Some thoughts on forgiveness

I didn’t go to Bible college or Seminary. I don’t have any degrees in theology. I just have my own brain, Google, some books that smart people wrote, and the Holy Spirit. So this, and many of my other, posts on God and Christianity are just a product of those 4 tools being wielded by a dumbass aka me. So if you get something out of this, it either means I’m smarter than I look or… you’re a dumbass too. Let’s hope it’s the former. If you don’t get anything out of this, be assured that it was written by a dumbass and mosey on down the road.

Being me, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering forgiveness. I’m a rule keeper by nature. (First born child here.) So when the Bible says we have to forgive, I take it pretty seriously.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6:14-15

This verse always scared the piss out of me. I want to be forgiven! I’m not always the nice person most people assume I am. (I’m such a good faker.) I have shit that needs to be forgiven. (Like including the words dumbass and shit in this post, knowing it will probably offend some people. Sorry.)

So if I have to forgive people in order to be forgiven myself, I want to know exactly what forgiveness is so I can make sure I’m doing it right. Now, I know I’m not the only one out there who thinks this way. I’m sure all you other rule keepers are just like me (and the other Pharisees) who want to honor the letter of the law but not the spirit of it.

The Lord said:
Because these people draw near with their mouths
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me,
and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote

Isaiah 29:13

Dang, this verse makes that sound bad…. Oh well….

I wish knowing this verse had stopped me from trying to forgive “perfectly” but it didn’t. I’ve read a lot of verses on forgiveness and reconciliation. I’ve even written a blog post on reconciliation. (I’d like to say I went back and read it before writing this one but I’m far too lazy for that.)

As I tried to dissect forgiveness, I used all the tools available to me. I did word studies on forgiveness, forgive, forgiving. I used the Greek Lexicons available online to help me really get down to the definition of the word so that I’d know if I was doing it right. I thought of different parables and teachings of Jesus and tried to apply them.

And finally, after much thought and study, a new understanding of forgiveness came to me and it’s this understanding that I’d like to share with you. I should note here that I don’t feel this is a complete understanding of forgiveness. It’s just where I’ve landed on the subject for now and I thought it might be useful to someone else besides myself.

(Or you can skip this lengthy post and just read the summary at the end. Your call.)

Let me start by sharing what I always believed forgiveness to be for much of my life.

Forgiveness meant not being angry anymore and acting as if nothing had ever happened. It also definitely meant continuing in relationship with the person who hurt you. Someone wrongs you, you say “that’s ok”, smile and move on. The offending party might have to apologize to get the ball rolling but that’s the extent of their involvement in the process. Forgiveness, to me, was really about corralling my own feelings and making them stay in line.

But what happens when the offending party does something a lot more heinous than accidentally smashing your toe or yelling at you when they’re in a bad mood? What happens when they repeatedly belittle you, gaslighting you for years or try to break up your marriage? What happens when they spread lies about you or steal from you?

A big part of me believed for a long time that I had to swallow all of my hurt and anger, push it down, say “that’s ok, what they did was wrong but I’m going to forgive them”, smile and then keep having a relationship with that person. Wasn’t that what forgiveness meant?

Forgiveness seemed supernatural to me and nearly impossible to achieve. Every time I started to think I wasn’t angry about something anymore, I’d remember what happened and all the feelings of hurt and anger would resurface. Then the guilt would come because if I was still hurt and angry then I clearly hadn’t forgiven. It was a terribly vicious cycle of pain.

But being hurt many times in my life offered me many chances to try to learn how to forgive. And the last 2 years have been wonderful instructors on how to forgive in the midst of hurt and pain.

So what have I learned the last two years that changed my view on forgiveness?

It’s less “something I learned” and more “something I didn’t know I already knew”. But God is good (all the time) and the Holy Spirit knows when to lay an egg in your brain and heart. And I can honestly say these last 2 years have been full of learning eggs dropped into my soul.

I no longer think of forgiveness as an emotion corral. I see it a lot more as a financial transaction now.

Remember the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant? I’m going to put all the verses right here in their entirety but if you’re anything like me you’ll skip the verses and continue reading. That’s fine. I’ll summarize.

