Posted in Faith

It’s Easier to Be Angry

It has felt like my prayers are “bouncing off the ceiling,” as they say. My journal, normally filled with long, sprawling, written prayers and copied Bible verses, has only been sparsely notated – dutiful entries, sometimes only one line, containing the date and a reference to the scripture passage I read. I’ve felt lonely during my times with the Lord. The times that are normally my water…have felt kind of empty and dry.

What’s going on? The scriptures hold a key.

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Mark 11:25 NIV

“‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Matthew 6:12-15 NIV

I’ve lost a friend, and it feels a bit like a bad break-up. Day after day, my bitterness and anger linger. They fester, and grow. I dwell on all the negatives; the hurtful things she has said and done. Meanwhile, the good memories from before – from when I thought she was like a sister – fade and almost disappear. Eventually I convince myself that surely, I was wrong about her. Surely, our latest interactions prove who she really is. Who she really was, all along.

I know that God requires me to forgive her. I’ve asked Him to help me do this, but haven’t made much progress. There’s a song by the Dixie Chicks that could have been written about me in times like these:

I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell, and I don’t have time
To go ’round and ’round and ’round
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is
You think I should

“Not Ready to Make Nice” by the Dixie Chicks

Truth be told, though, I don’t want to stay here. I can’t. So I asked the Lord one evening: What is holding me back? Why can I not forgive?

A perplexing thought immediately came to mind: It’s easier to hang on to the anger.

Easier? Easier than what?

Than remembering the good times.

Why?

Because you must face your grief. You must mourn what you have lost.

The tears flowed, and they flow again even as I write this. Yes, facing the hurt and loss and mourning that things may never be the same between us again, is harder than rehashing the things I am angry about. Sometimes we think that anger is strong. But in actuality, it requires more strength to turn from anger than it does to remain in it.

“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.”

Psalm 37:8 NIV

“‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV

And yet, that is what I must do. I must remember her for the laughter. The times we prayed for each other. Brought each other food. Watched and loved each other’s kids. All of that was real. Those memories can soften my heart, temper my harsh feelings, and allow me to view her in a balanced way.

In all relationships, you will eventually see both the good and the bad of a person. To be accepted in the fullness of yourself – in all of the good, and all of the bad – is an act of grace. If you have experienced this yourself, you know how great it feels. If you truly know Christ, you have experienced this grace. And He expects you to extend it to others.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”

James 3:9-10 NIV

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV

At church recently, my pastor reminded us from the pulpit that our forgiveness of others is one way we show the world what Jesus is like. Is Jesus full of anger, resentment, and offense? Does He never let go of our sins? That hasn’t been my experience of Him. And as His follower, I desire to show others that He is someone they would want to get to know.

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse,

nor will he harbor his anger forever;

he does not treat us as our sins deserve

or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his love for those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

Psalm 103:8-12 NIV

Maybe things have permanently changed between my friend and I, and we need to go our separate ways. Maybe things will never be the same. Then again, maybe they will be someday. She’s still my sister in Christ, so perhaps when we get to Heaven, God will sit us both down (the two unruly daughters that we are), and talk us through our rivalry. Whatever the case, for the time being, I can love her from afar, and remain open to the possibility of reconciliation. It’s what I hope she will do for me.

What do you do when you experience divisions within the family of Christ? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith

Ones Such as Her

I never really knew.  I guess I just never really knew.  (I probably still don’t.)

What it would have been like to be her – her darkest, most secret sins laid bare for the world to see.  They may as well have stripped her clothes, or splayed her ribs open.

sad-woman

“They made her stand before the group…”

John 8:3b

“ ‘In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.’ ”

John 8:5a

Whatever would happen, it couldn’t be worse than this heaviness.  As if her heart had turned to lead.  The nausea.  Unable to raise her head, she stares at the dirt.

“End it now.  Just end it.”

The hateful voices asserting their disgust swell to a roar, deafening her ears, until they meld to a muffle of noise.  As she stands there, she embraces a numbness that distances herself from them.  She continues to stare into the grains of dirt.  She will be one with the ground.  Soon.

rocks-in-dirt

Startling her daze, a finger crosses her line of vision.  Someone is before her, writing in the dirt.  She shifts her gaze up and sideways, just enough to view Him.  Her eyebrows twitch, and her head does a small shake, before dropping again.

“Come on.  Let’s get this over with al-”

“Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.”  Interrupting her thought and cutting the din in her ears, His voice is suddenly booming.  He is standing now, in front of her.  Looking up quickly, she sees His straightened back.  His feet are planted, His arms set apart slightly from His sides.  He appears immovable.  The demands and taunts of the crowd grow quieter, like a fading wind.

Her breath catches.  Her heart beats heavily upon her chest.  Her eyes are still on His back, and the sounds of her accusers have dissipated.

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Matthew 6:14-15

Releasing them from His piercing gaze, He stoops to the earth again.  It doesn’t look like He plans to leave.

The crowd, however, shifts uneasily on their feet.  They glance around at each other.  A few of them walk off, slowly.  Some shake their heads, or frown.  One looks at her and remembers something.  His eyes become windows, for a moment.  Exhaling, he turns and slumps away, looking down.

As she watches in shock, the weakened crowd retreats, one by one.  With the exit of each person, her incredulity grows.  The Man is still writing with His finger in the dirt that she had expected to, by now, be soaked with her blood.  She pants heavily, and notices a smile playing quietly upon the corners of His mouth.  Without moving His head, He eyes the bystanders who are left.  Disarmed, they slink reluctantly away, glancing back over their shoulders, as if searching for a way to regain their footing.

It is silent for a moment as Jesus stops writing and leans back on His heels, watching them depart.  When He stands and turns to face her, His smile is fully grown.  Softly, now, He speaks to her:

“Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”  Liquid gathers in his lower eyelids.

Her heart still pounding, she glances beyond His shoulder.  Seeing only a smattering of dents in the ground where they had once stood, she stutters hurriedly,

“N-n-no-one, sir.”  Her voice is hoarse, but within her, the exhilaration of hope rises.  Like a point of light, expanding, and overtaking.

Unexpectedly and gruffly, a laugh bursts from her mouth.  When she draws her breath in again, it becomes a sob.

“Then neither do I condemn you.”  Still smiling, He drops His eyes to her feet and lays a hand on the back of her arm.  Stepping to her closely, she feels His breath on her ear.

“Go now.  And leave your life of sin.”

(Adapted from John 8:1-11)

 

This post was first published on April 18, 2019, at my first blog – Little Moment Meditations

Happy Easter everyone!

Lisa

Posted in Poems

Hindsight’s 20/40

((Today’s “Friday Ramble” is less of a ramble, and more of a poem.  I had some metaphors and words rolling around in my head, and thought they would fit better this way.  I love the succinctness of poetry!))

 

Looking back, I see shapes

And not the little details

Overall trends, and in-the-ends

While finer lines have blurred

 

The way I was raised,

How others behaved,

Near misses and near hits.

My own mistakes, humility

Driving me to this:

 

Losing my vision, forgetting the things

That put me on my high horse

Far-sighted eyes, the gift of age

Compromise, to set the stage

For “West from East,”

Far side of the sea –

Forgiveness, they say.

The very best way.

 

A little bit blind

A lot forgetful

Far sighted, and deaf, and possibly dumb

After it all, I’m thankful

 

What about you?  As you get older, do you find yourself losing your hearing, vision, or memory – literally or metaphorically?  Is it becoming easier or harder to forgive?  I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa