I dropped Grace off at school this morning, and was treated by Beloved with a brief opportunity to talk to her teacher from last year. In brief drop-offs and pick-ups, I developed a sweet friendship with the teacher and two class helpers who worked in Gracie's classroom. Mrs.Ritchie repeated this morning what she had told me often last year - I'm one of only few people she'd want her grandbaby in the care of, how glad she is that I'm in Grace's life, how much she likes me.
It's not me. I know that. There are so many things about me that I hide from people - so many places where my sin overwhelms the developing reflection of my Lord. But to be reminded that there are those places where some people know and see the grace and love I've known in my Jesus ... I'm so thrilled that I am growing in those places enough for it to show.
Every now and then, the Lord snips back that growth, like I snipped back the fresh green growths from the bushes in my front yard yesterday. It doesn't always make sense. Why cut off the new growth on a plant that you want to see growth on? Grace asked me that very question yesterday - in her 4-year-old words, of course. "Why are you cutting the plants leaves?" How to I tell her that the plant only grows thick and full if I trim back the overgrowth? Would she understand that those extra long branches and leaves are using resources that the plant needs to use in other places? Will there be a time that I can show her the thinness and weakness under all the growth of a plant allowed to grow out of the control of its owner?
I don't want overgrowth in my life ... but I don't like being pruned either. Pruning hurts, and often doesn't make sense to me. Learning to forgive is one of the places where God continues to prune me and train me. Like so many of my friends I have been deeply wounded by others in my life. Abandoned by a beloved husband. Rejected by leaders I trusted. Ignored or overlooked by family and friends I depended upon.
...And then there are the enemies. I'm a nice person ... I think. I'm so laid-back and accommodating and people-pleasing, how is it possible that I even have enemies? But I do. Some are enemies because of my stupidity or sin. Some became that because of their own shortcomings and sins. Often it's just the result of two sinners with expectations and plans colliding in a hard, sin-filled world.
How do you forgive an enemy? Forgiving any offense is hard, but how do you forgive someone whose ongoing mission seems to be to make life difficult ... oppositional ... miserable? How do you forgive when someone keeps on offending? What does it mean to forgive that kind of person?
Oh wait ... did you think I had an answer? My sister asked me that question some weeks ago. She's struggling to forgive her ex-husband. He infuriates me, and I hate the ways he hurts my sister and nephew. Who am I to tell her how to forgive him, when I am struggling to forgive him?
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners....But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:6,8 (NLT)For me the only thing that has worked is to stay focused on the undeserved grace God has shown me. I know how messy I am ... how awful I could be, and sometimes am. I know what it means that I am a helpless sinner, unable to control my self-serving impulses and totally without concern for how my indulgence affects anyone else. I know! To know what I am capable of, and to see how God has dealt with me ... that is where forgiveness and grace begin for me.
A decade ago my life was forever scarred when another woman came into my husband's life and wooed him away from me. My husband chose to love another woman, and it broke my heart and shattered my life. I already loved him, so forgiving him, although it took a long time to consistently do, could be built on all the things in him that I had come to love and admire over the years with him. But her? Forgiving her has been hard.
Look at Jesus. Look back at me. Forgiving me should have been hard ... was hard. Proof of that are prayers in a garden to be spared the weight of my sins ... the weight of my guilt. Is He asking of me anything He has been unwilling to do? Do I believe that He can walk with me through this difficult choice? Can I forgive the person in my life whom I would most like to see justice dealt out to? Do I trust God to show her mercy, just as He has shown me mercy?
To the Other Woman
Lisa A. Baker
Women of old
With stories untold
Mere glimpses of lives we see
When I take a look
In this ancient of books
A snapshot in them of me
Yet tonight I saw there
A new kind of heir
To the legacy scripture can weave
Now I must release
My resistance to peace
So my hate can forgiveness relieve
For you are like dear Hagar, proud
Should you be rejected and cry aloud
El Roi will hear your humbled plea
And prove to be the One who sees
And you are like Rahab of old
Whose intervention still is told
Despite disgraceful reputation
Was used to bring the world salvation
You are Bathsheba, mother to kings
Gomer with heartache in her wings
You are the woman before the crowd
That insisted stoning was allowed
At times I wondered at this lot
So used by God though to men naught
These women I’ve seen with prideful eyes
Disgusting sins—then I realize
That I am like them in some ways
For any goodness God be praised!
But you are like them somehow too,
Should I not love like God loves you?