23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Matthew 18:23-35

If you skipped the verses and need the summary, here it is:

Basically there was a servant who owed a boat load of money to his king. He couldn’t pay the king so the king ordered him to be sold as a slave to try to recoup some of his money. But the servant fell on his knees and begged the king, promising to pay him back. The king relented but instead of making the servant pay him back he just forgave the whole debt.

After leaving the king’s pad, the servant runs into his fellow servant who owes him like $30. He flips out on the guy. Of course, the second servant begs the first servant to have patience with him, promising to pay him back. But the first servant is a royal douche and throws the guy in prison instead of having mercy.

The king gets wind of all this and calls the first servant back into his royal chambers and says, “WTF, bro?!? I forgave your debt, why didn’t you forgive your fellow servant’s debt?” And then in his kingly anger, he hands the first servant over to be tortured until he could pay back his original debt.

It’s pretty heavy stuff. But this parable really got my mind revving about debt and forgiveness.

I grew up saying the Lord’s prayer. Not often but often enough to have it memorized. And when I said the Lord’s prayer I always said, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Did you know that many of the translations of Matthew 6:12 (that part in the Lord’s prayer where we ask for forgiveness), don’t use the words trespass and trespasses but translate “opheilema” as debts.

And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Matthew 6:12

Opheilema is a Greek word that actually means, “that which is owed, that which is justly or legally due, a debt; metaphorically, an offense or sin”.

And so I thought, what if forgiveness simply means, “you don’t owe me anything, your debt is paid”. What if instead of being a pushing down of anger, it is actually a releasing of debt? That seems to fit with the parable, doesn’t it?

This led me to another thought: if forgiveness is about releasing emotional debt, then what was owed? If someone owes me a debt, a debt that I then forgive, what did I lend them in the first place?

And so we arrive here.

What if every time you have contact with someone, you are actually loaning them a small piece of yourself? Here is a little part of me, it might be small and almost insignificant but it’s a part of me and it is fragile. Please treat it with kindness.

We don’t just give away a part of ourselves to our friends and family. But to strangers as well. We present ourselves to the cashier behind the counter or to customers at our job or to the receptionist at the doctor’s office. Our interactions may be brief but still there is a small part of us left unarmored that has the potential to be damaged. All we ask of the people we encounter is that they treat us with kindness. In most casual encounters, we receive that little piece of ourselves back undamaged and we go on with our lives.

But with friends and family we give more and more unguarded pieces of ourselves. Pieces we cannot hope to have returned to us quickly. We loan them these fragile, quivering pieces of ourselves and ask only that they be gentle and return them as undamaged as possible.

But no one is infallible and damage happens all too often and all too easily. So we look to our friend or our family member and say, “I loaned you a piece of myself but you’ve damaged it and you are unable to return it to me whole. You owe me a debt.”

A debt of what? A debt of repair to the damaged piece of self? A debt of repentance and apology? Should the one who did the damaging offer a piece of themselves as payment? Only the damaged one knows what would satisfy the debt. But a debt is owed. And only the damaged one can say when the debt has been paid.

In most healthy relationships, there doesn’t really need to be a wrestling of conscience and a quibbling over forgiveness. One person says, “You’ve hurt me.” And the other person says, “I’m so sorry. Let me make repairs.” A give and take ensues and the two repair the damage and nothing more needs to be said.

But in unhealthy relationships, when one party is hurt, the offending party often does nothing to help repair the damage and may even insist they did no damage. It is then left to the hurting person to resolve the problem on their own. This is where the hemming and hawing and quibbling comes in. How do you know if you’ve forgiven someone if they make no effort at all to apologize, repent, change and help heal the damage?

Thankfully, you don’t have to do this alone. You have the Holy Spirit and hopefully a friend or two that can help you with the healing process. As you heal you must then ask yourself, “What do I need from ‘so and so’ in order to be healed?” If the answer is “nothing”, I believe you have released them from their debt to you. When the memory resurfaces, bringing the pain afresh, don’t believe you didn’t forgive them. Instead, take the time to assess yourself and ask, “What do I need from them to be healed?” If they still owe you nothing, you have forgiven them.

But just because you forgave them doesn’t mean you have to trust them.

Forgiveness is free but trust has to be earned.

24 But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.

John 2:24-25

I bring you now to a parable that I never connected to forgiveness until recently.

The Parable of the Talents.

Again, I’ll quote all of the verses here but you can totally skip over them and head straight for the summary. (That’s what I would do.)

