Compassion · Humanity

In Matters of Sameness

If Satan has toeholds that allow him to claw and climb from the underworld to this one, they lie in our failure to see ourselves in others.”

– Lisa Wingate

The beginning of prejudice, hatred and grudges are nothing more than the notion that we are somehow different from one another – and, presumptively, somehow better.

We are no different than the person we cast a evil eye on, of that I am becoming certain. It grieves me that there is more disunity and discord in our “tolerant” world than ever before. And I would dare say, that if our “tolerance” is causing this this present condition, we’d do well to think long and hard if we are actually tolerant at all.

Is tolerance just tolerating the people who look and think and act like we are accustomed to? To contend only with the people who adhere to the beliefs and values that our current society deems acceptable? Tolerance, as defined in the dictionary is “a willingness to endure or tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behaviour that one does not necessarily agree with.” So, in fact, tolerating people of other beliefs or backgrounds when you never disagreed with them in the first place isn’t tolerance at all.

We are similar, you and I.

Though I am a stubborn Canadian woman, who does, in fact, apologize over everything because it is our perception of polite. I’m a homeschooling mother of five kids with fair skin and curly thick hair that isn’t blonde nor brown, but a dull shade in between; a middle class woman, who believes the Christian faith with all my heart. You might be halfway across the world, single, atheist, with smooth dark hair and think such apologies are ridiculous, and abhor the thought of children being taught primarily in their own home.

Our similarities still run deep, I believe this to the core of my being, for I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t long to be accepted, to be loved.

We all are very much the same. We all yearn to have purpose; to make a difference in the world. We all worship, one thing or another. We all get passionate over the causes that move us.

We all make mistakes. We all have fears, regrets and embarrassing moments. We all dream about the future and complain about the weather.

And all of us simply wish to be heard and understood.

What if, we committed to doing this for others? Hearing them? Seeing them? Accepting them for who they are, even if they have no desire at all to change; even going as far as forgiving them for their differences that may offend us?

What if, we saw ourselves in the face of our enemies?

We might just learn to forgive. We might love a little deeper.

We might even change the world.

Faith · Forgiveness · Reconcilliation

It was Never Your Grudge to Hold

There’s a family who has completely shut mine out for almost four years now.

At one time I loved them like my own family. We spent many days a week together. And then suddenly, we were shut out. Just like that. They shut us out of their lives. Out of their church. Out of their friendship circles.

Out of everything.

In fact, if I meet up with either of them, they will try to look past me as if I do not exist. If I smile and say hi anyway, they barely nod, mumbling an inaudible greeting in return and only because they know it would make them look bad to say nothing.

Why, you may ask, am I sharing this? Because of the warning their lives have become for me.

I do not know them anymore, because they have made sure that we can’t. They were once great people, godly people. They weren’t some angry, bitter souls that looked to destroy and tear others down. They were helpful people. They had a strong family and a beautiful faith. They were talented and inspiring.

Yet somewhere along the line, they have become convinced that what they perceive as wrong in our lives, is what God perceives as wrong… and that God is pleased with this grudge they continue to hold, this “godly shunning” of others.

Let me just say this: Other people’s sin is not for us to hold against them.

Ever.

God does not need us to hold on to the burden of hating others for his sake. He doesn’t need our help to convict them, to discipline them or to punish them in any way. In fact, there are very strong warnings in scripture against bitterness because that is really what bitterness is: holding other people’s sins against them, refusing to forgive. The only difference is that this has been done “for Christ’s sake” so it feels much more godly.

In some cultures this sort of zealous self-righteousness results in honor killings. A “sacrifice” to God.

Can I be so bold as to say that God takes no pleasure in honor killings? Neither does he take pleasure in grudges or in self righteous shunning. In fact there is a story where Jesus responded to this type of religiosity.

