Over a decade ago, I shared with a friend about some angst I’d been experiencing after being misunderstood by a leader. I bled my woe-is-me sentences, feeling them glut my gut. “He assigned motives I don’t even have,” I said. “His assessment of me was not only unfair, but dead wrong.”
She nodded, concern in her eyes.
I word-wrangled before her, trying to decide if I should approach the man and set him aright. I tallied important points, nearly spreadsheeting my rightness.
But then I stopped.
I took in a breath and finally said, “I don’t think God has called me to reputation management. I’m supposed to trust Him in the midst of being misunderstood.”
That’s when the seed of this book dropped into my heart. She looked at me, then asked, “Did you know Jesus was the most misunderstood person to walk the earth?”
I said nothing.
In that place of quiet, my mind frantically retraced the life of Jesus. Teaching in the Temple at twelve as his parents panicked, then getting reprimanded by them. Questioning the religious elite who held the supposed keys to the Kingdom (though he was king of it all). Praising despised outcasts, while making insider Pharisees the villains in parables. Speaking to a Samaritan woman at the well, as his bewildered disciples looked on. And yet? Jesus received people’s blatant misunderstanding and usually said nothing. He endured it. He ventured into the mountains to tell His Father about it. And then He dusted off His sandals (and heart) and took the next Kingdom step. He fulfilled his mission despite all that questioning. And because He did, we can, too.
My friend’s question illuminated a new truth: Jesus understands being misunderstood. And since He has endured misunderstanding, empathy abounds for those of us walking the same path. There’s a little piece of encouraging advice in Hebrews 12, tucked in after the author speaks of Jesus enduring the torturous cross. “Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.” (Hebrews 12:3)
I’m now at that place in my life where grand lessons take shape in my mind, and this is one: being misunderstood is one of the hardest things we humans endure this side of eternity. Even so, we don’t have to live sidelined, crafting reputation-defending spreadsheets until we die. There is another more hopeful, vibrant way.
Read more in The Most Misunderstood Women of the Bible: What Their Stories Teach Us About Thriving by Mary DeMuth.