Posted by: Kara Luker | October 26, 2010

All wound up

When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Luke 9:54-55

Last year, I worked myself into a fury over a relationship that had just pushed me too long and too hard. I had forgiven a million offenses and extended what I considered very undeserved kindness, despite repeated assaults on my very fine (well, pretty decent) character, a knack for wounding people I love, and an apparent intent to cripple my dance through life.

I had gotten lax in the forgiveness department, despite my firm belief in its value, and had developed a plaque-like buildup of resentment. Which lowered my resilience, and created a breeding ground for all sorts of negativity. So when Cole was hurt deeply on his 14th birthday, it felt like the final freaking straw in this very old, very exasperating saga.

As a result, I decided to cut this person off; just kick the dust off my feet and move on.  It was a fine thing in theory, and certainly understandable. But in practice, things didn’t go so well. As a matter of fact, my life got awful. I wasn’t sure if my hormones were possessed or my sanity was fleeing the scene, but I felt like a vicious tornado tearing up and spewing out anything in my path. In a terrible twist of irony, Cole got in that path and I found myself hurting the very person I was trying to protect… and wondering when I had become the bad guy.

I couldn’t stand myself, but I couldn’t seem to change. I felt stuck. Desperately stuck. After a couple months, it dawned on me that I could humble myself, forgive these haunting hurts, and get reprieve. So I made the choice to forgive, and waited for my cage door to fly open. But my insides continued to burn and boil as the wrongs scrolled through my head, and the iron bars stayed put. I tried again and again, but it just wouldn’t take. Finally, I turned to God who was sitting by, waiting patiently for my stubborn will to run its course. He seemed so glad that I asked.

He explained with words and a picture. The words: I was trying to be all magnanimous by forgiving words and actions, while retaining my right to judge him as a person (which was really the weightier issue). In reality, they both had to be dealt with. The picture: a tetherball. I was the ball, unforgiveness the chain, and judgment the big immovable metal pole cemented into the ground. I was tied by unforgiveness to the hurtful circumstance, dangling through judgment from my worst view of the very person I wanted distance from. Every movement thrust me in circles and wound me tightly around the things I most wanted to escape. No wonder I felt stuck.

Lights went on, but I couldn’t get past the fact that wrong things had transpired. They just couldn’t be reasoned away or whitewashed with love. Which is when the next revelation hit. Forgiving this person and releasing him from judgment didn’t mean that I was condoning anything. All it meant was that I was handing him over to God, who had a perfect view of the situation and the wisdom to dole out mercy and judgment as he saw fit. It was simply an act of trusting God over self, which seemed quite reasonable considering my recent insanity.

With my new understanding ready to roll, I took a really long walk down to the beach and forgave everyone – this guy, myself, and a whole lot of other people – for every single offense that came to mind. There were even people groups in the mix who offend me or tick me off. It was shocking to see the amount of junk lurking in me. After I had gagged up all that garbage, I made the incredibly empowering choice to release each of those people from my judgment. Acknowledging that I didn’t have all the answers for the wellbeing of humanity, I liberated each person from my idea of how they should live or treat people or parent or eat or love God or do politics. It was an experience that changed me. All the craziness and anger drained from my mind and body, and I walked home free.

That was the gist of a the story, but this is good too…

The most remarkable thing to me is the goodwill that rose up in my heart toward this person in place of all that hatred. It was so joyful and overwhelming, I had to do something about it. So I went out and bought him a gift for a birthday I knew would be difficult for him, and drove it over that day, along with Christmas gifts for his girlfriend and dogs. Cole, who had been walking in a lot of hurt and resentment right along with me, was able to participate in the excitement of this crazy fun day. Walls were broken down between the three of us, the guy seemed genuinely touched, and I’m still astonished that I got to be a part of God’s heart that day.

And then there was a bump…

I can’t remember exactly what happened, but he didn’t turn into the perfect person overnight and offended me within like a day, which made me question my kind gesture. (Guess I didn’t turn into the perfect person overnight either.) But God addressed it on the spot, and told me that the way I treat people is based on who I am, not on who they are. It’s the same way He loves me… completely independent of how I behave on any given day and completely dependent on the joy of His own heart. So I was able to step back into joy and continue in kindness. And I am so very grateful because, in the end, through this person’s offense and the light of God, I had a glimpse of what real love looks like.

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