A woman was brought before him, caught red-handed in adultery. The real righteous folk, those leaders of the church, brought this woman to Jesus, trying to trap him. Smirking and desperate for bloodshed that day, they said:

“Good teacher, the law requires us to stone her. What should we do?”

Jesus bent down to write in the sand. And then he stood to say something absolutely phenomenal: “He who has no sin, cast the first stone.”

Every single person present silently walked away, one at a time. No one was worthy to cast it.

Not one.

Every single one of us has sinned. And when we judge one person’s sin as worse than ours, holding onto it, we are literally spitting on the grace that Christ has shown us. Holding onto the sins of others and feeling as if their mistakes are just somehow not worthy of the grace that God has shown us, is hypocrisy.

When Christ was being nailed to the cross, he did not say, “Father, once these vile sinners repent and realize their sin, forgive them.”

He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Jesus did not hold on to grudges, regardless of the actions of those around him. He simply forgave and left the rest in God’s hands.

So why would we think it is our duty to live any differently?

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2

Do I really want to hold onto another person‘s sin and take the risk that God will hold onto mine?

I’m not taking that chance.

Let it go, move on and love people deeply.

Because friends, it’s not our grudge to hold.

Faith · Forgiveness

Two Authors, Two stories, Two Perspectives

I often read books on difficult topics like the holocaust, residential schools, slavery, war and about the horrors of living under communism. Some might think that I favor books like these because I’m a person drawn to drama – focussing on the negative events in world history…or that I’m a Debbie downer, one of those extremists who always seem to have their undies in a bunch about something.

In reality, I hate drama, especially in my own life and I’m incredibly sensitive when I read about it. I have to be careful how much I allow myself to dwell on these things, because I know that it affects my mood and my day-to-day life.

What was interesting is that in the past week I read two books: one written about slavery and the other about the horrors of residential schools in Canada. Both addressed the horrendous acts of those who felt that they had “God’s right” to behave the way they did. Both books shed light on some of the most shameful behaviour done by those claiming to follow God. Both highlighted racism, extremism and abuse. And of course, my heart broke for both of the authors and the torment that they had to experience in their lives.

But that’s where my comparisons end because each book was so starkly different from the other. They were obviously written for different purposes: One was written as a path to healing and the other tried to become the victim all over again, ever trying to draw sympathy out of the reader. It got me thinking about the real difference between the two books, and not just these books, but the differences between each of the books I have read about suffering.

I realized that the majority of stories on suffering can be lumped into two categories:

1) A message of forgiveness and redemption

2) A theme of bitterness and regret

The first category is refreshing and hopeful. The writing is hard, but uplifting. The experiences dark, but the message is light.

The second category is equally dark and hard, but comes about it with a feeling of hopeless. And honestly I feel gross after reading such books.

The one book, which I will not name in respect for the author and her experiences, ended her story with these words: “Some people say I need to let go of the past and learn to forgive… I say bullshit.”

This, my friends, is the saddest, most hopeless end to a trial I can think of.

In the well written words of author Lynn Austin:

Bitterness is one of the deadliest emotions we ever feel. You can’t look forward when you’re bitter, only backwards. Thinking about what you’ve lost, stuck in the past. In the end it devours all hope.

Bitterness is a subject that I don’t like to talk about much, particularly because it is one of those “acceptable” sins where we justify our legitimacy to feel the way we do. It’s also an awkward thing to address in others as one cannot simply listen to someone sharing about a difficult experience and then joyfully say, “just forgive and forget!” That would be cruel and cold hearted! Only a person with zero empathy could respond in such a flippant way towards suffering.

But one only needs to spend a few minutes with a soul who is deeply bitter, to realize that it is the most draining, depressing and deadly things to be.

I’ve shared before about a past church and the painful rejection my family experienced there with a leadership couple, but what I didn’t share much about was that at beginning it started with the confrontation: You are bitter.

