When reconciliation​ is not possible

Sticks and stones might break my bones, but name calling hurts too. Whoever penned the old rhyme that claims verbal abuse packs a smaller punch likely wasn’t called too many names.

Forgive and forget is another phrase perhaps spoken by some well-intentioned person. It all sounds good on paper but is so much harder in practice. What if the offender isn’t sorry, or worse, refuses to stop? What if the perpetrator is stuck in a pattern of sin that continues to hurt you? What if the culprit is dead and can’t be sorry?

No one wrote a rhyme about this.

These thoughts stir my soul and bring anger to a boil. It’s harder to forgive an unrepentant person. It’s harder to forgive when the world tells you that your anger is justified. It’s harder to forgive when it costs you so much. But forgiveness always comes at great cost.

Forgiveness isn’t free

“Mercy and forgiveness must be free and unmerited to the wrongdoer. If the wrongdoer has to do something to merit it, than it isn’t mercy, but forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting the forgiveness.”

~ Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God: Recovering the heart of the Christian faith.

Christ freely extends forgiveness, but it cost Him much. It wasn’t fair. It physically hurt, but he loved us too much to withhold it. He died for us while we continued to sin. Someone always pays for forgiveness.

This time that someone is me.

God has called me to set aside my rights and seek Him. He has asked me to do the hard work of cultivating a heart that forgives those who don’t know, appreciate, or understand how their actions have affected the people I love and me.

The beautiful truth

I can forgive someone who isn’t sorry because Christ forgave me. I didn’t deserve it back then when He died for all mankind, and I certainly don’t deserve it now. Yet, I’m forgiven.

The good news that brought me to a saving knowledge of Christ requires me to apply that good news to every moment of life. God can and will provide for my needs and answer my heart cry as I seek His face. Christ died for the sinner who wronged me and died for the sinner that is me. He loves us both.

We must work out our salvation in moments like these. We must turn toward God and repent of our bitter hearts and trust that He is all we need. As we do that, the anger, disbelief, and rage—yes rage—will lessen.

The kind of surrender God asks of His children isn’t a one time, say it right, get it right, never have to do it again deal. Trust me. I wrote a book about it. It’s ongoing. It’s a daily dying to self. It is a choice we make because we love Him because He first loved usThat makes today a good day to die to self for the glory of God. There is no right that I can surrender on earth that I will regret in glory.

Lord, may it be so.

 

 

Nail-Pierced Tires

He propped those screws right up against the tire. Three times, they punctured. Three times, we limped our way to the mechanic for a patch. Three times, he saw the damage, the inconvenience, the interruption to our day, but never connected his action to the events until the mechanic handed over the screw.

The brother encourages him to tell, because “it is always better to tell,” instinctively knowing that confession is good for the soul.

He scrounged up all the courage his little frame could muster and spoke the hard-honest truth. It was his fault.

My heart swelled at his courage, his decision to speak Slide1and believe what we have been repeating for years.

Our family…

…says what we’re sorry for…

…never stays angry…

forgives.

With trembling lips, he waited to see if our mantra was true. Fearful eyes understood what we didn’t need to say. This was big—bigger than anything he could fix on his own. Worse still, he had no excuse or reason. Equal measures of boredom and curiosity set the plan into motion. Forgiveness, should he receive it, was undeserved, unmerited, and unearned.

Undeserved. He punctured those tires as much as my sin punctured the hands and feet of my Lord. We are both stained with sin.

Unmerited. Grace is the unmerited favour of God toward me. Grace is the best response to his hard-honest confession. He might not deserve it, but one thing I know for sure is that I certainly don’t, yet here I am, drenched in God’s grace.

Unearned. Even with all the coins in his piggy bank, he couldn’t pay for those three patches. It had to be done for him. And even with all of humanity’s good works stacked from bottom to top, the price of sin is still more. It has to be paid for us, for me.

Together we stand as recipients of undeserved, unmerited and unearned forgiveness. Praise the Lord!