14 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Matthew 25:14-30

As quickly as I can: a wealthy landowner was going on a journey and he called 3 servants to him before he left. He gave them each a crap load of $$$. One servant received 5 talents (some say a talent was about a year’s worth of pay, others estimate it was considerably more than that), one received 2 talents and the third received 1 talent. In the parable he gives no instruction on what to do with the money, he just leaves. But still the first servant invests the money and receives a return of 5 more talents so that he has 10 talents (math) when his master returns. Similarly, the second servant invests his 2 talents and doubles his money as well. But the third servant was afraid of his master, so he decided to bury the one talent to keep it safe.

When the master returns, he is, of course, delighted with the first two servants and gives them both promotions in Wealthy Landowner Ventures LLC. But when the third servant shows the boss what he did with the talent, boss gets pissed. He’s like, “Bro, why didn’t you at least put it in the bank so it could draw interest? Why bury it?” After that, he takes the talent from him and gives it to the first servant with the 10 talents.

Brutal.

But informative. If someone is being a good steward over the piece of you that you gave to them, go on and give them more. But if someone is an unfit steward over that piece of you, release them from their debt to you but don’t give them any more.

What I’m saying is: you can forgive someone but you don’t have to trust them again. Forgiveness and trust are not interchangeable. Though I grew up believing that to forgive someone meant that I also must give them my trust once again, I no longer believe this. I can forgive, release them from their debt to me and also discontinue the relationship. Remove the talent from them and give it to someone who has earned it.

Some people are not good stewards of other people’s hearts and emotions. Recognizing that someone is a toxic element in your life does not mean that you hold unforgiveness toward them. It means you recognize that they cannot handle your fragile, quivering pieces with the care, kindness and gentleness that you need and you distance yourself from the harm.

Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.

Proverbs 4:23

Maybe like me you were taught that guarding your heart meant trying to keep it pure and unstained from sin. But I posit that guarding your heart means rescuing it from the ones who would do it harm. Not entrusting ourselves to them.

So what is unforgiveness then?

If forgiveness is letting go, then unforgiveness is holding on. I do think unforgiveness can be both accidental and deliberate. But I think the only unforgiveness we should be worried about is the deliberate kind.

Deliberately choosing to not forgive looks like making a conscious choice to remain wounded by the transgression and allowing the wound to fester and poison us. It means choosing to let the transgression have so much power over us that we cannot let it go, we are bound to it and it to us.

It looks like Bowler Hat Guy from Meet The Robinsons.

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He was once the adorable and lovable Mike Yagoobian. But he let the wound in his soul fester and rot him from the inside out. It destroyed his life and every relationship he ever had. His inability to forgive nearly destroyed him.

This was a deliberate choice. Here is a clip of him talking to himself. (Time travel.)

Choosing not to forgive does more damage to ourselves than it does to the person we are holding a grudge against. In fact, the person we’re not forgiving may not even know that we have a grudge against them. And our plot to destroy them by hurting ourselves doesn’t ever really work out the way we thought it would. (Seriously, just watch Meet The Robinsons.)

But accidental unforgiveness is different. The wounds are still there. They are still festering. But the difference is, you are actually trying to heal and let go, not stay wounded and hold on.

Anyone who has suffered a serious injury knows that even when the injury seems to be healed, even something minor can set back the healing process. I’m actually experiencing this right now with an achilles tendon injury that just won’t seem to heal completely. But I’ve decided I need to head back to the doctor as soon as possible to have it looked at again. Because that’s what you do when you have an injury. You see the doctors and you do the exercises and the physical therapy or the mental therapy. I bought expensive hiking boots a while back just because I wanted to help the healing process along. It’s not completely healed but the boots have helped.

When we are dealing with emotional wounds that just won’t seem to heal, the process of forgiving might be a “more than once” process. And that’s ok. We may think we’ve forgiven it all and then something minor sets us back again and we have to go another round with the healing process. This doesn’t make us like the wicked servant who wouldn’t forgive his brother’s debt. This doesn’t make us Mike Yagoobian aka Bowler Hat Guy. This makes us humans who are fragile and sometimes take longer to heal than we would like.

