Our post today is written by Julia Schmidt. You can find Julia at home in Gardena teaching her children, or praying on the bathroom floor, or teaching piano lessons, or writing about all the fun things her kids are up to. Sometimes you’ll find her leading worship at women’s ministry events, speaking at MOPS or her blog http://juliainca.blogspot.com/. She was a contributor to our 2010 Reading Guide and can’t seem to stop writing these wonderful reflections of how she is experiencing God transform her heart and mind. Enjoy.
Today I read the last four chapters of Job, following the reading plan and devotional book from King’s Harbor Church. The devotional said:
“In courtroom language, Job brings a case before God, alleging that his suffering is unjust. In order to reasonably challenge God’s justice, the challenger needs to have all relevant facts. But Job really only has access to his own reality.”
I forget that fact very quickly, not just with God but also in relation to other people. I think forgiveness would come much easier if I would remember that there is always another side to each story and that people, especially those close to me, rarely do things that harm me purely out of spite or meanness. It’s natural to be angry toward someone who is downright selfish and spiteful. It’s hard to forgive someone whose actions are consistently mean-spirited. But the thing is, whenever I have come across that type of person, I have given them a wide berth. I don’t invite them into my inner circle of loved ones. Why, then, do I react to my loved ones as if that were their personality? I think it has more to do with my need to hold on to anger (which is easier than forgiving) and even more, with my pride, which stands in open-mouthed amazement that someone would have the audacity to hurt, slight or inconvenience the Great and Mighty Me.
This morning in prayer (and let’s be honest—that implies a holy and wonderful quiet time, but that wasn’t what it was. It was a half-awake, grumpy challenge I threw at God while I was trying to roll out of bed), I asked the Lord to show me the reality of the situation with someone I am having a hard time forgiving. I’m not sure what I hoped I would gain from that prayer, because the reason I’m having a hard time forgiving is that the Lord has already shown me the reality of the situation. In particular, He showed me why this person continually does the things that hurt me, and why I can’t expect the behavior will stop if I simply point it out. So maybe it wasn’t really reality I was looking for. Maybe it was just affirmation that “Yes, this situation stinks, and no, you can’t do anything about it.”
Because that’s pretty much what the Lord whispered to me while I was reading Job. And then He added, “But you still have to forgive. That’s what forgiveness is. It’s saying ‘It’s not okay, but I’m letting it go anyway.’ And then you trust ME to protect and provide for the future. You don’t then build a wall to insulate yourself from the person.”
That is the hardest part. Plunging into the waters of relationship knowing that they are icy cold. That is the challenge of love – not to just love those who are easy, who give to me without demanding much back, but to go the distance with someone I have pledged to go the distance with, even through icy cold waters. Even knowing they will let me down, disappoint me, forget to prefer me and get so caught up in their own worries that they don’t even notice mine. That is the human condition. That is what I expect grace for from others – why do I react so strongly when I come across someone to whom I must extend the same grace?
I forget that I am not the only Great and Mighty Me. I forget that in order to be great in God’s kingdom, I must become a servant of all, that I must consider others better than myself and look out not only for my own interests but for the interests of others. We can’t function in loving relationship if we are all Great and Mighty Me’s strutting around with our noses in the air, bumping into each other and getting offended. Someone has to drop the crown, gird up for action and start washing feet. I can’t worry about whether I will be the only one doing that and how unfair it is to me. I can’t wait for others to obey God first – my obedience needs to spring from my own heart. I can’t make others obey – I can only see to it that I am obeying.
In fact, rather than feeling put-upon by the “terrible sin” of those around me (which generally is no worse than my own), I should look at the situation with joy, rejoicing that I have this opportunity to obey God and serve others, regardless of how disobedient they are and regardless of whether or not they deserve to be served. Because none of us do. But I can be the one to start. And when I do, that is when God can come into the reality that I only half understand and start changing it to align with His Kingdom, and that is when the life-changing miracles will start to happen.
How sad would it be if I held onto my unforgiveness and refused to let the miracle start, simply because it wasn’t “fair” that I had been hurt in the first place?
Someone has to drop the crown…