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Posts Tagged ‘Forgiveness’

Sometimes the smallest events can be lessons from heaven.  I just got one.  The teacher?  A bonafide jerk on the freeway.

My mother-in-law is here for a visit, and rather than try to squeeze a lunch out of an empty pantry, we thought we’d go out to lunch.  As we drove down the road with my ten-year-old daughter in the back seat, I became aware that the guy behind me was getting intimate with my rear bumper.  I was already speeding (ahem), so I didn’t go any faster.   I couldn’t really move to the next lane because it was fairly occupied by other cars.

That made him mad.

He got within kissing distance of my bumper, and then darted into a gap in the right lane.  Just as he passed my mother-in-law and daughter on the passenger side (at probably 80 mph), he expressed his feelings in no uncertain terms.

That’s right.  He stuck his arm out the window and flipped us the bird.

Without hesitation, my husband’s mother raised her hand and returned his gesture – by blessing him with the sign of the cross.

Ha!

Honestly, that was not what I thought of doing.  If I had been alone, I might’ve shouted some choice words from the comfort of my car.  (With the windows rolled up.)  Jerk!

But my mother-in-law is older and wiser than me.

So we prayed:

“Dear Jesus, that man must be a very angry person.  Please help him to be calm and not hurt anyone today.”

Even after praying, I felt … violated.  As if he had spit in my face.  But scripture worked its way into my mind.  God’s word spoke softly to me, like a gentle melody.

“A soft answer turns away wrath,” it whispered.

“Do not return evil for evil,” it instructed.

“Love your enemy,” it thrummed.

And eventually, I exhaled. 

Calm. 

Mercy. 

Grace.

Mr. Roadrage Man , wherever you are, I really do wish you the best.  You must have had a really crummy day.  Or maybe someone mistreated you.  Or maybe your mama never taught you any manners.  Whatever your situation, I hope you find peace.  I pray you find Jesus.

Much love,

Wendi

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My grandfather had no use for churches, but he paraphrased Jesus all the time, whether he knew it or not.  One of his favorite sayings was, “When you point your finger at someone, just remember that there are three fingers pointing back at yourself.” 

Jesus said that, too.  Not exactly like that, but He said it.

There has been a lot of finger-pointing going on at my house this week by all four members of my family.   (Is there a full moon?)  At our dinner table, fingers are pointing north, south, east and west.

And I think I might just go bananas over it.

My grandfather wasn’t much of a talker.  He preferred to listen.  Unsnapping the pocket of his western shirt to dig out a cigarette, he’d light up, then, elbows on the table and calloused hands clasped, listen to the conversation going on around him.  Occasionally, he would come out with a well-timed joke, but he didn’t give his opinion much, even if you asked for it.

There are plenty of opinions expressed at our table, and sharply at that.

To my knowledge, my grandparents never locked their front door.  The protocol was to knock on your way in, and shout, “Helloooo?  Anybody home?”

“None but us chickens,” came the reply, and the greetings, and the joviality, and the eating of Sunday morning pancakes would commence.

Our door opens by appointment.

How can I change all this – the finger-pointing, opinion-bellowing and guarded welcoming?

Oh, yeah.  Three fingers pointed back at me…

Great.  That means I need to look at my behavior at least three times before I look at someone else’s.  That means I need to remove that two-by-four sticking out of my eye before I can see well enough to remove the fleck of sawdust from another person’s eye.  That means I need to listen to other people’s opinions rather than being intent on defending my own.

And it means my door should be open, just in case Jesus drops by for pancakes.

 My grandparents

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  (Luke 6:42, NIV)

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Sometimes a holiday break can be one day too long.  Such was the case at our house this Thanksgiving weekend.  One daughter had a bad day.  The other daughter provoked her.  The wronged daughter decided to show her displeasure by defacing a piece of our property.  A valuable piece of property.

My husband got “that look.”  His jaw was set about two inches farther outward than usual, his eyes narrowed, and his breath shortened.  I suggested that he take a moment to compose himself before responding.

Through clenched jaw and gritted teeth, he replied, “You handle this.”

Well, we handled it together.  After a coarse tongue-lashing, the offender was sent to her room so that we could discuss her sentence.

Once we had vented, we mulled our options.  There was so much damage done to the property that even if we held back her allowance for an entire year, it wouldn’t be enough money to fix it.  Oh there would be consequences, but we realized that this is one debt she cannot re-pay.  It is too big.