If you find yourself having to revisit a past wound and deal with it all over again, don’t beat yourself up. Remember that you have the Holy Spirit who is your teacher and comforter to guide you back through the healing process again. And that healing process should ultimately lead to letting go of that emotional debt/baggage. Don’t be surprised if it takes more time than you thought it would to let it all go. And don’t worry that you’ll be thrown out into the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Stop worrying if you’re getting forgiveness “right”. Instead, focus on the healing process. Focus on the Holy Spirit.

Summing up…

  • Forgiveness is not about corralling our emotions and pretending everything is fine.
  • Forgiveness is more akin to an emotional financial transaction.
  • We loan pieces of ourselves out hoping to receive kindness and gentleness.
  • But sometimes the piece we give to others becomes damaged.
  • When damage occurs, a debt is owed by the one who did the damaging.
  • When we release that person from their debt, we are forgiving them.
  • Forgiveness is, therefore, a release, a letting go.
  • There are times when the person who does the damaging is not able or interested in helping to repair the damage.
  • It’s then left to the damaged person to work on the healing process on their own with the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit.
  • Forgiveness and trust are not interchangeable.
  • Just because you forgive someone and release them does not mean you have to trust them.
  • If someone is a poor steward of you heart and mind, sever ties and move on.
  • Deliberate unforgiveness can be more damaging than the initial wound.
  • Don’t be Bowler Hat Guy, be Elsa. Let it go.
  • Accidental unforgiveness is more like an injury that just won’t heal.
  • Don’t give up on the healing process. Keep up the work to bring about the healing.

 

New Song: Cold Ones

Here’s a new song for you. I know it’s been a while. It’s called Cold Ones. It could be about vampires or it could be about trying to accomplish what we think of as the “rules” with our own strength. It could be about the people who indoctrinated others with their own sense of self-loathing and sense of right and wrong out of fear. Fear of hell, fear of death, fear of a judging and vengeful God. It could be about those who recognize the reality of sin and darkness and choose to fight against it with their own armor instead of nestling themselves into the arms of God and letting God protect them.

I wrote this song mostly because I’ve been thinking about 1 Corinthians 15:56 a lot lately.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

Sting here means weapon like a bee stinger. So the weapon of death is sin. And sin gets its power from the law. But Jesus fulfilled the law for us. So sin has no power anymore. So death no longer has a weapon against us.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades.

Revelation 1:17-18

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Jesus defeated death. We can stop focusing on sin now and stop trying to save ourselves, buy our own salvation. We can focus on Jesus. We can just enjoy him and our relationship with him. He has forgiven our debt. We don’t have to try and keep paying it back. It doesn’t exist anymore. The debt has been erased. Forever.

I don’t want to be a “cold one” any longer, someone trying to warm themselves with their own strength. And I don’t want to teach my children to do that either. Or have them believe they must behave a certain way to be loved by God. I want to shed my “protective” overcoat and receive my warmth from the loving arms of God, not from my own abilities and behaviors.

So here is Cold Ones.

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Let Me Be Clear…

If I have not accurately said it before, let me attempt to do so now: what I want is Jesus.

I want Yeshua. All of him. All of who he is. All of what he means. All of how he loves.

I don’t want your interpretation of him. I don’t want MY interpretation of him. I don’t want my pastor’s interpretation or my husband’s or the pope’s.

I want him.

What does that mean?

For me that means questioning everything. I question what I’ve always believed, what I’ve always been taught, I question what I professed to believe 5 minutes ago. Because being open to being wrong is the only way I’m going to find Jesus. I will always question and wonder and ask why. How else will I find him?

There are a lot of questions out there. He has the answers. I can study the Bible until I’m blind, listen to sermons until I’m deaf, pray until I’m hoarse. But I won’t find him completely in those things. Not completely. He is and is not in the Bible. He is and is not in those sermons. He is and is not in those prayers. He is so much more. Because he is alive. He is dynamic and complex and wild.

And he loves beyond a measure I can understand.

Yes, God created the world to be a certain way. I will agree with that. But what that way is? I have yet to know for certain.

All I know with any real positivity, is that Jesus is love. And I don’t understand what love is. But I want to.

Love Yourself

Did you know it’s totally ok to love yourself?  It’s in the bible, “Love thyself” 1Bonnie 1:1. Ok, that might be in the apocrypha.

Anyway, I wrote a song about loving myself and not letting the world use me as a punching bag.

 No weapon that is fashioned against you shall prosper,
    and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord
    and their vindication from me, says the Lord.

