I crammed the square of chocolate into my mouth in wonderful anticipation of the smooth sweet taste. My salivary glands were already reacting when my brain fired off an alert and my senses went reeling. Something was terribly wrong. I glared at my older brother who sat nearby with watchful eyes and knowing smirk while I spit the bitter brown nugget from my mouth.
“What is that?” I yelled at him, my eyes flashing in anger and horror.
“Chocolate,” He replied with a laugh forming on his lips.
“No it isn’t!” I protested as I tried to punch him; he was too quick for me. My Mom emerged from the house, “What are you shouting about?”
“He’s trying to poison me. He said it was chocolate! It tastes like death!”
She turned toward my brother as he shrugged with a smile, “What? It was chocolate. Baker’s chocolate, but still chocolate,” he looked at me, “relax, you aren’t gonna die.”
My Mom sighed, “Kinda mean though.”
I shot darts from my eyes at my brother as I went to get a drink and wash the bitter taste from my mouth.
I’ve never forgotten that taste of baker’s chocolate, but I’ve come to know another kind of bitterness as well; the pain of a bitter heart.
I’ve also discovered that it isn’t as easy to wash away the bad taste in my heart as it was the bitter taste from my mouth.
It hurts more.
And when something once sweet turns bitter, the result seems all the more pungent; all the more unbearable.
Maybe that’s why addressing bitterness is a long, hard road.
You can’t just cover bitterness up, it has to be washed away and cleansed completely. I only know one Person who can totally manage my heart.
I’ve faced my fair share of bitterness. In the past, I’ve try to force myself to get over it, but some things aren’t that easy. Even when I thought I’d moved passed it, I’d come to realize I hadn’t. I’d see the person in church or at school or wherever I ran into them and suddenly I would know. The taste of loathing would find its way to my tongue, and I would know I hadn’t fully addressed the shadows in my heart.
Not very long ago, I had to work through those dark corners within me once again. I stared at the object of my dismay across the room as she tipped her head back and laughed. I knew from the ugly feelings bubbling up inside me that I hadn’t properly dealt with the hurt.
Had we been friends…once upon a time?
I supposed, in my grumpy state, that perhaps I had only thought we were friends. Perhaps we never had been friends at all. I felt betrayed, cast aside, and neglected. I felt foolish and alone. But even more, I felt ashamed that those feelings were twisting up inside of me because when I looked in the mirror and faced them, I saw how ugly they really were.
Every time I thought I could stuff them down and make them go away, I was reminded that the bitterness still raged like a monster inside of me.
It wasn’t totally her fault; life had happened and I got left behind. It wasn’t malicious, but it still hurt. My problem wasn’t her though. Not really. It was all the lies I believed about myself.
The lie that I was better than my feelings and that I didn’t need to address them because they were silly.
The lie that I wasn’t worthwhile or valued.
The lie that I wasn’t pretty enough, or smart enough or good enough.
The lie that I wasn’t needed and that it made me void of purpose.
The lie that I could be easily forgotten.
The lies hurt, the loss of friendship hurt and bitterness crept in. I wanted to spit it out, but I couldn’t. It stayed with me far too long.
It was then that I confessed to the LORD and asked the LORD to heal my wounded heart. It was then that I confessed my feelings to trusted members of my church and asked for prayer, and it was then that the healing truly began.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16
When I finally faced the darkness in my own heart I realized I needed to confess and ask for prayer. The change in my heart didn’t happen right away. It was slow progress. Still, God began to soften my heart toward the other person. He started to show me that she was hurting in her own ways as well. He started to create compassion within me. Slowly, the compassion edged out the bitterness until all that remained was a genuine love, peace, and freedom I didn’t know was possible.
It wasn’t my doing.
I didn’t change me; God did.
But I let him.
And as I let him change my heart, he also showed me the truth about myself:
That those lies I believed where indeed lies. My value doesn’t come from being loved by people, but by belonging to God and being loved by him. That is the sweetest truth of all.
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32