Tag Archives: Forgiveness

HOPE

hope-blog-3

The Path to Reconciliation

“Inner peace can be reached only when we practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the past, and is therefore the means for correcting our misperceptions.” ~Gerald Jampolsky

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.’ (Exodus 20:12 NKJV)

Although February contained many special days – to show love, to reflect on black history, and to celebrate our presidents – for me, it has been an opportunity to celebrate my birthday and to thank God for another year; to seek His guidance; to open my heart and my mind to the new changes I feel that He wants to accomplish in my life.

I’m a creature of habit, so I never really anticipate this time of year. Routine brings comfort and real change presents a challenge for me. It becomes a test of my faith, a chance for me to trust God, and now, an opportunity to develop a heart filled with hope.

I want to figure out what the Lord is up to this year. Some days I sense turmoil, a disturbance that forces me to cling to Him and trust that whatever He does will make my life better (Romans 8:28).

So, I’m praying that God will help me do as my friend Jo reminded me – “To remember that HOPE is an indication of certainty and that it’s also a strong and confident expectation.”

As I anchor my hope to the Lord, I’m learning to say to Him, “Yes.” To accept the lessons and tests as they come; to rely on the Holy Spirit to transform my character, day by day, helping me to become more Christ-like.

Allowing God to mold me prompted me to write about this difficult subject. I tried to avoid it, but it pressed against me until I decided to release it. To let go. To obey. Continue reading

Grace

Grace

Redeeming Grace

 

Sometimes it is easy to look around and find people or situations to criticize. We voice our opinions, rail against injustice, and spew out harsh words because we believe we can solve all the problems.

We also want the world around us to operate in a way that makes us comfortable. We desire total control.

Occasionally, we vent our anger and let others know how we view their lives. We want them to line up and live their lives according to our rules.

We feel smug when we think we have all the answers.

I know. I’ve been there.

However, when we are blindsided with personal trials, our haughty and self-righteous tendencies evaporate. We learn the true meanings of compassion, humility, forgiveness, and mercy. How to walk in love and extend grace to others. How to surrender total control to the Lord.

Recently I found myself in a horrible predicament, torn between two people I love very much. I think both of them had the right to be angry and to feel betrayed and hurt. I wanted to find a way to intervene, to help them reach an understanding, to get to a position of peace.

How?

Would there ever be a place of grace and mercy for each of them? I saw pain, sorrow, regret and fear on one face. An expression of panic that said nothing could ever make the situation right again; that peace would never be found.

The other person’s face reflected frustration, hurt, rage, hardness, and despair.

Reconciliation? Not in this lifetime, I thought.

I didn’t think there would ever be a time when they could walk into the same room without tension building and everyone walking on eggshells around them. The issue could explode and destroy their relationships with everyone around them.

What could I do? Was there a way for me to step in without losing? Even though I saw the offense, I also understood the need for forgiveness.

I felt stuck. I didn’t see a way to move forward.

So, I prayed, asking God for wisdom.

Then, I read the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery (see John 8:1-11).

I tried to imagine myself in the middle of the scene. What would it feel like from both sides – the guilty one and the judgmental one?

On one side, I would be the one face down and sobbing, scared and shivering because I have been forced to confront my shame, my degradation, my sin. The city’s elite surrounding me, watching with scowls on their faces. Glad it’s me and not them.

Or maybe, I’m on the other side, part of the jeering crowd. Gleeful and feeling self-righteous because I caught someone red-handed, and I can’t help myself. I rail and jeer right along with the rest of the group. Shouting my judgments and hoping the sinful person will get it.

But wait a minute. It feels like someone is holding up a mirror in front of me. He asks me why I have the right to sit in the judge’s seat. Why I feel the need to point out the wrongs I see in someone else’s life. Is my life perfect? Am I without flaws, shortcomings, sin?

I want to say, “But…” and I can’t. My justifications get caught in my throat. I consider the things no one else knows about, and I feel my own shame. I remember the times I begged for mercy, and I want to cry.

I see myself as I really am. Flawed? Yes. Broken? Yes. Forgiven? Yes!

Covered by God’s love and mercy, and understanding His grace is the only reason I’m not eternally condemned.

I have a decision to make. Will I extend grace? Or will I become rigid in my judgment?

The same words Jesus spoke to the woman’s accusers, He speaks to me, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7).

This passage helped me realize that all of us are like the men who judged the woman and wanted her stoned to death.

When we allow God to purify our lives, He helps us see our true selves, and it can leave us feeling ashamed that our Maker sees into our cores. He knows that what is there is often shameful, degraded, dark and nasty. We realize that we need forgiveness because we have hidden and unconfessed sins.

If we were in the scene, we would also drop our stones and walk away because we know that we could easily trade places with the woman.

Thinking about the lesson in this story gave me peace about the difficult position I found myself in. I couldn’t take sides. I could listen, pray, and stay neutral. I could offer advice when it was asked of me, and I could share what I’ve learned about God’s grace over the years.

He will always remain faithful and get us through whatever trial comes our way. We may feel like we won’t survive, but when we keep our trust and focus on Him, He will help us each step of the way.