We went to her room to deliver said consequences.  She was utterly torn up with guilt and shame.  I was stomach-sick for her.  I know how it feels to wish with all your heart that you could take back something that you did or said.  We still had to discipline her, but we also told her that we love her, and nothing she could do would ever take that away. There was a tearful apology, forgiveness was extended and hugs exchanged.

So this is what it must feel like to God, I thought.  Maybe like me with my daughter, He is stomach-sick over what we’ve done and the pain we’ve caused ourselves.  We’ve done so much damage that there is no way for us to re-pay the debt.   It is too big.

This is it.  This is the reason for Jesus.  This is the reason He came. 

He comes now to blot out our mess.  He comes to make us right once again, to wipe our tears, to give us comfort and to extend forgiveness.  He has paid our overwhelming debt. 

Remember His gift as you enter Advent, and prepare with a grateful heart.

Remember to extend grace, love and forgiveness to all.

And if you are suffocating under a blanket of shame, throw it off.  The debt has been paid. 

Remember?

paid in full

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”  (Romans 13:8, NIV)

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My daughter and I had an adventure this week.  She has expressed an interest in one day becoming a lawyer, so I contacted a friend who is a superior court judge and asked if we could observe his court and interview him.  What we witnessed was an education for us both.

The docket was filled with guilty pleas.  One by one, the people sitting next to us in the courtroom took their place at the defense table to enter their plea before the court.  The first was a man who admitted to body-slamming his girlfriend and strangling her by pressing his knee into her neck.

“Heh, heh,…” I thought, “Our judge friend is really going to throw the book at this guy.”

But his sentence seemed too light.  My daughter and I were furiously writing notes back and forth to each other.  “He only got that?!”  she wrote.  “Shouldn’t he get something worse?”

At morning recess, the bailiff took us back to chambers.  During our conversation with the judge, my daughter questioned why, in her opinion, he had been so easy on the guy.

“Seriously!”  I thought, but I kept my mouth shut.

He gave her a bemused smile, explained to her about overcrowding in the jails – and then educated us both about mercy.

He told her how some people haven’t had a good home life or good parents, and they grow up to make mistakes.  He wants to give them the chance to do the right thing.  If they still won’t do right, then he must give them harsh consequences.

It’s a good thing that I am not a judge.  I would be only too willing to put everyone in the slammer. No second chances from this judge.  Oh, no!

It is so easy, in our self-righteousness, to blame others, to demand restitution, and maybe even to secretly hope that someone who has offended us might suffer just a teensy bit for it.  But when the tables are turned, and we have wronged someone, don’t we hope for mercy?

God is merciful.  He is the Second-chance-giver.  He is not sitting on a cloud waiting to strike us with lightning for every wrong we’ve done.  Instead, He sits ready to bail us out.  The price for our offenses has already been paid.

For this, I owe it to Him to respond to others with the mercy I have received.

Will you?

 

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8, NIV)

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I messed up.  Big time.  In a moment of selfishness, I hurt someone I love.  And I felt terrible.

My husband was trying to do something nice for me, something really nice.  Rather than graciously accepting his offering, I questioned.  Instead of being swept up in the moment, I fled for my rut.  Instead of thanking him, I attended to my own anxious feelings.

Smooth.

His words were few, but his face spoke volumes.   After what must have seemed an eternity to him, I finally saw what I had done.  (Guys don’t usually demonstrate their hurt, so when it shows, you know it must be big.)

How do you fix that?  When you’ve dealt a big blow, how can you recover?

We talked a while about surface things.  I cried into my breakfast.  I stared at my soggy cereal.  I couldn’t eat.  More small talk.

Then I blurted it out.  “I’m sorry…”

“I forgive you,” he said.

These were difficult words for both of us.  (Funny how the right words are some of the hardest to speak.)  But there is healing in those words.

For the next twenty-four hours, the air between us was palpable – not so much “charged,” like when you have an argument with someone, but more like a… marshmallow.  I mean, we were more polite, more careful about what we said to each other, more aware.

If I hadn’t apologized, or if he hadn’t forgiven me, the day might have been entirely different.  The words make all the difference in the world.  They are like honey in the ears and band-aids on the soul.  They don’t make the offense go away, but they go a long way to repair what was torn, or salve the open wound.