To this day, this remains one of the most painful things that has been said to me. Not because it was said of course, but because of the timing and manner in which it was said. I was going through depression, health issues, loneliness, and a lot of changes in my life at the time. We had just moved homes, churches and jobs, and we had a baby that cried constantly. I was just beginning to open up about my struggles with it all for the first time and this well-meaning confrontation caused such a devastating break of trust in my life. Because of this painful experience, I avoided even using the word “bitterness” for a long time. But the truth is, no matter how hard it is for me to talk about, it needs to be addressed!

Bitterness.

Is it a lack of forgiveness? Is it a negative outlook on life? Is it resentment towards your position in life?

I think to some degree, we all experience bitterness in different areas of our lives. Some experience it to a much larger degree than others. And some people are more easily offended than others! Whether it’s towards coworkers, or spouses, extended family or friends…

OR maybe It’s not towards people, but towards the suffering in your life, towards your situation that seems helpess…maybe even to God for putting you there!

I know I most definitely have felt bitterness. I’ve seen it too.

During the most difficult time of this conflict in the church, I met another couple who were going through a church split. I was having a hard time forgiving and processing our own experience so I felt some comfort in being able to share my struggles with this woman. However, when she began sharing her experiences and I heard the hateful words come out of her mouth: “I just wish they were dead!” I realized that forgiveness wasn’t just a good option, it was the ONLY option.

Bitterness unchecked is ugly. And it kills.

Offences committed against us and the pain that follows MUST be dealt with in a compassionate way, with much grace. The more painful the wound, the more time it needs to heal. One cannot expect to be fatally injured one day and then skip about smiling joyfully the next…such an expectation is unreasonable and unhealthy.

Forgiveness is much like taking a difficult course. At first, you may sit down and have no clue what the professor is talking about. The books don’t make sense, the assignments are daunting… but as the course goes on (provided you’ve decided to continue), you begin understanding more and more about the subject. The longer you take to study and absorb the material, the more your experience and capacity is expanded. Only after long months of lectures, homework and studies, are you ready to write the exam.

However, just stepping into the room and writing the exam on the first day would’ve never worked out! It couldn’t of been expected of you, you wouldn’t have passed! You needed time, growth, knowledge and experience.

You can pass the exam, but you need to first decide to say in the class and keep working at it!

The first step to forgiveness is simply deciding to walk that path.

At first it’s so confusing and difficult you may even doubt you’re on the right path. But as you begin learning and seeing the situation in the right perspective, the path suddenly doesn’t seem so impossible.

Yet there are always difficult days! Dark thoughts and painful feelings will come out of nowhere. This is expected. Don’t get down on yourself.

Keep walking forward, don’t look back. The secret to forgiveness and redemption is this: Don’t give up.

The moment you give up trying to forgive, is the moment you let go of the lifeline that is saving you from the deep pit of bitterness and offence.

Uncategorized

Rebuilding the Bridge

Oh my heart.

I’ve been reading so many articles lately, of people I’ve never met, who have become like friends. Broken people. Hurting people. People who have been mistreated and rejected by the world.

And my heart breaks for them.

I thought my story was unique. That no one else had experienced what I had experienced.

I was wrong.

My story, isn’t something I want to flaunt. I’m not ashamed of it, but I do want to protect those I love.

So here I am, once again, struggling.  Struggling to know what to share, how much to share. Struggling because I know I have found freedom from the deepest, darkest pain. And I desperately want to lead others to this freedom.

My testimony is this:

I followed the “typical” teenage path, got caught up in the socialization of school, rather than the work. Insecure as I was, I tried to impress others by partying, being obnoxious and carefree, lying about who I was, and by doing things I knew I ought to stay away from. I got caught in a very bad place. From being suspended from school because of drinking to being careless sexually…I made heartbreaking, life-devastating choices.

Choices that lead me to the night God heard me and set me free.

It was dark, I knew only one person at the party. I was lonely as ever and I prayed while looking at the stars on that clear, August night. I prayed for God to save me. Then, I drank one very large drink and don’t remember much else. Two men, a lot older than myself, slept with me.

