I had planned to write a follow up blog post on the Beatitudes several weeks (ahem…months?) ago, but I am barely keeping my head above water with work, family and ministry responsibilities. While I don’t enjoy missing my personal goals, I rest secure in the knowledge that I am not the one in control, and I talk unceasingly in prayer with the One who is.
Spoiler alert: This blog may also not be the Beatitudes follow up that is expected.
Tonight, I want to write about how God has been using some of what I am experiencing in this season to mend broken relationships and experience deeper forgiveness in them.
Often, this starts with a reminder to trust that we are each doing the best we can, and that we need to trust in the faithfulness of God’s grace and mercy in a broken world when we or others fall short. More on that below.
Admittedly, I am completely unable to do this on my own, at least not consistently. My initial response is to be the first to kick the dust off my shoes, move on, and seek my happiness elsewhere. This season has been an intentional period of making a different decision: standing still and daily seeking God’s will in those difficult situations. It has encouraged me to face my fears-the fear of being left behind, unloved, alone, forgotten or passed over because I have been. I also know that I have done the same to others. The value of standing still seems to be something many of the women I know easily understand. I have grown through the process, and more importantly, I have drawn closer to the Lord, and my relationships with others have deepened.
In standing still, it has been the relationship I share with my mom where God has been working the most healing. It is this relationship where I have secretly been harboring decades old anger, resentment and bitterness. As her physical and emotional needs have increased, the emotions that have bubbled up to the surface for us both have at times almost overwhelmed. It is here we have most deeply felt God’s presence. I love my mother very much, and I also long ago made the decision to forgive those past hurts, real and imagined, as has she. But much to my chagrin, the harder negative emotions stubbornly persist.
Perhaps I am simply angry at her now for getting older and needing more support, a fact which is completely beyond her control. The anger could simply be worry about her future or about mine after this season is over. Whatever it is, I am fairly certain she is not exactly happy about it. Getting older is an unavoidable circumstance for most of us. The question is how can we walk in faith together through this season, in the light of God’s grace and mercy?
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
Simply put, mercy can be defined as not receiving what is deserved for some wrongdoing. It is slightly different from grace which is loosely explained as receiving a free gift you did not earn or do not deserve. In its highest form, it is by God’s grace that the believer is saved through faith. Simply put, a believer is one who has placed his faith in Jesus Christ and his work on the cross for forgiveness of wrongdoings. This is an unmerited gift, and it is a first step for all. It is God’s mercy which then saves the believer from getting the death that was earned and deserved (Romans 6:23).
Our sin nature does not understand or accept this idea of grace, mercy or even forgiveness. When we are wronged by another, we tell each other, “don’t let him (or her) get away with that. You need to tell that person off” without giving thought to how we might have wronged them. In our self-righteous need for justice, we rush to rebuke and punish rather than patiently and lovingly providing instruction. We think the wrongdoing must be met with a necessary and fitting punishment. Alternatively, the punishment might be withholding good gifts if we are somehow in the position to do so. I was recently reminded of what a difficult person I can be by my family (and I agree!). It is probably because I’ve used both of these tactics frequently with them over the course of a lifetime.
Can we make a different decision in order to forgive? Can we choose to reflect on the grace and mercy that has been shown to us by God and extend that to others? Can we choose to be good to one another without exacting punishment or withholding from one another? Can we release justice to the One who is perfectly just and stick to the decision to forgive? This always requires truthful, transparent communication with both God and others. It can be awkward, painful or uncomfortable even when both parties are willing to forgive, reconcile and restore the relationship. It also involves admission of our own wrongdoing, and a decision to do better after we apologize. It is the freedom and the joy we have in God’s grace and mercy towards us that enables us to enter into the beautiful complexity of community and to apologize and forgive each other, again and again and again.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we extend grace and mercy to each other and they are intricately interwoven into a tapestry of forgiveness in relationship to each other that brings glory to the God who created us. And in His faithfulness, He provides us the help we need when we intentionally stand still, remain present with each other and patiently seek God’s will in prayer.
This is my experience of forgiveness. What has yours been like? I’d love to hear from you if you’ve read this far.
PS: That wise advice I received about standing still? It was from my Mom years ago. I love you Mom. Thank you for putting up with me all these years. Happy Mother’s Day!
Photo credit: Boribayev on istock.com