Do you need to apologize to someone?  Do you need to forgive someone?

Maybe both?

Say the words.

And let the healing begin.

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13, NIV)

P.S.  For guidance in this area, check out my friend Dr. Jennifer Thomas’ blog about apology at www.drjenthomas.com, or her book, co-authored with Gary Chapman, The Five Languages of Apology.

P.P.S.  She really is my friend, and she didn’t put me up to this.  I just think she has a lot of good things to say on the subject.

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I was so mad.  Correction.  I was livid.  I couldn’t believe the person did what they did, and I was righteous all over the place in my anger.  Justified!  Humph.  But God had something to say.

I am not a person who likes confrontation, so I did not go to the person directly.  (Mistake number one.)

I thought I was doing a good thing by not telling others… exactly.  I just bent my husband’s ear over it – detail by detail.  (Mistake number two.)

I was angry about it for a looooong time.  Some might call it a grudge.  (Mistake number three.)

Then, I did the first right thing.  I took my anger to the Lord in prayer.

I told God what the person did, how selfish they were being, how it hurt me, how right I was and how unbelievably, unmistakably, entirely wrong this person was.  I went on and on.  And on some more.

God listened for a long time.  Then when it seemed that I had sputtered out, He asked me a question, clearly, in my mind.

“How about if I measure you with the same stick that you are using to measure that person?”

“Um, the same measuring stick, God?”

“The same one, Wendi.”

Well.  That shut me up.  No, I would not like that at all.  I much prefer the tape measure Mary Poppins uses to measure herself.  (You know, “practically perfect in every way.”)

Apparently, God does not want us to be concerned with who is right and who is wrong – because we’re all wrong, at one time or another.  He wants us to leave the judging to Him.

I would rather be measured by God’s measuring stick – after I’ve gone through the Jesus car wash.

Then, I won’t be “practically perfect”, but completely perfected.

And forgiven.

“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Matt. 7:2 NIV

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We had a beautiful cherry tree off the edge of our deck.  It blessed us with blooms every spring, and offered some shade in the summer.  Lately, though, it had been looking sort of… sad.  It was rotting from the inside.  This should have been our first clue that something wasn’t right underneath.

As part of getting our house ready for sale, we called to have the septic tank cleaned out.  (Can I just say, “Eeeeew”?)  We didn’t know the tank’s exact location, so it took the guy a while to find it.  Soon, he came to the door.

“I found your tank, Ma’am,” he said.  “It’s under your cherry tree.”

A backhoe was summoned, the tree flattened, and its roots dug up.  The guy checked the soundness of the tank, and fortunately, the roots had not breached it.  Then, he began the work of cleaning it out.  For the time that he was working, there was a faint odor, a whiff of some kind of… funk.

This experience got me thinking about sin.  I have buried my faults in something akin to an underground septic tank.  I have dressed up my wrong-doings by planting pretty cherry trees on top of them to distract people from what lies underneath.  I have conveniently forgotten them altogether.  (Was there some sin lying around here somewhere?  Nah…)  Or, worse, I have pushed them down until they bubbled back into the house.

If you are human, you’ve probably done this, too.  It’s our way.  We even justify each other’s sins, saying “they’re not that bad.”  But we forget that God’s standard is perfect, pure holiness.  Measured against that standard, I fail miserably.

To God, the tidbit of delicious gossip I indulged in, the time I didn’t tell the cashier an item wasn’t on sale, the irritability I blame on PMS – these “little” sins are the same as the most heinous of crimes.  All sins are equal.  To Him, it all reeks.

The wonderful news about all this is that we have the best septic service available.  All we have to do is ‘fess up!  Say it.  Turn away from it.  Ask for forgiveness.

And God comes in with His big ol’ backhoe, digs up our cherry trees by the roots, and wipes out all the nastiness underneath until we are completely clean.  (And you know I love clean.)

To me, the best part of all is that He forgets about it!  Whatever I did wrong, no matter how bad, if I confess it and turn from it, He throws it into the sea and remembers it no more.   

If He forgets it, then I can forget about it, too.  I don’t have to remind someone how they wronged me.  And I don’t have to beat myself up over confessed sin.  It’s gone.  Forgotten.

Was there some sin lying around here somewhere?  Nah…

good dog

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