I was broken, but acted tough, like it made no difference.

It was at this time I met her. For the sake of privacy, I’ll call her Anna, though those who know my full story will know quite well who she is, because she was so instrumental in my life.

The gentleness and compassion in her voice is something I’ll never forget. Her sincere heart of care, she saw things in me that no-one else did. And she loved me. I could tell from the moment I met her, I wasn’t just some charity case, some feel-good project, she truly cared for me. She said that I was beautiful. That I was tenderhearted. She gently and carefully showed me the care of Christ.

And one day she got me to pray, and I experienced God’s love for myself. I knew he was real that day and I chose that day to leave my life of emptiness behind.

I became a child of God.

My boyfriend, who soon became my husband, formed a similar relationship with Anna’s husband, whom I’ll call Paul. During the next ten years a beautiful friendship/mentorship formed. Paul and Anna guided me and my husband through life. She prayed for me when I felt down. She listened when I cried, and gave really good advice. When my firstborn was deathly ill in the hospital, she and her husband visited me faithfully.

I cared for her too, listened to her and prayed for her as well. When she experienced loss, I brought her food. She was often lonely and I felt for her in this.

She was the one person who always understood me…until the day came when she didn’t.

What can destroy a deep friendship like that? A hurtful word? Miscommunication? Gossip? An outburst of anger? Cruel misjudgement?

In my opinion it is none of the above, although they do hurt a friendship; a deep friendship is ultimately built on endurance, commitment, loyalty, forgiveness and the ability to see the best in others when they’re at their worst.

Unwillingness to change or forgive, that is ultimately what destroys all relationships in life.

When I went through a dark depression a year after having my fifth child, Anna did not recognize it as such. To be honest, neither did I at first. I was confused, having never felt such despair and loneliness before. I desperately needed help, physically, mentally, spiritually. I mostly kept it to myself, but once in a while I would give little glimpses to her to reveal what I was going through.

She sensed that things were changing too. Things were just different between us. By the time we started talking about these changes that were happening, Anna was convinced that I was dealing with deep bitterness, that I was trying to hide it and lie about it and that I was being deceived by the devil. Strong accusations for sure. But since I didn’t know what I was going through, I couldn’t quite explain why I knew she was wrong, all I could say was “no, I wasn’t holding anything against anyone.”

Paul and Anna began to have meetings with us, at first to help us, but really what they became were interrogations. They would bring before me everything that they thought I was doing wrong and I would apologize for somethings (such as wrongful attitudes and gossip) and defend myself in others (as in, I would not repent for lying when I had not lied).

Unfortunately, Paul and Anna were also our church leaders, and we were forced to resign from our involvement in the church, as they felt like we weren’t walking in true freedom. Soon after, we were also told to repent of these issues and submit to their leadership, or leave the church. This was done without any meeting with the rest of the church leadership.

We had to leave the church, I had no choice. I longed to make things right, but to pretend I was guilty of sins that I was not? That was too far. I could not do it. Our very best friends were in that church. They were all called up and told to no longer welcome us to their bible study. They submitted to their leadership and I was crushed. I longed for someone to defend us, for someone to fight for our case.

But no one spoke up. They all stayed silent.

I lost my mentors, my church and my best friends all within a few months. Only my family and my husband stood by my side.

Meanwhile, I was still going through depression, which had only intensified with the situation. I was so confused. Here my loving mentors were saying disturbing things: Saying I was bitter and vindictive. Saying I was living by works and not by faith. Telling me that my apologies were covering up my unwillingness to repent…were they right? Could this really be the source of my struggles? Part of me wanted them to just be right, so I could make amends and be happy again. I longed to have things back to the way they used to be. I was willing to do anything for reconciliation.

But in my heart I knew that they had misunderstood me so deeply, that they were now just following the trail of lies, ultimately believing the worst about my motives and my actions.