*from the archives

Nail-filled tires and nail-pierced hands

He propped those screws right up against the tire. Three times, they punctured. Three times, we limped our way to the mechanic for a patch. Three times, he saw the damage, the inconvenience, the interruption to our day, but never connected his action to the events until the mechanic handed over the screw.

The brother encourages him to tell, because “it is always better to tell,” instinctively knowing that confession is good for the soul.

He scrounged up all the courage his little frame could muster and spoke the hard-honest truth. It was his fault.

My heart swelled at his courage, his decision to speak Slide1and believe what we have been repeating for years.

Our family…

…says what we’re sorry for…

…never stays angry…

forgives.

With trembling lips, he waited to see if our mantra was true. Fearful eyes understood what we didn’t need to say. This was big—bigger than anything he could fix on his own. Worse still, he had no excuse or reason. Equal measures of boredom and curiosity set the plan into motion. Forgiveness, should he receive it, was undeserved, unmerited, and unearned.

Undeserved. He punctured those tires as much as my sin punctured the hands and feet of my Lord. We are both stained with sin.

Unmerited. Grace is the unmerited favour of God toward me. Grace is the best response to his hard-honest confession. He might not deserve it, but one thing I know for sure is that I certainly don’t, yet here I am, drenched in God’s grace.

Unearned. Even with all the coins in his piggy bank, he couldn’t pay for those three patches. It had to be done for him. And even with all of humanity’s good works stacked from bottom to top, the price of sin is still more. It has to be paid for us, for me.

Together we stand as recipients of undeserved, unmerited and unearned forgiveness. Praise the Lord!

Secrets and Sin

Secrets can eat away at the soul and whisper unworthiness. They can woo the broken into dark places where the fear of discovery, the fear of admitting imperfections and struggles with sin, leave many shuddering in the shadows. So, we cover our sins, our worries, with good works, pretending we have always been so grown-up, so pulled together, so perfect.

So untrue.

Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,…”

All. You. Me. Everyone.

I struggle with my sin nature. Specific sins have caused me great grief, shame, and regret. But, right when I feel hopeless, right when I feel beyond the redemptive reach of God, I read the beautiful words in verse 24:

“…and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Justified freely by grace through redemption. And fear is overcome by the God who sees me and my sin through the redemptive lens of His Son. He declares me beautiful and clean.

My sordid history, your sordid history, is part of a story about a God who died for us while we continued to sin. Bringing hidden sin into the light, confessing and repenting, does what nothing else can. It illuminates our desperate need for grace and forgiveness. It reveals that anything good in you or me is the result of God’s mercy in our life. It shows us what God has known all along, we need a Saviour.

And His name is Jesus.

*from the archives

 

I hate you!

It happened. Everyone told me it might one day but no one can really prepare you for the day your child growls, “I hate you.”

He was in time out. Again.

Fighting angry. Hands fisted. Jaw clenched. And snarling those dreaded words.

I. Hate. You.

Imagine, just for a minute, the anger that must have been pumping through his heart to prompt the most hurtful words his young mind could imagine.

All directed toward me.

Now imagine his shock at finding me right behind him, absorbing the slam of each syllable. Words he likely thought in the past but never dared to voice until today. His eyes widen. He steps back. His transparent expression screams regret.

Then, shock turns to confusion. Utter and complete confusion as the target of his anger drops to his level, gathers his rigid, shocked form into her arms, presses lips against his ear, and whispers, “I will always love you. Even if you hate me. Even if you continue to disobey. Nothing can ever take my love for you away.”

I kiss his temple and walk away. I blink back tears against the deeper stinging truth.

I am just like my son.

My words drove nails into Jesus’ hands, words spoken aloud and uttered in the sinful folds of my heart. My attitude thrust spikes through his feet, attitudes of pride, self-sufficiency, and a stubborn refusal to yield. My anger put a crown of thorns on His head and there is no hiding any of it from God.

But He gathers me in His arms, presses His lips against my ear, and whispers, “I love you. My love does not depend on you, it depends on me. There is nothing you can do that will ever change my deep and great love for you.”

A heartbeat thunders in my chest. Sorrow washes over me. Regret. Shame.

