Tuesday, July 7, 2009

it takes practice

Jesus said, "Therefore, anyone who
hears these words of mine
and puts them into practice
is like a wise man who built
his house on the rock."
Matthew 7:24 (NIV)

Is it truly possible to make forgiveness my first response every single time I am offended by another?

I think so. With God's help. And yet, it still requires effort. And practice. Lots and lots and practice.

But, here's the thing I've already found. The blessings I reap when I make forgiveness my first response are immediate.

This is one of God's truth's that don't necessarily require a season or more of waiting for the seeds to produce a bountiful harvest. The only thing that may take seasons (or years) is learning how to forgive every single time.

The day after God began to teach me His deeper truths about forgiveness, He gave me an opportunity to really put it to test.

I needed to grab a few things from the grocery store in order for Chelsea to make the traditional 4th of July flag cake.

Just as I picked up a pint of blueberries to inspect, a loud, angry voice caught my attention. I couldn't help but look up and listen.

Across the produce section, I watched sadly as a man began to verbally assault his wife. From what I could tell, he was not happy that she wanted to purchase a bag of prepared salad. At least I'm assuming that was the reason behind all of the expletives punctuating his irate comments.

I took a deep breathe and felt my brain try to process what I was witnessing.

My initial reaction was honestly to stare until they realized they were being watched. I'm not sure what good that would have done, but perhaps it would have put an abrupt halt to their "discussion."

Perhaps if I ran across the man elsewhere in the store, I would have given him a "well-deserved" dirty look. After all, by that point, I would have believed anything that Pride was telling me to do.

If I was "lucky," I would have happened upon the woman shopping alone so that I could find some way to encourage her. Granted, my look or words wouldn't have been pure, because Judgement was already having it's way with me.

I know all of this because the previous week I had allowed my flesh to steer my shopping cart, with Pride and Judgement whispering in both of my ears. I had turned down an aisle just as a young couple became frustrated at their toddler son.

He was riding in one of those race car grocery carts and clearly having a hard time being still and quiet. His mother snapped, "Tyler! Knock it off! Now!" Of course, he didn't listen.

The next moment, the father kicked the race car. The little boy cried as though he himself had been kicked. I almost joined him in his tears.

The scene broke my heart. I felt for this family, clearly overwhelmed and struggling. The grocery store has the ability to bring out the worst of all of us.

While I understood the father felt out of control and frustrated, I admit to not having kind thoughts towards him. The mother saw me and pretended that nothing had happened.

I had no idea what to do and so I gave the little boy the most encouraging smile and sad face I could, praying it conveyed lots of empathy and love. And then I tried my best to pray for this family.

Forgiveness wasn't my first response and therefore my spirit and flesh began to battle.

I've had bad days before. I personally, try not to shop with my children because I know that my brain requires me to focus fully on either my children or my task at hand. I'm just not a patient person when I've got a long list of items to locate and purchase at the lowest price.

I honestly was trying not to pass judgement, but the justice part of me really wanted to do something to protect that sweet child.

I was trying to be godly, and yet my flesh was rearing it's ugly head. And there I was, stuck in the muck of sin.

As I thought back to the young family and the trouble I allowed my flesh to get me into before, I knew there had to be a better way. God's way.

I chose to forgive. In that moment, Pride and Judgement were defeated.

I whispered a pray in my heart of forgiveness for this man's choice to hurt his wife. And I forgave her for not being able to set a healthy boundary. I prayed that the Lord would bless their marriage. That He would bring healing and forgiveness between them. I prayed that He would give them fresh joy and love for each other.

And then I moved on to pick out my strawberries. My spirit was at peace. Instead of planning how I could bump into the couple in order to sneer at the man, I felt myself praising God instead.

As I left the produce section in search of a white cake mix, I came face-to-face with the man! The next thing that happened felt like an absolutely miracle. And really, it was.

Deep within my heart sprang an overwhelming sense of love and compassion for him. I found myself looking into his eyes and a warm smile spread across my face before I even knew what was happening. There may have been some tears of joy as well. :-)

It felt so real. So good. So pure.

This was not my flesh. This was not me. This was Jesus coming alive in me.

It happened in just a split second, and yet, as I pushed my cart past this gentleman, I felt his spirit soften. God was working; I felt it within my spirit. Something miraculous happened in that moment.

I knew in that instant that I longed to experience God's love working within me more and more. I long to be like the good soil that receives the seed Jesus taught about in Matthew 13.

I realize it's going to take practice and a lot of grace and patience. Change doesn't happen overnight. However, every single day I am faced with countless opportunities to make forgiveness my first response. Towards others and myself.

I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE because God gives me opportunities to learn from my mistakes and try again.

Thankful for His love,


emily said...

This sanctification stuff is hard huh?? Love your insight and encouragement friend. :)

Chantelle said...

Lovely story.

Andrea said...

"Pride and Judgement whispering in each ear"... it's no wonder we can't hear God sometimes huh? Oh that's so me! Thank you for posting this, what a wonderful reminder and conviction.

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

I always find it interesting how God is willing to keep giving us opportunities to learn His lessons & sometimes they are so obvious and I'll still muck 'em up.

~ Wendy