Forgiveness for those who felt they were righteously doing God’s will… could I ever let go of what they had done? Trusting people after such betrayal… is it possible?

Sorting through all my feelings and coming to a place where I could see things through God’s eyes wasn’t at all simple. I read A LOT about forgiveness. The Bible is full of stories of forgiveness, from Joseph, to David, to Jesus Christ himself. A gem of a book I found on forgiveness that aided to my healing was called “The Bait of Satan” by John Bevere. 

Here’s the conclusion that I’ve come to: It is impossible to forgive someone when you let your mind think the worst of them. BUT when you begin to humbly let God show you how he feels about those who have hurt you and choose to think the best of them, ALL things are possible.

I can not make people see my heart through God’s eyes. I can not force them to love me, forgive me, believe me or even like me, but I CAN chose to do so for them.

It no longer became a struggle of who is right and wrong…Rather could I be humble enough to stop trying to figure it out and forgive them either way? If Paul and Anna were right about me, then what right do I have to hate them? They were trying to help me, risking their own reputation in the process. That is love!

If they were wrong about me, then I felt deep compassion and sorrow for them. How sad to feel like you are doing the work of God, only to find out in the end that you were working against him! But in all, whether they’re right or wrong, I can only say that I believe they were trying their best to do what they felt was right, with the knowledge and tools that they had.

After many tears, much heartache, many angry outbursts, and times when I wrongfully spoke against them… I can truly say that I’m sorry for the ways I have hurt Paul and Anna, even the ones that I may be blinded to.

And I forgive them.

So much so, that when their names come up, my heart is full of joy because of the ten good years we had with them. For the ten years of wisdom we gained from knowing them. I am glad I knew them. I remember the good. I remember their passion and love for God.

Forgiveness is like building a bridge to those who have hurt us and extending a hand, welcoming them back to friendship with us when they are ready.

However, one thing that we often forget is that building a bridge of forgiveness doesn’t guarantee that people will cross it, it merely gives them a chance to. And we are not accountable for the actions of others.

Much to my disappointment Paul and Anna have chosen, so far, not to cross that bridge. Then again, the moral of the story is that they don’t need to. Ever. I can still find overflowing joy and peace in the fact that my heart is right with God.

And I can find joy in the blessings he has given us during the past two painful years: A new church that I love with my whole heart, new friends (more than I have ever had in my adult life before) and new mentors who have gone through similar trials and come through victorious.

Simply put, building a bridge is difficult. It takes time. Sometimes you have to stop everything and start all over. But through forgiving, God has brought me to hope again…not in people. Not in things. But in Christ alone, all my hope is found.

For me, that’s a first.

Uncategorized

When Love is Letting Go

I don’t let go easily.

If something is important to me, I hold on to it for dear life. Close friendships are one of these things. They are priceless, difficult to find, time-consuming to build and they take a lot of effort to keep strong. They are more valuable than diamonds, worth more than money can buy.

That’s also why I value relationships and people in my life far too much to just walk away when I’m hurt or to shut them out of my life. When a conflict arises, as they sometimes do, I will try again and again and again to work things out. I will work to the point of insanity to keep the peace. When I am in the wrong, I am usually the first person to go apologize and make things right. When I don’t think I’m in the wrong, I’m still search for something I did that I can apologize for, because I am a firm believer that there are NO situations where I act perfectly. Even if I physically did nothing wrong, in my heart there could be jealousy, or pride, or self-pity, bitterness, anger or frustration. And I can apologize for that because maybe the other person was sensing something in my attitude toward them that I wasn’t even aware of!

And most of the time it has been well worth it. Many friendships have been saved and many wrongs have been forgiven because of my tenacity. It’s hard work to hold on to friends!

” Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love ALWAYS hopes, love ALWAYS perseveres, love NEVER fails…therefore I came to the conclusion early on in life that “letting go” was the opposite of love.

That is, until this year.

