Bitter or Better
I don't know why I do it. I worked at Starbucks for 2 1/2 years. I know how to make ALL the drinks. I have an espresso machine at home (Thank you Starbucks Clearance before I quit!). But. I still go to the overpriced coffee shop when I have busy days. I was sitting in the drive through lane, looking at the vast menu of drinks. The chipper voice of a barista came on and asked what I would like. I paused, and had the grand idea to try something new.
"Can you tell me about your ColdBrew?"
"Sure! I love the ColdBrew!"
"What's the difference between your ColdBrew and Iced Coffee?"
"ColdBrew is more bitter, because it's brewed longer."
Why on earth would I want something more bitter?
When the Lord stirred my heart and mind to write more consistently and to share my story, He pricked my heart to share about my emotions. I assumed it was because of my profession and that maybe I just had some insight into them as a counselor. Nope. I should have known better. He wants me to work on my own emotions. And what’s the first one that He brought up?
My initial reaction was:
My life is good. My life is full of wonderful things and people. Why and how in the world can I be bitter?!
I started doing some digging into what bitterness is.
The definition of bitterness means a sharp taste or lacking sweetness.
Think of the taste of a cup of bad and burnt coffee. It scars your tongue and leaves a taste that is unpleasant and lingers. Yuck. (Side note to any baristas out there, DO NOT describe the coffee you're selling in this way)
I continued on my journey of what it means to be bitter. I did a search in the Bible to find that the first mention bitterness is in the story of two brothers, twins in fact, Esau & Jacob (Genesis 26).
Genesis 25:21-34 gives up a glimpse into what was happening in this family. Isaac and Rebekah hadn’t had any children as Rebekah was barren. Just thinking about this instance can cause a couple a lot of grief and pain that can lead to bitterness.
We find out that Isaac prayed for his wife and she conceived. During her pregnancy, the text says “But the children struggled together within her.” Maybe it was a rough pregnancy. Maybe she felt them wrestling from day 1 and it was uncomfortable. But she took her concern to the Lord and He specifically told her:
“Two nations are in your womb. And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be strong than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23).
Come to find out when she went into labor, she in fact, was carrying twins. During delivery, Esau came first but Jacob had a hold of his brother’s heel. So, from the day of conception, these two brothers are wrestling and fighting with one another.
The rest of the chapter tells us that as they grew into men, Jacob was quiet and liked to remain home in the camp, while his brother enjoyed hunting and being out in wilderness. It also tells us that Isaac loves Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Talk about a divided house to cause some anger and bitterness in life.
The end of the chapter tells us that there was an instance when Esau had been hunting and came home famished. The Hebrew for this word is actually tired; not so much hungry.
Have you been so exhausted from something, even something that you love, that you didn’t care what happened next?
You get that sense in verse 30, when Esau says to Jacob, “Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.” He doesn’t have the strength to recognize that Jacob had made a stew, let alone what Jacob was saying to him. Jacob negotiated for Esau to give up his birthright for a bowl of the soup. But Esau didn’t seem too worried about the ramifications of his deal. The end of the chapter tells us that Esau despised his birthright. Why would a first born son despise his birth right? The end of chapter 26 gives me an idea.
Chapter 26 of Genesis tells us about Isaac’s interactions with King Abimelech, king of the Philistines in a town called Gerar. Isaac became wealthy from his farming, which put tension between him and the King. Long story short, they worked every thing out and the chapter ends with Esau marrying two women: Judith and Basemath; both daughters of Hittite men. But the last line of the chapter is, “and they [Esau and his wives] brought grief to Isaac and Rebekah.”
That Hebrew word for grief is “bitterness.”
Could it be that Esau despised his birth right because he didn’t want was his father had to offer; he wanted what the people he was accustomed to in the culture he had been exposed to had to offer? That happens sometimes too; sometimes I want what society and the culture has to offer more than God, because it seems more pleasing and enjoyable in the moment.
So the stage is set. The family is divided and there are two sons that were prayed for but have always fought and wrestled with one another. There is a history of fighting and manipulating. And then every thing comes to a head in Chapter 27. Isaac is old and he knows that he is going to die soon. He specifically asks Esau (remember, Isaac favored him) to go hunting and make him a meal so that Esau can receive a blessing before he dies.
A special moment.
A moment that won’t ever be able to happen again.
Esau leaves to do as his father asked. Rebekah heard her husband and convinces Jacob to impersonate Esau to receive the blessing. Jacob is blessed abundantly. And just as Jacob is leaving the tent, Esau comes in, having been obedient, ready to receive his blessing, only to find out that it had already been given. To his brother.
Esau begs his father for a blessing, but Isaac is unable to give him one.
Once words are spoken, they cannot be taken back.
This was suppose to be a special, eternal moment between Isaac and Esau that was stolen from both of them.