Isaiah 54:17

Hopefully, you will see the wisdom in this and listen to the song and then tell all your friends about it. (Share it on Social Media and the Social Media Fairy will bring you a golden basket of unicorn kisses! So don’t forget to Like, Comment and Share!)

xoxox

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Dear World I’m Going Back

 

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A new song and a question

Working on a new song this evening.  Fun times.  The song is below.  But, first, I have a question for you: who would come to my house if I did a show and played some of my songs?  I have a lot of songs and most of them no one but my family has heard.  I’d really like a play them for people some time.  So I guess I’m just curious, would anyone come?  Drop me a line if you’d like to come to my house and hear some of my songs.

Here is the song, btw:

I’ve Known Jesus That’s How I Know

 

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You beautiful creation, you, let’s abide

You are a unique, one-of-a-kind creation, made in God’s image, carefully hand crafted by God himself in your mother’s womb. He programmed your DNA, wrote your software, designed your hardware and made sure that you wouldn’t be like anyone who has ever existed. He knows how many hairs are on your head right now and how many you lost in the shower this morning. He knows the name your parents gave you, the one you secretly call yourself and even the one you don’t know about that he alone calls you. He knows when you took your first breath and when you’ll breathe your last.

You are a unique, one-of-a-kind creation.

< Insert Sarcasm Here >

And now that you’re a part of God’s family, we’d like to show you what it looks like to be a unique, one-of-a-kind creation, hand-crafted by God. You see, he likes his unique creations to all look unique in the same way. There are rules, standards, protocols.

I know that we told you that God loves you just the way you are, and he does, please don’t get us wrong, but now that you’ve accepted that love, we believe you should strive to look and act the way that we do, according to how we’ve interpreted the Bible. Yes, we know that others who call themselves Christians have interpreted the Bible in different ways, and we believe they love Jesus, they are just misguided, bless them. There is only one way to interpret scripture and we’ll teach you how.

What about grace, you say? You have grace, it’s a free gift from God, it absolves you of all past sins. But now that you’re a Christian, don’t you think you should try to quit sinning and live like Jesus and the apostles? They are the example we were meant to follow and we are the body of Christ, meaning we represent Jesus here on earth. If we don’t strive to live good lives, how can we expect God to bless us and insure our place in heaven? After all, everything we do on earth is getting tallied up to decide how many jewels are in our heavenly crown and how big our mansion will be. Don’t you want to hear Jesus say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant?”


Oh beloved… Remember your first love.

2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.

Revelation 2:2-5

Do you remember when you eagerly sat at the feet of Jesus because your heart was a puddle and you knew only he could restore you? Do you remember when you absorbed teaching like a sponge and prayed for anything that moved or breathed and the first note of a worship song could bring you to tears before anyone started singing? Do you remember yourself before you woke one day to the knowledge that you were learned and scholarly and knew more about the Bible and God than your peers? Do you remember when you still believed we were all unique, one-of-a-kind creations, hand crafted by God?

When did we stop believing God made us unique and start believing there is a pattern, a mold, that we must fit to be a “real” Christian? When did we start measuring our faith, not by our love, but by our knowledge and righteousness? If God truly made us unique, doesn’t that mean that someone else might live out their faith a little differently than you? Should we keep judging ourselves by the standards Paul laid out nearly two thousand years ago in a different world and culture? Women should not teach, slaves should obey their masters… Have we learned nothing?

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:1-5

If you are a branch, you cannot prune yourself. The vine grower/dresser does the pruning. If you are a branch, you cannot prune another branch. The vine dresser does it. Only God does the pruning… Let me say that again for those in the back… ONLY GOD DOES THE PRUNING. It is not up to us what gets pruned from ourselves or from anyone else. We must simply abide.

It is the simplest and yet hardest thing to do: abide. But to grow, to really grow, that is what you must do. Get your eyes off the other branches and focusing on growing.

1 “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

Matthew 7:1-5

Beloved…

I am shamefully and woefully guilty of this. But my deepest desire is to go back to the beginning, find my first love, sit at his feet and simply abide.

Unique, one-of-a-kind, beautiful beloved… will you abide alongside me?

He fights for me…

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

Exodus 14:14

All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.

1 Samuel 17:47

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12

All of my life in Christ, I have been taught this: Our fight is not with people.  Our battle is with spiritual forces who are out to piss in our cheerios.  The battle belongs to God and he will fight for us.

