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Monday, August 27, 2007

Violet or Stink Bug?

Philippians 1:6 “… he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Mark Twain once said, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”

I read that about three times. Such a complex image: so sad, and yet so colorful and aromatic, so … Christ-like—not because Christ was a fragile victim, but because he was so filled with the Holy Spirit that he radiated the essence of the Father even in crucifixion.

I realized that when someone crushes me, I emit an aroma similar to that of a ... stink bug.

Unlike the stinker, however, I may not reek as soon as I'm crushed, but by and by, the foulness will circulate.

For example, if you offend me, I may not speak to you for a while, just long enough to communicate my anger and punish you a little.

Or perhaps I will not come to your defense when someone criticizes you. I may insinuate that you’re a less-than nice person, not to be trusted. Or maybe I will cut you out of my life entirely.

Here's a creative stink: Just for spite, I could become “anti” to the thing about which you’re “pro”: Recently I read about a high-profile divorce where the ex-husband said the first thing he did when the divorce was finalized was flip on every single light in the house and leave them burning. Why? Because his ex-wife was a staunch eco-activist!

What? Could a Christian respond in such ungodly, immature ways?

I'm afraid so. But, because I know that in following Christ there is no room for this kind of behavior, I often sacrifice my right to outward retaliation. Notice I said, "outward," as in "observable by others." Instead, I may hide resentment in my heart. This secret, private grudge allows me to maintain a semblance of holiness for the outside world while relentlessly punishing you (a deception, of course).

Oh, is this an ugly confession, or what?

I’ve been thinking about forgiveness lately because I’ve noticed that there are one or two people who evoke visceral responses when their names come up or if I see them across a crowded room or remember some grievance. It happens before I can even think.

When I recoil, I am reminded that real forgiveness is a process. True, there was a point in time that I made a conscious decision, through the Holy Spirit’s prompting and power, to let go of the offense. But sometimes I find I hit speed bumps if I proclaim, “All is forgiven” before I’ve done the honest, gut-wrenching admission and submission before the Father. And other times I find that memory is a powerful thing, and I must begin again to forgive.

There have been people I’ve completely forgiven, and those I haven’t, and I can feel the difference, if I’m honest. I have come to the conclusion that there are some I will probably have to forgive on a daily basis because my flesh so badly wants to listen to the accuser, Satan.

This article is “messy.” I feel like I’ve rambled a bit, but in a way, that’s appropriate because forgiveness can be messy; it can meander and get stalled and fall apart.

The key for me in combating temptation to hang on to unforgiveness (or any sin) is taking my eyes off of the offender, off of my own broken heart, and looking directly at Jesus, who gave up every right to hold us forever guilty. He loved us in spite of our rejection and mistreatment of him, in spite of every sin man would conceive and relish in embracing. He loved us in spite of … fill in the blank to infinity!

Therefore, when I am not confident my ability to let go, or in the completion of forgiving another, I bring the offense, the offender, my sinful heart and my forgiving process before his throne, and I know that he who began good work in me will be faithful to complete until the day Jesus returns or until I enter eternity, when all crooked things will be made straight, for his glory.

If you are struggling with forgiveness today as I am, join me in turning your eyes toward Jesus and praising him with me as the things of earth grow strangely dim—because He is truly worthy!

Please visit my personal blog at 2nd Cup of Coffee.

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Anonymous Lynn said...

Oh Linda,

Thank you for sharing about this topic today. I needed it.

I truly have found authentic forgiveness has freed me from so much bitterness.

I see bitterness wrap up and criple many of my own family. It breaks my heart.

This is an awesome post. Thank you for your honest heart. Love, me

August 27, 2007 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Denise said...

Bless you precious one.

August 27, 2007 at 7:09 PM  
Blogger Heth said...

Wow. That's some good stuff Linda. Thanks for your honesty. It really resonated with me.

August 27, 2007 at 10:09 PM  
Blogger Laurel Wreath said...

And it can be so sneaky. Our attitudes so sly. That is how the enemy works. Thank you so much for this post and great reminder how we need to be on guard and be forgiving.

August 28, 2007 at 8:48 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

very good article.Forgiveness certainly can be a toughy. When I struggle with unforgiveness, I pray for the Lord to give me a compassionate heart towards the person. He answers my prayers and I begin to pray for them. Then the forgiveness comes.((hugs))

August 28, 2007 at 11:48 PM  
Anonymous Pam said...

Great post! I really needed this today! Thanks. Pam

August 29, 2007 at 9:35 PM  

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