts about being in ministry – the loneliness.

  25. Ashley Haupt (@ash6783)

    Sometimes I do wish he died so I could be understood, but then I realize that is the opposite of worship, my need to be affirmed and respected. Thank you Shelley. I am a pastor’s wife, too.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It’s all about stepping out of the way so He can be seen and sometimes that is the hardest thing to do isn’t it? So glad to know you are also a pastor’s wife. We are a special bunch.

  26. happygirl

    I completely get this. In fact this was included in my post today. I adore when bloggers are on the same wavelength. We cannot make anyone listen to us. It’s all on them. Great post.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Yes, I see it often too, how God speaks the same things in each of us uniquely through our blogs. It’s awesome.

  27. andreay

    “Jesus didn’t die so I could be understood”. I am writing that down in my bible. Good stuff shelly

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Andrea, I haven’t see you in ages my friend. Hope you are doing well and thanks for leaving a comment and letting me know you were here.

  28. Brandee Shafer

    Lots of wisdom in this post. Each of us has a finite amount of every type of energy, and I think part of our responsibility (in terms of stewardship) is to decide how and where it can be used most fruitfully. I am learning to keep my mouth shut…to not share my thoughts in every instance…because, really, so many people don’t care what I think. Better to use that energy elsewhere.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think there is much wisdom in knowing when to speak and when to be quiet and it has taken me a long time to figure that out. As a matter of fact, I’m still learning.

  29. Sandra Heska King

    Oh, I know this. And from those closest to me. There are days when all I can do is cry and run to the One who does understand.

    Now I want some chili.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Me too Sandy. We’ve gone through an incredibly hard season. There are days when I feel despair about it.

  30. Jennifer RIchardson

    oh friend, this just pulled off the icy hot patch wrapped around my sprained soul
    and the sting is strong and yet I feel the healing rolling in like balm and light.
    thanks for that. you describe it so well, this most painful part of church/unchurch life.
    God save us all in this……put it all right. And yes, let me keep making and loving chili,
    strong and good.
    glad thanks,

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It is like an open gaping wound, not being understood. You said it well Jennifer.

  31. kd sullivan

    Such wisdom here Shelly! How we long to be understood, when all we’ve been called to do is perhaps try to understand. So hard to keep mouth shut in times like these.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Yes it is, and its getting harder for me lately. Our church is going through some terrible division, sheep being deceived.

      • kd sullivan

        I’m so sorry! I wish people would see things from the clergy point of view sometimes….It is very painful to pour out your life and have people so easily run from the fold…praying for your family.

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