I desperately tried to find some way to mend a relationship I valued, but each attempt seemed to harden the person towards me more and more and more. Each attempt brought with it sleepless nights, days of working through hurtful words said to me and much heartache in forgiving them over and over again. And it was so tough! But I kept telling myself, “It’ll be worth it! Once they see my heart of love for them it will be worth every tear!” So I forgave and kept holding on.

I prayed for them, oh I prayed! I sent little gifts to show my love. I emailed encouraging words. I defended them when others spoke against them. Still, the person wouldn’t even respond to me. Finally one day I asked God what I could possibly do more for them to show my love…and very softly I heard the words: Let them go.

You know what’s harder than forgiving someone who’s hurt you? Letting them go.

You know what’s more difficult than working through the same issues over and over again with someone who has little regard for your feelings? Letting them go.

You know what’s more challenging than speaking kindly of someone who speaks harshly to you? Letting them go.

You know what’s more loving then holding on to someone who has set their heart against you? Letting them go. Because it feels like giving up. And love doesn’t give up! Ever! But letting go is not the same as giving up.

Giving up is hardening yourself to the situation…letting go is staying soft.

Giving up says, “I don’t care what they think!”….letting go says, “I care too deeply to let this go on.”

Giving up is making an enemy, letting go is preventing one.

Giving up says, “I will never let you hurt me again!” Letting go says, “When you’re ready, I’ll be waiting.”

Giving up is losing hope, letting go is hoping in God’s timing.

Why does life have to be so hard sometimes? Why can’t everything just fall into place if we try hard enough? Why?

I don’t have the answers.

I wish I had the ability to see into the future, and to see all the good that will come out of this. Oh, I wish I did! But I don’t…all I know is it’s time to let go. And it’s hard as hell.

But I can do it, because of one special promise written down just for me, just for a time like this…

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

In all things.

Ok God, I trust you. I’m letting go.

Faith · Forgiveness · Freedom · Prayer · Reconcilliation

The Very Best Thing

I realize that I’ve had quite a few heavy posts lately and that usually reflects that I’ve had a hard month. It really had its ups and downs. But today I’m feeling truly blessed!

On Sunday, I went Prayer Summit at my church. If you’ve never hear of it, basically it’s a huge prayer meeting. I’m sure there are well over a thousand people attending from many different countries, languages, and denominations. I was just overjoyed to be a part of so many people worshipping together. And it’s times like those that I really get a different perspective.

I’m sure that if we had all come to search for something we disagreed on, we’d find as many opinions as there were people in the room. But we weren’t there to focus on those things. We were there because we agreed on ONE thing. The very best thing: Jesus. And the love that flows when we focus on worshipping Jesus together is unlike anything else.

Too often the body of Christ is so consumed trying to figure out how to all agree on everything that we really forget how much we have in common. Jesus! Our Hope, Our Life, Our Saviour, Our Righteousness, Our intercessor, Our friend!

And yet there’s this struggle among believers for unity. And I truly believe it’s because we talk too much and don’t worship enough! How can I tear down, gossip about, judge my fellow brothers and sisters if my eyes are on Christ? How dare I focus on the negative things in the very people Christ DIED for?!? How dare we fight over foolish controversies and ideas?!?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about ignoring or turning a blind eye to evil and injustice…but really, how easily am I willing to tear down a brother or sister in Christ?  Over political views? Over child rearing? Over fitness or eating habits? Over a wrong attitude they may have? I shamefully admit that all too often, I’ve been quick to point out the flaws in other people. But why? Why do we insist on turning on each other, rather than walking beside each other in humble love? Why do we insist on always being right? Why do we continue to think the worst of others? Should we not rather in holy fear focus our own imperfections and give others the benefit of the doubt? How often do we actually see what’s going on in their hearts anyway?

And here’s something remarkable: When we come together to worship, we suddenly don’t feel like those little things matter anymore. It is here we come and find peace. It is here we come to be made whole.

