Where the grace of God is missed, bitterness is born. But where the grace of God is embraced, forgiveness flourishes.
Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.
I had just left from a wonderful morning of worship and was heading home when the words, “every person in my life who I ever thought were great influences in my life ended up being a joke” came from my mouth. I was feeling disappointed and angry. My pastor had been speaking on how we each influence the world and asked us to think about those in our life who had been a great influence to us. Every name that passed through my mind brought about feelings of hurt. Suddenly my life felt like a joke.
Fortunately, for me, I have a husband who knows how to stay quiet when I have these moments. He does not encourage my negative thoughts by adding insult to injury but instead just listens. He knows I need to talk it all out and allow God to work it out for me.
As I sat in the car with tears in my eyes, the thick black ooze of bitterness came pouring out of my heart. I could feel the anger for each of these people rise to the surface. I was a little caught off guard. I really thought I had dealt with these deep nasty feelings. Apparently, I had not.
This week God has truly been working on me in this area. I asked for His help and He has answered. Monday as I was writing He led me to a book I have not read in quite some time. Max Lucado’s In the Grip of Grace. I came across this passage,
“Let me be very clear. Hatred will sour your outlook and break your back. The load of bitterness is simply too heavy. Your knees will buckle under the strain, and your heart will break beneath the weight. The mountain before you is steep enough without the heaviness of hatred on your back. The wisest choice-the only choice-is for you to drop the anger. You will never be called upon to give anyone more grace than God has already given you.”
OUCH! Wow! Profound. My toes are a little sore. This means forgiveness. Not exactly what I wanted to hear.
In my head, I responded with “But, Max, that’s not fair! These people do not deserve grace. They do not deserve mercy. They do not deserve my forgiveness.”
I continued reading,
“I’m not saying [they] he [are] is. But are you?”
Ouch again! His words continued jumping off the page at me.
“Besides what choice do you have? Hatred? The alternative is not appealing. Look what happens when we refuse to forgive, “The master was very angry and put the servant in prison to be punished until he could pay for everything he owed” (Matt. 18:34).
Unforgiving servants always end up in prison. Prisons of anger, guilt and depression. God doesn’t have to put us in jail; we create our own. “Some men stay healthy till the day they die…others have no happiness at all; they live and die with bitter hearts” (Job 21:23-25 TEV).
I started rolling all that around in my head. It was a lot. I recognize the heaviness he is writing about and I know I want it gone. I began to think more about grace. God does not just offer me grace but He offers it to everyone. Not only that but He expects me to offer the same grace He offers me, to others. All others.
As I was reading the words in the book over again, God brought this passage to mind.
No one is righteous- not even one.No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God.All have turned away; all have become useless.No one does good, not a single one.
This passage led me down a different road. My perspective began to change. Not everyone gets it right all the time. No one walks every second of life in the will of God. No one. Why? Because no one does good…all the time. It is just not possible. So what does that mean? It means we cannot put people on pedestals. I cannot put people on pedestals. Let me just say that I stink at this. I have a tendency to place people that I look up to on these beautifully decorated pedestals. I paint them as perfect and sinless. Then I focus my attention on wanting to be like them because I see them as being the epitome of “Christ likeness.” Ugh. Sinful. My intentions are good. Honestly they are. The problem is that this expectation is unfair. It is not possible. Why? Because none of us are Jesus. No matter how hard we try, there is no way we will ever actually be Jesus. We can reflect Him. We can act like Him but we will never be perfect and sinless. My issue is that of putting the wrong person(s) on the pedestal. It should be Jesus. My attention should be focused on Him because He is the One who will never fall off that pedestal. He is the only One who will never let me down.
It is so simple now that I have thought it all through. So much time wasted placing unrealistic expectations on people who will ultimately fall. Huge amounts of my time wasted with feelings of bitterness and anger. It is time to let it all go. It is time to release that huge weight that has been holding me back. It is time to acknowledge that the people who I once considered influences in my life are not a joke. I know, how nice of me :-) Seriously though the time they spent being a part of my life and what they did teach me was not a waste of time. It is time to acknowledge that all those things I learned from them did in fact help to encourage and grow my faith. It is time to forgive the hurt caused by the toppling over of the pedestal for which I had placed each of them. Just as God offers me grace, I now choose to do the same.