Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

10.15.2010

A Bitter Breakfast


One beautiful morning on our trip we were savoring a leisurely breakfast in our Grand Canyon hotel. I was sitting at a table with Sandi and Ron, visiting with them, and the rest of the family was at the table only a little ways away. We were enjoying potatoes and eggs and sausages and cranberry juice—and, suddenly, yelling and screaming. I swung my head around, completely confused, to discover a British brother and sister, livid over an imagined insult, shrieking at my mother and father. In as calm of voices as could be mustered under the circumstances, Mama tried figure out what was going on and Papa jumped in to defend his wife when they continued to rant. Before you could even say “bizarre” the twosome were storming out of the breakfast room, leaving a horrible curse word to ring in our ears. Our breakfast cooled as we stared at each other, open-mouthed, and furtive glances were stolen by our fellow breakfasters at us as they wondered, eggs still mid-air on their forks, “What was that all about?”

We wished we knew. It was completely surreal—that a family you had vaguely noticed walking by your breakfast table would stamp by later to engage you in a public display of fury. We were flabbergasted, shocked, and saddened.

For the rest of the day Mama prayed, “God, if you want me to see them again so I can do something to make this right, please bring us across each other’s paths!” But God in His wisdom didn’t arrange such a meeting, and we never saw each other again.

I’ve been thinking about that situation a lot lately, especially in light of another similar situation I’ve been dealing with with a person who recently hung up the phone on me in anger, refusing to listen to what I had to say. Through my mind ran a refrain that many of you have doubtless played: “I didn’t do anything wrong, and here so-and-so is getting angry at me, and so-and-so raised his voice at me! and don’t you feel sorry for me? All right then--let's have a pity party to celebrate the wounded and deeply offended.”

After all, since duels aren’t an option anymore, what is there left to do besides have a pity party when someone hurts you horribly and undeservedly?

You could always become a living object lesson of Proverbs 18:19: “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a castle.” You could tell the story to whomever you meet to garner sympathy, and then when it’s all worn out you could anticipate the next time you see your offender and nod and smile at them in righteous self-control, but still keep track in your head of exactly which offenses have yet to be taken care of. And then you could become a wizened 80 year old woman or man, still caught up in the bitterness of half a century earlier. Other 80 year olds have done as much, so why not you?

Or you could go at it a different way. You could examine yourself in honest humility, and take care of any fault on your side. And, should you discover no fault at all (other than looking at someone across a breakfast room), you can make that faultlessness excruciatingly clear, and then shove the whole matter aside and forget it. Or try to.

But is that enough? To take care of any wrongdoing on your part is the Biblical first step, but leaving it at that is like stopping one hundred yards short of the top of Mt. Everest.  I have been dealing with this very issue, hesitating at this very point, knowing that this is the moment in which Satan is rubbing his hands together in eagerness—poised to creep in with bitterness. The devil wants to create for himself a stronghold in my life on the property of “I didn’t do anything wrong and she hurt me!” I just have to open the door to him.

But Romans 12:19-21 offers the only gameplan worth adopting. “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

When I was little, I used to twist even this verse, viewing coals of fire as another scheme for revenge. It was after all the best, most efficient way to get back at someone, and I could never get into trouble for drowning the sibling or friend with my syrupy kindness while they growled at me in exasperation to “quit acting weird.” It worked every time, but I didn't really grasp the heart of the concept. If I had looked up Colossians 3:13 I might have gained a better understanding by reading what it has to say: “If anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”

And today, the Lord knew exactly what verse I needed to really and finally drive the heart of the matter home. I have been struggling over forgiving someone who treated me rudely, over leaving my offense with God and forgetting it. I have been struggling over loving the one who offended me. I have been repeatedly begging God, “Give me forgiveness for this person! Remove any bitterness from my heart!” while still holding on to the offense just as tightly. I have been doing all that over one small hurt, but Jesus looked down from that cross and saw not just the whole world but me, still in my sin which was causing Him so much pain, still rejecting Him and spitting on Him, and even still He said, “Father forgive her.”

Even as He was in the most excruciating pain imaginable, “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’ (Luke 23:34)”

I am humbled beyond words. “Princes persecute me without a cause, But my heart stands in awe of Your word. (Ps. 119:161)”

And so, as a dear friend reminded me recently, I will pray for those who may have wronged me in small ways.
I will pray that they will be blessed richly by God.
I will pray that God will give me a love for them and a desire to see them successful.
I will pray that God will be with them through whatever situations they are going through that may have caused their reactions.

Life is too short to be offended and not forgive. Life is too short to offend and not make it right. Life is too short, but eighty years is too long to wait.

Picture Credit

3 comments:

  1. Lauren, When we examine ourselves daily and wonder about the encounters with others, we will always want to meet those we must have offended, so we can right the situation. Thank you for your thoughts.

    Linda

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  2. Wow! That's so thought provoking. Unfortunately, forgiving someone or forgetting a grudge is one of the most difficult things to do, I believe. True to the saying, I can forgive, but I can't forget.

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  3. Lauren, that is a very challenging yet encouraging post, forgiving others can definitely be one of the most difficult and humiliating things to do, but very worth it!
    Thanks

    Abigail

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