What is it about worship that binds us together? Why do I look over beside me and see a complete stranger worshiping and feel like I’m beside family?

When we worship it is actually an expression of our reverence for God. And when we stand before a Holy God it complete awe, suddenly we can’t help but begin to feel very small. So far are we all from God’s perfection that all our sins are comparatively equal. And then looking at this perfect Jesus, who lavished his great love on us, dying for us and continues to care for our needs so tenderly everyday, how can we say I’m not willing to love my brother? And it’s here where our differences don’t seem to be all that important any longer: All made in his image, all dearly loved by God.

And he says: “This is my command to you, that you love one another.” He doesn’t say just to love those nice to us, those who look like us, those who agree with us, those who smell nice, or who are fun to be around. Love one another. I’m pretty sure that means everybody.

And with all the hate in the world today, it’s especially important that we don’t follow those patterns. Please dear brothers and sisters, we have so many opportunities everyday to speak life or death to each other. Choose love.

There’s a song I used to sing in church. I wonder what would happen if we stopped just saying the words and started living them:

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love

“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” -Jesus Christ

 

Faith · Forgiveness · Reconcilliation · Repentance

Reconciliation

As I read her response to my message, tears spilled out of my eyes. “Well, that’s it!” I thought, “Another beautiful friendship in my life fading away….”   Then she wrote these words: Can we meet for coffee?

Three hours later I came out of the coffee shop, joy on my face, my heart at peace and my friendship not only restored, but better than it had been before. My friend taught me a lot about reconciliation that day.

Reconciliation. It can be really REALLY difficult. In an age where we prefer to communicate over short texts and messages, yet we’re so busy we don’t have the time to meet face to face, keeping strong and meaningful relationships can be a huge challenge!

I always thought I was a great communicator, but I’m beginning to realize that maybe I’m not actually as great at it as I’ve believed. When someone says something hurtful to me, I always felt the the best thing I could do is to brush it off and think the best of people. And sometimes that really is the best way to deal with offence. Forgive, move on. But with close friendships it actually doesn’t work that way. Words cut a little deeper, because the person saying them means a great deal to us. Before we know it, tension can grow between us. The longer we tend to ignore these things, the deeper and more confusing they become as more offences are added to the previous one. One of the things my friend taught me was that we need to deal with our hurts NOW. And as I thought about it, I realized that it’s actually a very biblical concept:

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24

This is really shocking because what God’s saying is: Worship can wait, forgiveness can not. In fact God knows that if we come to him with unforgiveness in our hearts it will affect the way we worship, it will affect the way we see Him, and it will hinder our prayers. Another verse gives us even more insight as to why God wants us to immediately make things right:

“In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:26-27

Staying angry gives satan a foothold. This has been proven VERY true in my life. In fact, this weekend I realized how another one of my relationships has been severely damaged just because we WAITED to talk. The longer I waited, the more I dwelt on the negative things that had happened, the more I started to believe the lies in my head:

“She is so selfish”

“She does this often to people, I bet this is why her other friendships have suffered”

“She’s just so hurtful, she doesn’t even try to show grace”

And I started making a very common mistake…in listening to my thoughts and the lies inside my head, I began to assume the other persons thoughts about ME. I think we all tend to go down this path and it’s incredibly dangerous to assume peoples motives and thoughts. Because more than likely we’re wrong.

Maybe this is old news to most of you, but it’s new to me, and learning new things comes with a challenge: Is there anyone I need to make things right with, RIGHT NOW? This may mean cancelling plans, awkward phone calls, and difficult coffee dates. And maybe you’re thinking: I HAVE tried to make things right, it just didn’t work out! Believe me, I understand this FAR more than many people may realize. But one thing I now realize that in my trying to make things right, I have often waited too long. And when we finally met, both of us had come with our lists of things we had spent that time thinking about each other…rather than meeting quickly and hearing what the OTHER person has to say.

So I guess this means that I have to make that effort again, differently this time…and right NOW.