If there were a meter by which to measure introversion, I’d register in the hermit zone. That means few people other than my wife and father know me well. While I prefer it that way, it’s often frustrating, especially where sharing my faith and talents are concerned. Not surprising then that I blog, journal, and post my original tunes on the web.
From time to time the Father has given me a friend with whom to break bread real and spiritual; someone to listen, offer wise counsel and encouragement. A friend is one of God’s greatest gifts as we make this pilgrimage through life.
The wounds from a friend can be trusted; but an enemy will smother you with kisses (Proverbs 27:6).
A true friend will point out an issue, that on my own I’m blind to or simply refuse to deal with. Anger is one such issue. Decades ago, a friend observed when it comes to dealing with anger, I do a “slow boil”. Eventually that simmering pot of upset within me would boil over and I became “hell on wheels” in dealing with every unjust situation or person who had wronged me.
Upon that all-too-familiar battlefield, the grace and peace of Yeshua takes a stand against the scars and injuries I’ve accumulated over a life time and the wearisome struggle to forgive those who inflicted them. These issues, together with the all-too-frequent reenactment of epic battles from my past, have taught me that perfect love is not possible without wisdom, understanding, and forgiveness. I can’t say whether scripture says that succinctly; however it is written “love keeps no record of wrongs” and in the end, when imperfection has faded away, it is the fruit of faith, hope, and love that remain (1 Corinthians 13).
The word “perfect” (G5046) used in 1 Corinthians 13, refers to maturity; specifically, when in Christ we have spiritually grown up and been made like Him in character and understanding. That same Greek word (G5046) translated “perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13, is translated as “men” in 1 Corinthians 14:20.
“Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men” (1 Corinthians 14:20).
In other words, the Father wants us to grow up whereby we see and relate to this world with maturity, the way He does; for us to see and relate to everything with His mind. There was a time under the old covenant, when the Father dealt with sin wrathfully: fire and brimstone, floods, famine, plague, earthquakes and the like. That is to be expected when the mediator between judge and defendant is the law and the only remedy for infraction is punishment. But then the Father sent the Son, through whom He struck a new covenant: grace. By paying the price for sin, we are reconciled to the Father who views us through his Son, our new mediator. As the Father has reconciled us to Himself, He also intends for us to be reconciled to our brother (Matthew 6:14-15, 18:21-22, et al).
But how can we forgive, unless like God, we view our brother through the grace of God in Christ? That I believe is why Paul wrote:
… we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:2).
There’s that word “perfect” again; used in the context of renewing our minds with the mind of Christ. To that end, Yeshua said:
Be perfect (mature) even as your father in heaven is perfect (mature) (Matthew 5:48).
His ways are higher than our ways; His thoughts higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). We are not to lean on our own understanding, but His (Proverbs 3:5-6). Accordingly, every believer should aspire to the thoughts and ways of God. He calls us to God-like maturity; to see and relate to this world the way the He does, with patience, kindness, humility, truth, grace, faith, hope, love, etc.
I don’t have what it takes to forgive
Despite knowing these things, I find I cannot forgive completely without first having Godly wisdom; in particular, understanding the purpose of God in allowing me to be hurt and injured in the first place. In the flesh, I tend to view hurt and injury as a bad thing; something undeserved or unjust. Naturally then, my flesh seeks to right the wrong and avenge the injury.
But what if God intended good to come of it? Like Joseph who said to his brothers who beat and sold him into slavery: “What you intended for evil, God intended for good” (Genesis 50:20). Possessing the mind of God concerning the great injury inflicted upon his life, Joseph was able not only to forgive his brothers, but to provide for them in a time of famine. To that end, Paul writes this word of truth:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28 KJV).
All things. ALL things. In every hurt…every injury… every sin committed against us, God is able to work good for us.
But I need to forgive
I’ve long carried a multitude of hurt and frustration with regard to my wife’s family. Often rebuffed for simply trying to belong, I did a “slow boil” for nearly 20 years. Many times on the drive home from a family gathering I complained to my wife about some incident and she’d defend and make excuses for the behavior of her family. Time and again I did my best to “let it go” and put on a happy face whenever we visited next.
But then came the day when the one who has always held a special place in my heart cut me deepest with a cruel word. It was my “et tu, Brutus?” moment with my wife’s family; a wound that burst my bubble, ending any hope I had of ever being embraced, respected, and honored as a member of her family. Never could I earn my place and clearly what I hoped for would never be given.
When finally my “slow boil” boiled over, I tearfully confessed to my wife that it felt like she cleaved more to her family than to her husband which enabled them to dismiss and disrespect me. I hesitated to tell her the hurtful words I’d kept to myself for so long, and when I did I asked her not to say anything, but to simply be watchful on my account. Naturally she ignored my request and confronted the person, who denied it thereby making me out to be a liar to my own wife. And that in turn, burst my wife’s bubble with that family member.
We limped along for a year or two after that, but our visits with family began to change. It was after one particularly obnoxious dinner at a family holiday gathering, that I told my wife in no uncertain terms “I’m moving back to Washington. I hope you’ll come with me.” She was shocked but quick to reply “did you think even for a moment I wouldn’t come with you?!? Silly husband.”
Understanding the work of God empowers forgiveness
Two years after returning to Washington, I see clearly now why God allowed all that to transpire. First and foremost, He wanted me to stand up and be the man in this family; to stop deferring and abdicating my responsibility in decision making to my wife and by extension, my wife’s family. Second, He wanted my wife and I to leave our family of origin and cleave to each other; something I was reluctant to do for all the pressure to submit to family tradition, etc. Third, He wanted to teach and bless us through submitting to and relying upon Him in our new home.
Thus with Godly wisdom, I not only see why all that was allowed to transpire, I am grateful for it all. My marriage is better than it has ever been. Cleaving together with my wife and the Holy Spirit is a blessing more wonderful than I can describe. There is a peace and wonder now as if we have been swept away by the river of God, carried into greater revelation and blessing with each wave. Had we remained where we were, submitted to the collective will of our family and their traditions, we may never have come to possess the joy and freedom we have now.
Perhaps it could be said that God, whom scripture says is a jealous God, was jealous for the devotion we gave to our family and wanted it for Himself. And so He allowed such behavior toward me and my wife to motivate us to get up and get out of our situation and go with Him, wherever He would lead.
And now the wisdom and understanding of God has enabled me to say to her family with a pure heart “You are forgiven; You are loved”, and best of all: “Thank you!”
Up next? Dealing with my flippin’ family. 😯