FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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I Don’t Want to Forgive

Have you been hurt so deeply that you feel trapped by the pain, yet there is something deep within you that refuses to forgive?

At times it seems there are two forces pulling at you, kinda like those cartoons we’ve seen of characters having an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other.  That angel whispers the Scriptures into your ears – “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).  “Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).  “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…” (Luke 6:27). “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19). “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44).  “Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you” (Proverbs 20:22).

That devil on the other shoulder is whispering, too.  “Don’t forgive them; they don’t deserve it. Don’t you remember what they did to you?”

The angel whispers all the more…,”Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless…” (1 Peter 3:9).  And the devil ramps up his whisperings, too…, “What you need to do is get even.  If I were you, I’d get them back!”

Forgiveness is hard.  It’s even harder when you don’t really want to forgive.  Yes, you want to empty yourself of all that bitterness, and you want to enjoy a close relationship with God (because in case you didn’t realize it, bitterness and refusing to forgive separates you from God).  But deep down within, you crave vengeance.  You just want to even the score somehow, pay them back.  After all, that’s what they deserve!

Confession.  I have held bitterness toward a certain “them” and “they” in my heart for quite some time now.  I said that I forgave, but I didn’t.  I thought for a while that I had, but I haven’t.  I was sure that I wanted to, but I don’t.  I don’t want to forgive them.  Oh, in my head I do; I know right from wrong.  But the awful, cold, hard truth is that in my heart, I don’t want to forgive them.

I realized that today when I had an opportunity to celebrate “them.” To praise “them.”  To congratulate “them.”  I didn’t want to do any of those things.  Rather, I wanted to remind “them” of their evil, their spite, their prejudices and their mean-spiritedness.  But therein lies the rub.  I couldn’t remind them of any of their shortcomings and faults without being reminded of my own.  Dang.

And so today I realized, fully realized what I already knew in my head.  Forgiveness is not really for “them.”  It is for me.

You see, by refusing to forgive, I imprisoned myself.  I shut myself away in a lonely, desolate and miserable place where I played and replayed the videos and recordings of all that they had done wrong.  Meanwhile, they went about their lives – happy, laughing, enjoying.  I am sure that they haven’t spent one minute thinking about what has robbed me of peace for more than a year now.

Today, I decided it’s time to be released from prison.  I forgave.  Once, for all and for always – with the help of the Holy Spirit!

As children of God we are commanded to forgive.  It really is not an option, but God will not rush us.  He’ll let us linger and languish in the prison of bitterness as long as we desire.  When we come to our senses, we understand that He empowers us by His Spirit to forgive just as Jesus forgave when He looked down from the cross at His false accusers, the naysayers and the soldiers who had beaten and whipped Him and now cast lots for His clothing.  Amidst all that, He said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).  Surely, I can forgive those who hurt me, and I did.

Here’s what we can be sure of – What God commands us to do, He empowers us to do by His Spirit. And that includes forgiving just as Jesus did!

THIS WEEK break free of any prison of unforgiveness that has you bound.  “As those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you” (Colossians 3:12-13).  Identify your shortcomings and seek the Lord’s forgiveness for those then, if possible, reconcile with your offender.  If you cannot reconcile because your offender is not ready, know that you have done what the Lord has required of you, and go in peace (Romans 12:18). 

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No Corns, No Pinching

Yesterday I spoke at a work-related event. It was risky, but I opened with a joke someone shared with me years ago. Risky because I’m not the best joke teller and because of the audience. But I told it anyway. It went like this:

It seems that a man, known to be a cheapskate, had gone to the tailor to have a suit made, but when the suit was finished and he went to try it on, it didn’t fit him at all.

He was greatly disappointed and complained to the tailor. It was a horrible fit.  The jacket was too big in back, the right arm was too long, one pant leg was too short and three buttons were missing!

“No problem,” said the tailor, ” this is an easy fix – just hunch your back, bend your arm, walk with a limp, and stick your fingers through the button holes and you’ll look just fine!  Nobody will ever notice.”

So the man, still upset but not wanting to upset the tailor, contorted his body to fit the suit and, even though he felt that he had been duped by the tailor, he left. He had not walked one block when he was approached by a stranger.

“Who made that amazing suit for you?” asked the stranger. “I’m in the market for a new suit myself.”

Surprised, actually shocked, but pleased at the compliment, the man directed the stranger to the tailor’s shop.

“Well, thanks very much,” said the stranger, hurrying off. “I do believe I’ll go to that tailor for my suit. He must be an absolute genius if he made a suit to fit you.”

Isn’t it astonishing how we will wear something that we KNOW does not fit?  There are many a corned toe that will attest to this.  It’s also probably why SPANX and Lipo-in-a-Box are multi-million dollar companies, and everyone else has sought to make knock-off versions of their products which make claims to “transform” your body, help you fit in a size smaller garment and look pounds thinner.

All day long we (especially us women) walk around trying to “fit” into something that simply does not “fit” us.  Remember Cinderella – all those women trying to fit a Size 10-looking foot into about a Size 5 slipper?

We try to “fit” into social groups.

We try to “fit” into workplace cliques.

We try to “fit” into love relationships.

We try to “fit” into careers.

We try to “fit” into age groups and mindsets and lifestyles.

We try to “fit” where we simply do not belong and have no place being.

Author and TED Talk speaker, Brene Brown, says, “Fitting in, I’ve discovered during the past decade of research, is assessing situations and groups of people, then twisting yourself into a human pretzel in order to get them to let you hang out with them.

A human pretzel.  Corns. Pinching. Ouch!  Don’t we realize how painful it is trying to “fit?”

Brown goes on to say,Many of us suffer from this split between who we are and who we present to the world in order to be accepted, but we’re not letting ourselves be known, and this kind of incongruent living is soul-sucking.”

I think the split is not just between who we are and who we present to the world but rather between who we are, who we present and who our Father has designed and called us to be.  God has called us collectively as His people and He has called us individually to specific roles and responsibilities.  Trying to “fit” into roles contrary to His calling is like slapping God in the face and telling Him that He doesn’t know what He is doing. Now, there’s an ouch for you!

Examples of how He has called us as His people are found throughout the Scriptures:

  • Matthew 11:28                      We are called from labor to rest.
  • Matthew 5:14, 1Peter 2:9     We are called out of darkness into light.
  • 1 John 3:14                           We are called from death to life.
  • 1 Corinthians 7:15                We are called out of turmoil into peace.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:9                  We are called from loneliness into the fellowship of Christ.
  • Galatians 5:13                       We are called from bondage to liberty.

God also extends to us a personal invitation to a unique and special task He planned just for us as individuals. Seek to know, understand and “fit” that plan. How? First, you must have a personal relationship with His son, Jesus Christ. (Click the tab SALVATION at the top of this page if you don’t have or don’t know how to have a relationship with Jesus.) If you already have a relationship with Christ, then seek to know His plan by praying, reading His word, meditating, seeking Godly counsel and, listening.

One size fits all is a lie about pantyhose and about most other things in life including God’s calling. He has a plan just for you, and when you walk in the way that He has called, you will find it to be a perfect fit – no corns and no pinching!