A small hand tugs at my sleeve. A repentant voice seeks forgiveness. I pull my little man into my arms whispering assurances of love and I understand a little bit more of the joy our Father must feel over repentant, surrendered hearts.

*from the archives

When forgiveness costs more than you desire to pay

He was lying, and she knew it, but she couldn’t prove it.

After 30 minutes of tears and denial we suspected she was right. But, he clung to his lie like a drowning man, misplaced hope in concrete shoes.

Fearful eyes flashed. Will he be exposed? And what will be the consequence for his dogmatic refusal to repent?

And they face off. Neither budging. Voices rising. Tears flowing.

I tug her aside to consider forgiveness. Undeserved, unmerited mercy gifted to him because she loves him. She can’t make him confess or apologize, but she can forgive him KNOWING he is wrong and unrepentant.

Her wet tears dampen my t-shirt as she considers the cost of letting go of her righteous anger. Forgiveness always comes at a cost.

“Mercy and forgiveness must be free and unmerited to the wrongdoer. If the wrongdoer has to do something to merit it, than it isn’t mercy, but forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting the forgiveness.”

~ Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God: Recovering the heart of the Christian faith.

Christ freely extends forgiveness, but it cost Him much. It wasn’t fair. It physically hurt, but he loved us too much to withhold it.

A shuddering cry. She wipes her cheeks. We pray for his repentance. Pray that God does the work we cannot force in the heart of the boy we love. And it is better this way because when God does it, it is done. It is real and it changes you.

And more than her way, she wants lasting change.

She faces his indignant stubbornness and freely extends what will cost her much.

His eyes widen.

A tiny smile turns up the corner of her lips. A hug is exchanged. One is set free. One is weighed down with conviction.

And the sun sets three times before he gathers the courage to fix what he broke. With a trembling frame, he stands before her. “I did it. I lied. It was wrong and I’m sorry. Next time I will be honest. Will you forgive me again?” A single tear marks his cheek. A lower lip quivers, the full weight of conviction heavy on his heart.

She smiles wider, tugs him in, fully restoring what sin had broken.

Stone Filled Pipes

Our furnace shut off in the night causing the temperature inside the house to drop to an uncomfortable degree. A morning spent trouble shooting revealed an unexpected problem. Four year old hands had stuffed stones and gravel into the furnace exhaust pipe. Stones that could neither be dumped nor removed.

Deep breaths.

Was I angry? You bet! I had a good idea which mischievous boys under my care had been playing in the stones and they had been warned multiple times not to touch or play with those pipes.

Thankfully God interrupted my internal rant. As a mother, every moment of every day I am teaching. Whether I recognize it or not, act purposefully or not, choose wise words or not, I am teaching.

What does this moment teach? About life? About God? About forgiveness?

A 4-year-old boy will never tell an angry adult the truth. Anger breeds fear and he will lie to protect himself. Feigning calmness to turn on him afterwards breeds distrust.

Abstract ideas like forgiveness solidify when taught in the moment.

It took about 45 minutes for me to ask the question with a proper heart. The boys were honest, repentant, and sad they caused so much damage. They understood this was big and they didn’t need me to raise my voice or shake my finger to drive that point home.

A call the furnace company further revealed the repair cost. Yikes!

More deep breaths.

What did they boys learn in this moment? Hopefully more than just to leave the pipes alone! I hope they learned that I am a safe, trustworthy person – even when they mess up. I hope they learned that forgiveness and grace can be expected because I have experienced them. I know what it is like to stand before the judge aware of my sin yet hoping for undeserved grace.

What did I learn?  Children respond to gentle corrective discipline while outright anger intensifies their defiance.

Okay, I knew that already.

But on this day I had the chance to live like I believed it and it made all the difference in the world. I hugged the boys, told them I love them, told them I forgive them, and that we all make mistakes. Now we learn from them and move on.

They ran off to play and I walked into the cold, cold living room to wait for the repair man. A smile appeared out of nowhere. Anger evaporated. Grace in the moment.

Thank you God.