Extending (and Witholding) Forgiveness

imagesThen Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21)

Jesus answers Peter’s question with a parable of a man who was greatly forgiven, then refused to forgive a much smaller debt. Whether the debts against us are big or small, I wonder: How often do we not extend the forgiveness, grace, and mercy that God has extended to us?

I know, it’s easier to carry a grudge, to hang on to the hurt. It’s easier to remember the offense and recall it in a way that might punish the other person. We might want to hold the person in a cell, trapped by what he or she did.

But in that process, we trap ourselves, too. We can only truly experience the freedom we claim for ourselves and also extend to others.

Extending (and witholding) forgiveness is, in reality, accepting (or rejecting) freedom.

Should You Stay or Should You Go Now?

move-on-breakupIf anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town. (Matthew 10:14)

When have you had to walk away from a situation, at least for a season?

When have you been able to reconcile a strained relationship or misunderstanding?

When have you been hurt by rejection?

 

We often use today’s verse as justification for moving on, and moving on is important at times. When we are in an unhealthy situation, we need to move on. There are times, we get to go back, when we are healthy enough to deal with the situation with new coping strategies, but that’s not “going back” as much as “moving forward” with new tools.

In this verse, we often focus on the “if anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet,” leaving the rest of the sentence hanging. The word when stands out to me. It indicates that perhaps there is purpose in not leaving immediately at times. If we were always to leave immediately, wouldn’t it finish with “and go immediately from that house or town”?

Only God can help us discern when to stay and when to go. Again, it we’re being hurt or threatened, we need to move on and get to a safe place, but this situation is a little different. It refers to the situations in which we are trying to share Jesus’ story with others. It doesn’t say we try once and give up. It also clearly doesn’t say we stay an unlimited amount of time and keep trying. But when we discern the best time to leave, we shake the dust off our feet, which means we move on without any regrets or hindrances. We focus on the next house or town. Who is to say God won’t have us loop back to that house or town later, but for the season, we need to move on. There is something ahead that needs our focus, and if we live in the guilt and regrets of “what if I had said something differently,” we’ll miss out on our next opportunity. When we follow Him well, we do so with our whole heart, embracing when and for how long He tells us.

 

Set your phone alarm to every hour today. When it goes off, ask if you are where God wants you to be. Adjust as He guides throughout the day.

Regret vs. Resentment

regretRegret can be productive. It reveals what you wish you had done differently but can motivate change. You’re not satisfied with the way something is, and you decide it’s worth the effort to do something differently. You apologize, restitute, forgive, and move forward. Regret gives you the opportunity to turn away from one thing and toward another.

But resentment is related. It’s another option. It can be the same situation, but resentment makes you stuck. You can’t let go of it. You’re not willing to move until…(insert all the requirements you’ve placed on people involved).

The difference between regret and resentment is personal responsibility and humility. Regret recognizes you might not be able to change something, except the way you respond. Unlike resentment, it doesn’t place demands on others; regret invites the possibility of personal change. And isn’t that the only way we’ll grow? If our lives are dependent on what others do, what choices do we really have?

A lot. We have a lot of choices, including whether we resent or regret. Whether we get stuck or move on. Whether we see ourselves as a victim or victor. Whether we give up or have hope.

Let regret motivate you to move from where you are to where you can be. You might still be in a similar situation but with a different attitude, because you can allow regret to help you change. We are all capable if we are willing.

You’re A Hoarder

bf9dbf97ea8051bc052f2ea2d6268d3eI’m a hoarder. You’re a hoarder. He’s a hoarder. She’s a hoarder. Wouldn’t you like to  be a hoarder, too?

Remember the Dr. Pepper commercial from the 70s? It invited us all to come together in our commonality of drinking Dr. Pepper…although I never cared for it much.

We might have more in common, even in ways we don’t want to admit. Like hoarding.

Anyone who knows me will immediately argue, “You? A hoarder? No way!” I don’t have piles in my house. I go through the mail as soon as it comes in the house and immediately toss anything not essential. I don’t have a dozen (or any) storage units. But I’m still a hoarder.

We all hoard something. Sometimes it’s junk that piles up and becomes a tripping hazard, either physically or emotionally. Other times, it piles up and helps build a firm foundation.

Maybe you hoard friendships. That could be good, if you treasure and care for them, but it could also be bad, if you get territorial and overlook other important areas of your life.

Maybe you hoard memories. That could be good, if you appreciate what you’ve had and learn from the not-so-great moments. But it could also be bad, if you get stuck in the past and refuse to grow forward.

Maybe you hoard status and accomplishments. The influence you have on others along the way could be positive…or negative.

Look around (and inside yourself). What do you hoard? Are you building a solid foundation and continuing forward, or are you constructing a confusing obstacle course?

 

The Words Weren’t True, But They Had Power

“Everything that goes wrong in this church seems to have your name attached to it.”

The words stung. I knew they weren’t true. I knew they were being spoken from a place of hurt during a rough season in this person’s life, including challenging situations at church.

I knew the words weren’t true, but they still entered my ears, my mind, and my heart.

Even though I knew the context in which the words were spoken, and I was able to let go of every other word-dart thrown at me during that conversation, that one sentence stuck with me. I caught myself second-guessing my leadership decisions, filtering and re-filtering my words before speaking, carefully choosing which ideas to share and what discussions to emphasize, especially when this particular person was involved in any way. I didn’t want to give her any more ammunition.

But I already had. I had given her some power in my life that I didn’t need to relent. I knew what she said was untrue, but I went on the defensive, avoiding words and situations instead of living offensively. I don’t mean offensively as in aggressively attacking. I mean simply moving forward. I didn’t want to offend her, but I didn’t need to avoid her and her allegations either.

To be honest, those words were said in such a heated moment that she probably doesn’t even remember them. It wasn’t as if it was characteristic of her. Why would I isolate something in her life? In fact, isn’t that what she had done with me in some way?

Perhaps I should thank her. After all, the second-guessing, filtering, and carefully choosing that I consequently did wasn’t all bad. It was good exercise in discernment and patience. It probably helped some relationships and interactions, not to mention my patience and humility.

No matter what, there is always something to learn in every situation. I’m thanking God for His reminder…and I’m moving on.