This is true.

All these things are true.

And maybe I’m just a twisted sister, but I’ve always added an addendum: God will fight for me, if I’m in the right and have done everything right according to scripture.

And I obsess over this.

If I am in a disagreement with someone, if someone is angry with me or if I even suspect someone is angry with me, I obsess over every detail of the situation.  After all, God will only back me up if I’m right, right?

Hard to believe as it is, sometimes I don’t see eye to eye with other Christians.  This happens for multiple reasons ranging from “I’m a prideful monster” to “they’re a festering anus.”  When you’re at war with someone who is not one of your sisters or brothers in Christ, *sarcasm* obviously God will be on your side because you’re on his side and that other person is a hell-bound, sin-baby.  But whose side does God take when your war is with someone who is ALSO on God’s side?

Eenie, meenie, miney, mo.  Catch a brother by the toe.  If he repents, let him go.

How does God choose whose side to take when he fights for us?  The bible says he’s gonna fight for us.  So which one of us does he fight for?  Obvi, he chooses the brethren or sistren who is the most righteous and who is clearly the most biblically and scripturally right.  This is why it’s SOOOOO important to be caught up on doctrine, really know your B-I-B-L-E (that’s the book for me), and practice your theological knowledge prowess at all potlucks, life groups, family gatherings that include sinful relatives, and times when you trap a newcomer in that inescapable corner in the foyer at church.

false

That was sarcasm.

THOSE WERE BAD IDEAS.

Here’s the truth that was revealed to me as I walked into Walmart to buy strawberries:

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Wait for it…

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God is on BOTH of our sides. *GASP!*

Even if we’re wrong.  *DOUBLE GASP!*

And….

We’re probably both wrong.  *GASP GASP GASP!!!*

Also….

He’s on the side of the evil, hell-loving sinner we are hypothetically in a fight with too. *A LOT OF GASPS!*

Ok.  No more gasping.  I’m getting winded.

Brennan Manning said this:

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While I’m stewing in my tower of self-righteousness, secure in my ability to live rightly better than everyone else, God is loving me.  And he’s loving the person I’m fighting with in my mind and heart.  And he’s fighting for me.  And he’s fighting for them too.  And he’s fighting for the sin-babies too.

God fights my battles for me whether I’m right or wrong.  Whether I’m righteous or sinful.  Whether I love him or not.

He’s not fighting against the person I believe so clearly deserves to feel ashamed and repentant.  He’s fighting against the spiritual forces whizzing in my cheerios.  He’s fighting against my selfishness, pride, greed, gluttony, and hate.  He’s battling the forces that want his children to tear each other apart limb from limb.  He’s battling the forces that want to keep his creation, his beloved ones, in the dark.

His fight is with the withered foliage and dead branches.  He’s pruning me.  He’s pruning you.

So.

(I say as I slowly spin around to face you in my opulent, plush, faux-leather [cruelty free, baby] desk chair, my large, Persian cat purring loudly, relaxed but not asleep, my fingers pressed together lightly in steeple formation under my chin.)

This idea changes things.  For me, at least.

Now when I’m hurt, wounded, depressed, angry, scared, instead of taking comfort in the fact that I did everything right and can stand before God with a clear conscience, I will take comfort in the fact that I even if I did everything wrong, I can stand before God, secure in the knowledge of his love, secure knowing he’s fighting for me.

And that person… my sister, my brother… the “sinner”… God is fighting for them too and he loves them too.  We’re all, ALL OF US, in the same boat.  The love boat.  He loves us all the same.  And he’s fighting for all of us the same.

I don’t have much more to say.  I could quote a bunch of scripture but honestly I’m too lazy.

let me sum up.jpg

God is fighting for you BUT NOT BECAUSE YOU’RE RIGHT AND THEY’RE WRONG.  He’s fighting for you because he loves you.  Even if you’re a festering anus or a prideful monster.  He loves us as we are and not as we should be.  Because no one is as they should be.  He’s fighting cheerio-pissing-in spiritual forces and he’s fighting your own pride and sinful nature, pruning you.  He’s fighting darkness NOT PEOPLE.

I don’t know, but that’s pretty comforting to me.

Thanks for reading.  Peace out, prideful monsters. XOXOX