A Funny Thing Happened On The Phone: Grace
Recently, I shared a personal situation that had me chained down over the last year. Failing to pray forgiveness for certain siblings left me shackled to sin’s floor. But before, “I forgive you,” came from my lips, I needed grace to pour out from my heart.
As I’d admitted in the previous article, after nearly a year since my dad’s passing, there was never an opportunity to grieve his loss. The result is numbness. In this void is also an imbalance of emotional responses to what are normal triggers.
I was watching a TV rerun one night when a character had a brief scene where he became sentimental about his dad.
Leah looked over at me as I felt my body heave and the flood gates streamed tears across my cheeks. It hit me like lightning. Other times I have no reaction to what should be triggers at all. I know this isn’t normal, but now I know why.
I’d been unable to grieve because I’d not forgiven those in my family who stole from our dad before and after he’d passed away. Grieving loss is important.
“God blesses those people who grieve. They will find comfort!”
God has been working on me, and shown that the only way I will find that opportunity to grieve is by freeing myself from the hurt caused by them and the bitterness I hold against them.
How? Forgiveness. I know this in my heart, but like thorns among roses, I can’t find the way to speak the words of forgiveness.
Forgiving another person is not condoning what they did, or even signalling that you can now resume a previous relationship together. Forgiveness requires one person, where reconciliation takes two.
Forgiveness is your authority to rid yourself of the hurt caused by another. As long as you carry the bitterness within, the offender maintains a grip on your spirit.
I’m going to tell you something I’m sure you’ve already figured out. I’m a doer, a fixer, and I don’t stand for any bull. If there’s a problem or an injustice, I won’t rest until what is wrong is righted. Is it any wonder I served law enforcement over 25 years?
In my anger towards them, I thought about ways to gain justice for what they’d done. I wanted to make sure they repaid every cent and item value. Instead of grieving for my dad’s death, I considered their consequences for what they did to my dad’s memory, and to the rest of us who played it honest and are stuck with their debts.
But, God whispered to me while I raged against the unlawful. He gently reminded me of what the Apostle Paul wrote:
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
In my mind, I knew this, but I could not force myself to speak the words of forgiveness. I wanted to, I just could not do it – Yet. God asks whether a man can hold hot coals against his chest and not get burned. The answer is no. My failure to forgive caused me the greatest harm.
A friend shared the story of her brother’s passing, and her wrath at someone after his death. She said it was grace that first led her from the darkness. It struck a chord in my spirit and I began to pray about the dynamics between grace, mercy and forgiveness.
Grace, as it applies to salvation, is the unmerited pardon of our sins. It was Christ’s death that covered our sins by grace. On our own, we deserve death, but through Christ, we may know the gift of forgiveness of our sins and salvation.
But, would grace work for me?
Leah and I were on the road back to Dallas from Fort Worth. Can you say crazy, insane traffic? Yes, then you’ve been there too.
We were still trying to sell my dad’s home to close the estate. While my older brother Stan has been a saint in an impossible situation, the offenders, once again tried to sabotage an offer of purchase.
I knew in my heart that I’d written the article about forgiving just the day before, and I’d read all of the wonderfully wise comments, including the one about grace as the stepping stone.
But my siblings’ constant attacks had set me off on my quest to snatch vengeance away from God and deliver wrath via a well-served lawsuit.
It was time to strike!
I asked Leah to dial two of my brothers for a conference call. I was calling to tell them I was about to hit the launch button. There was no pressure for them to join me in the lawsuit, but I wanted both to know that life for the others was about to take a drastic turn.
A Different Vision
During the call it was like my mind was thinking what my mouth wasn’t saying. Instead of planning our strategy of attack, I confessed I’d had enough of being angry and wanted it over.
I actually said, “I’m going to walk away.”
Their voices mirrored the relief that I finally knew in letting it go. They both testified to grace. We didn’t approve of what the three did and continued to do, but we were no longer going to give it dominion over our lives.
This was the first time my brothers and I spoke to each other about emotions, and our own families. There was a peace over that phone call that led us each to share our hearts after 50 years of barely sharing our lives.
It was over.
Two days later, our family arrived just within the nick of time to grab seats before service began at Gateway Church. They hosted a presbytery service. It was my first experience, but a quick explanation is:
The word ‘presbytery’ refers to a group of ministers. Paul is recalling a prophetic presbytery when he says to Timothy:
‘Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.’
1 Tim 4:14
During the service, ministers spoke the words as delivered from God. My thoughts wandered a bit as I questioned whether walking away from my plan for justice was the right one.
One of the ministers begin to witness from 1 Samuel 24. This is David’s story of being hunted and persecuted unjustly by King Saul.
David Shows Grace
David found himself in a position to kill Saul, as the older king was unaware that David had snuck up behind him. The younger man knew vengeance wasn’t his to take that day, but grace and mercy was his to give.
David, who would become the greatest king of all, and directly in the lineage of Jesus, simply walked away.
If you cannot imagine how awesome that made me feel, I could never describe it to you in a million years. God knew I needed to hear this story about a man who easily had the means and motive to take his unjust pursuer out, but instead, simply walked away.
I’ve carried an unrelenting conviction for forgiving them since that prophetic service. That same night after the gym, I stood in our shower and began to pray.
I confessed to God that there was no fuzzy feelings for the siblings yet, but if it be His will, that I would. The process of speaking the words through the warm water began. Speaking each one’s name, I forgave them.
It was a giant step for me. But like God being God, I was granted insight into the life of one of them. It wasn’t so I would understand them better and possibly renew a relationship. It was so I could know the heart of the person who had caused everyone so much pain.
Thanks to God’s grace of allowing me to understand grace, I gained a gift of speaking the words of forgiveness. Slowly, I’m getting back to balance.
I Am 2nd,
We would blessed to know your thoughts.