You can sense the pain in verse 38,
“Esau said to his father. ‘Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.’ So Esau lifted his voice and wept.”
There’s a lot of history here. Many years to build up to verse 41 that tells us,
“So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
Bitterness is a symptom of anger. And we become angry when we are violated. Whether it’s someone saying something that is insensitive, us suffering from abuse, a snicker when we walk down the hall, someone using us, or someone neglecting us; all of these incidents violate us. They violate our thoughts, emotions, and in some instances, our bodies.
I had to come to place where I asked myself,
Where have I been violated?
When have I been violated?
By whom have I been violated by?
How have I been violated by said person?
Why was I violated?
Was it because they over stepped the boundaries I had in place; or was it because I allowed them the opportunity by doing things such as being impulsive?”
Those are tough questions to ask yourself. And they are also really tough questions to answer.
My list of wrongs against me can get pretty long when I start to dwell on things.
I hone in on memories that remind me of wrong doings from my past. I focus in on the people that have punched my heart. I reminisce and mourn over things that I wished hadn’t happened to me. And I can get stuck there. Rolling around in those dark places. Allowing the muck and mire of my experiences and my emotions to cover up and hide any blessing and joy and goodness in my life. Everything good I experience goes through this filter of thorns and snares and darkness and pain. Everything becomes tainted. And the taste I start to leave with people through any fruit produced in my life, is sour.
I don’t want to be a producer of bitter fruit.
I want to be a bearer of better fruit.
Fruit that is sweet and refreshes those that I encounter. I want to be free from the chains of bitterness. It is said that bitterness is like drinking a poison and expecting the other person to die. No thank you.
So, how do I let it go? How do I get free from these bonds that are binding my heart and my thoughts?
1. Pour it out.
Pour it out to the Lord. All the hurts. All the wrongs. All the words. All the neglect. All the abuse. All the pain. Pour it out. And as you pour it out to Him, you can then fill yourself with the truth of His word. And as I fill myself up with the truth, I am able to pour out gratitude and worship to Jesus, which cancels out anger, shame, and guilt. My focus is shifted to worshiping that King of the Universe, rather than the idol of my pain.
2. Pray for them.
This part is hard. I’m not going to lie. As I am in this process right now, it is difficult for me to pray for those that have violated me. I want to stay in the pouring it out part and just lament about how I felt and how I was wronged. But the reality is that God loves me. And God loves them. And whatever the root that caused said person to make the choices they made, God wants to address and heal them from, just as much as He wants to heal my wounds that cause me to make the choices I do. I pray for them to have a deep encounter with God so that they can be healed from whatever it may be that causes them to make the choices they do (and 9 times out of 10 I don’t really know what that thing is, but God does). I pray that they are healed and have an abundant life in Christ. I pray that there can be reconciliation. And I keep going with whatever prayers God may lay on my heart for that person. I may not have spoken to that person for years (like my father or the man who broke my heart at age 20) or I may have recently spoken to them yesterday. But God knows what they need and I pray. And I always feel the weight of my anguish lifted after I do.
3. Protect your heart.
Sometimes, you have to let the person and relationship go. Sometimes a significant boundary needs to be drawn up to protect your heart, as well as theirs. Putting up boundaries is hard. And people don’t like it when boundaries are drawn; especially if there haven’t been boundaries before. But sometimes, I have to look at the cycle of these relationships and realize its just one gigantic merry-go-round that never stops. But I don’t have to stay on it. So I choose to get off. I choose to say, “No more.” Relationships are changed, or even ended. And there is pain and sorrow that comes with having to mourn those relationships. If that’s the case, I just go back to pouring it out and praying for the person as well as myself.
I’ve cried many tears and spent many nights lying awake thinking about so many events, things, and people in my life. I have walked down memory lane in the bright sunny spots and in the dark alleys. And it’s been difficult. It’s been difficult to come to the realization that I have some anger in me and the symptom is bitterness. It’s been difficult to put up boundaries and change relationships. The responses have been mixed. Some are responding well. Some are not. Some don’t care. But I am learning to focus on Jesus and allow Him to help me in this process, and in helping me, He is healing me. One tear filled tissue at a time. And for that, I am thankful.
I am still in the middle of this mess, but Jesus is helping me clean it up. And it is my hope and prayer that this transparency can encourage someone to ask the tough questions and to start their healing journey. I am starting to feel much better and much less bitter as each day goes by.
I hope my fruit is sweet and refreshing soon.
in love, grace, and an abundance of caffeine,
Coffee & Conversation
Tell me about a time you have been so exhausted, you did not care what happened next.
Megan's Messy Memoirs JOURNALING QUESTIONS
1. Where have I been violated?
2. When have I been violated?
3. By whom have I been violated by?
4. How have I been violated by said person?
5. Why was I violated?
6. Was it because they over stepped the boundaries I had in place; or was it because I allowed them the opportunity by doing things such as being impulsive?”