I’ll never say it’s easy, because living with chronic pain and illness has taught me how to endure in the face of hardship, despair, fear, and weariness. And that is to rely on God to shower me with love, grace, mercy, and strength.

And the most important lesson I can share is how the love of Jesus covers all sin. So, both people I love can receive forgiveness and rest in the power of Christ’s redeeming love. He will enable them to reconcile, and to extend His grace to each other.

It may take a while. There may be tense times when they need to hash thing out, but if they stick with it and keep Christ in the center, I’m sure they will find their resolution.

Finally, I have peace, knowing that the entire situation rests in the Lord’s hands.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to pray and remember the grace that Christ continues to bestow on me.

Prayer:   Heavenly Father, we come to You for help in our relationships. It is so easy to take sides and be judgmental, but You want us to walk in love. So, we ask You to help us and show us how to be peace makers and examples of Your grace and mercy.

Grace

Grace

Accepting An Apology With Grace

A recent encounter with one of my doctors made me recall the times my sisters and I enjoyed telling each other, “Told you so!” or, “I knew I was right!” We were competitive and bossy little girls, but as we grew older, we matured and found it easier to let go of the need to always be right and started to support each other without judgment.

I wish I could say that this form of grace automatically extends to every area of my life, but I keep realizing that I need to grow and… that takes effort.

God continues to stretch me as I look for evidence of His grace at work in my life. And while I’m facing a new set of chronic issues, I am surprised that they helped me see God’s grace from a new point of view.

What have these issues exposed?

The difficulty I have in gracefully receiving an apology, and also how relying on God provides the strength I need to walk in love.

You see, I had been on an eighteen-month quest to discover the cause of increased back pain. I went through several tests and countless appointments. But my doctors seemed to dismiss my questions and concerns, even when I kept a diary and discussed the new symptoms and tried to describe how this pain was different. No matter how much I tried to get them to understand, they seemed to think I was going through an intense flare.

I lost weight and felt myself becoming depressed, like I was out of options. Hopeless. Finally, I admitted this to my doctor. “How can I continue living like this? I feel like I’m losing control!”

“I’ve never seen this level of discomfort on your face,” she told me. “You never look anxious when you come in, no matter what you are dealing with.”

We talked as she examined me and I agreed to see a doctor in the physical medicine department. The doctor there approached my case from a different angle. After several more tests, the physical medicine doctor confirmed my suspicions – a change in my lower spine.

I needed a consultation with a neurosurgeon.

He reviewed my tests and told me, “These discs are pinching your nerve in a weird place. This is the cause of your pain.” He laid out a treatment plan and schedule. “If things improved, surgery won’t be needed.

When I returned to my regular doctor, she walked in the room and said, “Mrs. Love, I owe you a tremendous apology. I am so sorry! I should have been a better advocate for you. Even if you couldn’t describe the difference between the pain, I should have probed and kept asking questions until we identified the problem.”

I felt vindicated!

I wanted to shout and tell her that I knew all along she was wrong and I was right, but I couldn’t. I felt a prick in my heart.

The anger I wanted to hold onto evaporated. Sympathy replaced it as she spoke from her heart. I heard the pain, sorrow, and regret.

We reached a new level of commitment and made peace. I believed she would not stop trying to help me find relief.

As I sat on the exam table that afternoon, I knew God wanted me to extend grace to her. To show mercy. To remind her how much I valued her as my doctor. To accept her apology with compassion.

“Thank you.” I shook her outstretched hand. “At least we know what I’m facing. Maybe we can get it handled.”

In that moment, I gained insight. She symbolized the times I approached God, my heart broken, because I’d failed, yet again. I deserved His wrath, but the only thing I felt was love and mercy – not the condemnation I deserved.

This journey with my doctor made me think about my life. The times I sensed God’s warning that something needed addressing. Times I brushed off the feeling or totally ignored it. Believing everything was OK. Failing to pray and seek God, to find out what He was trying to tell me.

I would go through my days, convincing myself that I was right whenever I felt conviction. Then, all of a sudden, I heard a sermon, read a book or passage of scripture, and came face to face with my shortcoming, my sin.

The shock of being wrong, of walking in disobedience and rebellion, always took the air out of me, causing me to repent, to beg for mercy and to ask for the strength and courage to change.

Was my doctor any different than me at that moment? No. We were on equal footing.

I had to graciously accept her apology, and to pray for her, asking God to give her the wisdom she needed to help me. To pray that my heart would remain open to each and every lesson He brought into my life.

This encounter with my doctors shows me that mercy and grace are intertwined in our lives. God bestows them on us lavishly. How can we refuse to let them flow to others?

 

Prayer:  Lord, we thank You for Your grace and mercy. For Your love that covers all of our mistakes and failures. For Jesus, our Savior. Never let us forget the cost of our salvation. Teach us to walk in love and harmony with the people in our lives.

Scriptures for Reflection:  Matthew 6:1-14; Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 6:37; Luke 7:36-50; John 8:1-11; I John 4