Day 8 or 21 Days of Healing: The Arena

Day 8 or 21 Days of Healing: The Arena December 5, 2014

waterfallsby Ellen cross posted from her blog When Church Hurts

“Keep your heart with all diligence . . . ” Prov. 4:23

A big “aha!” moment for me came when I went to a conference based on Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly.

In the book, Brene describes our lives as being lived in an arena. We all live in an arena with people sitting in the seats around us, watching.

What we must determine is who sits where. Who gets to sit in the box seats – the places of honor in our lives? Who gets to sit in the cheap seats?

For too many years, I put the people who supported and cared about me – family, long-term friends, in the cheap seats of my life. My husband, children, parents, siblings, and friends all took a back seat to my time, my thoughts, my activities and my priorities – which were all centered on the church. Initially, in my early years as a Christian, I truly felt God had called me to serve through the church. But from the moment spiritual abuse was introduced into my life, my focus became changing people’s minds, proving my worth, and winning back my dignity.

The pastors, staff, and leadership became my focus. Box seats are places of honor in the arena of our lives and I gave those seats to the people in the church who had determined that I was not good enough.

Can you see how backward that is? Because the people in the seats of honor should be the people who are honorable in our lives. The people who support us and care about us. The people who know us with all of our quirks and flaws and foibles and love us unconditionally. The people who, love us through and in spite of and no matter what.

And the people in the cheap seats? They should be the ones who judge and condemn us. They are the ones who won’t be there for us when the chips are down. They are the ones who hurl shame at us and demand that we measure up and constantly raise the bar to ensure that we never will.

It was in realizing that I had my people-priorities mixed up that I was able to take a huge step toward healing. I realized the church leadership belonged in those cheap seats way high up and at the very back of my arena – where I could barely see them and certainly could not hear their diatribes.

And I could finally see that the honorable people in my life deserved the box seats. Not only because they were loyal and loving, but because the reality is that they aren’t sitting down in my life at all. They are down in the arena with me – living and loving, defending and supporting, with honor and compassion and encouragement and hope. They are the ones who pick me up when I am knocked down and who wrap me in arms of tenderness when I hurt. They are the ones who join me in adventure and struggle and bring delight and joy to my arena – even on the hardest of days.

And so, with this simple word picture of the arena – of putting people in their proper and well-deserved places of either box seats of honor or cheap seats that don’t deserve my attention – I took a giant step toward healing.

Think today about who deserves to be in your box seats. Who has earned the right to sit close, to hear you and to be heard because they have honored you with unconditional love, supported you through tragedy and triumph, and have shared the arena with you as an active participant rather than a judgmental observer?

And those judgmental observers? Those who have criticized and condemned? Those who have proven to be unworthy of a prominent place in your consideration or even your life? Move them to the very back of the arena. Chances are, once they realize that’s where they are because you are no longer listening to them, trying to impress them, working to win them, they will go find another arena and someone else to heckle.


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

Ellen is a member of the SASBN and she blogs at When Church Hurts

More about Ellen:

Several years ago I was the victim of a most heinous form of abuse unlike anything I had ever thought possible. Not having been raised in a Christian home, my first experience with Christians and pastors had been one of joy, grace, fellowship, love, and delight. When faced with the horrors of having the very essence of who I was as a woman of faith stripped from me in what I can only describe as spiritual rape, I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. This was church, after all, and I believed that everything works together for good for those who love God. Somehow, it didn’t make sense that everything was not working together for good. When I was finally able to resign myself to the fact that God was not going to “work this out,” I made my escape and sought a safe haven. 
Little did I realize that I was going from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. Oh, how I tried to beat back the flames! Oh, how I prayed and pleaded for mercy, for grace, for a chance. “But hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will toward” Ellen. 
He who began a good work . . . had forsaken me . . . and the silence was more than deafening . . . it was defeating. So intertwined were we, that as God went missing, so did Ellen. But I am nothing, if not tenacious.

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