Have you ever had someone make you so mad that you plotted out their murder? I mean like really put all your knowledge from watching every episode of CSI, NCIS and Law & Order together and imagined how you would get away with it…? How about being so mad to the point that you didn’t even plan out getting away with it, you just imagined the quickest way to inflict the most pain and do the most damage? Okay, so the latter is super extreme (well they both are) but we will use those as a guideline for the exaggerated measurement of anger and hate that I was harboring for a particular person for several months…okay, it was more like a year. I don’t know if you have ever carried around the burden truly hating a person but it has a way of literally tearing you down from the inside out and making you into someone who , trust me, you do NOT want to be. The constant feeling of disgust towards a person every time you see them, speak to them or hear their name is not pleasant. It’s quite draining actually not to mention having to hide this feeling in an effort to be polite and keep the peace in public.
Without going into too many details, let’s just say this person wronged me with no show of remorse, and has not owned up to it, let alone apologized, to this day. If you can’t tell, that has been the hardest part for me to get over. I will leave the details of my specific situation vague because the truth is, I want you to feel welcome to squeeze the details of your own situation into this story line. It’s not just my story and the solution is not just my solution. If you have ever experienced this, are currently experiencing, or even if you haven’t, you can put it in your tool box for if/when the need arises.
But back to the story…
I was wronged. Flat out sinned against. I mean the root issue that I have with this person is legitimate and the amount of pain I felt because of the situation, at the time, was reasonable. I had every right to feel the way that I did, and every right to feel that the person who had caused me this pain should suffer and pay for what they had done…right? With that thought in mind, my heart was hardened towards this person and I was done. From that moment, a lot of my life and a lot of my being, for some time, became focused on making it a point to show and prove that I did not care about and was not bothered by this person. Because this person and I are tied together by an unchangeable event in our lives I have to deal with him on a regular basis. This person is my child’s father, so being able to at least appear to not be upset was essential, not only for my own pride, but also for the sake of my son and not wanting to let our adult problems corrupt their relationship. The problem was that because I secretly was upset, every interaction left me more drained and deeper in my hate than before. The harder my heart became, the more it affected my life. Looking back now, I can see areas in my life that were seriously affected by the condition that my heart was in at the time; my relationship with my family, the development of my relationship with my son, and my relationship with my church community were all impacted. Even my mental and emotional health took a serious hit. I once heard a saying that love mends and hate divides but never did I imagine that my change in heart towards this one person would cause me to be changed and damaged in so many other area, but it did.
As I previously stated, this went on for almost a year. I spent that amount of time going through life not knowing if i would be able to make it through a day that started off “good” because I wasn’t sure if I would have to deal with this person. I spent several nights not being able to sleep or skipping dinner because I lost my appetite or was so irritated that I could not relax due to how I felt about something that was said or something that this person had done that day. It got to a point where God had to show me that I was a slave to the hate that I felt for this person. It was no longer about what they did but just their very being pained me. I found myself openly stating to a friend of mine that “If this person were to drop dead this second, I would not shed a tear.” And given the nature and depth of my ties to this person, I realized it was a very harsh statement. I had never before in my life felt this way towards another living thing, let alone another human being. I was at a point where in so many ways I didn’t even recognize myself and I could no longer live like this, but there was nothing that I could do about it either…
I remember going to my church gathering that Sunday with my heart at the heaviest that it has ever been and pouring out everything that I had been holding on to and feeling to my sister (in Christ) Maria. I was past the point of just dealing, past the point of wanting to appear strong, past the point of being okay with just accepting that it is what it is. I was at the point that I felt I would progressively die on the inside if I did not let this thing go. But where would it go? I couldn’t seem to find a place to put it where I could leave it. I had prayed several times to not feel this way, but time and time again the release felt with that prayer was later met with an interaction with this person that brought me right back into the same sink hole that I was now so desperately trying to escape. At that moment, through tears for the both of us, Maria prayed with me. I immediately felt weight lifted from me as I sincerely gave the issues of my heart over to God but it wasn’t until a later chat with Maria that my eyes were opened and my heart was healed…
During the time between then and now (I will get to the now later) I still struggled with my attitude, emotions and temper every time this person said something to get under my skin. And after every time, I would pray to God to show me what is wrong with me? Why couldn’t I hold on to that feeling of peace? Why did I keep going into this circle of having to restrain myself and repent for what I was restraining? Was I destined to be in a constant fight to not reopen the hole in my heart labeled HATE?
“I cry mercy for my injustices, I cry justice for other people’s injustices.”
After one particularly draining interaction, I found myself back hand in hand with Maria, praying for God to guide me in the opposite direction of where I thought I had just left. What she said was, “We ALL need God’s grace and forgiveness. Even though you are feeling wronged…we all do wrong…” (Slice of humble pie anyone?) What I ultimately have to remember everyday is that no one is without sin (a recurring theme of something that I have to constantly be reminded of). Romans 3:23 tells me, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Lets look at this sentence in literary slow motion…So all…as in ALL…as in him, ME and you…have sinned… [SPOILER ALERT! If you (or I) have sinned even once, it makes me (or you) a sinner…even if it was only once then you still have the propensity to do it again, so we ARE (present tense) sinners] …And fall [this verb (action word) in simple present tense means that we repeatedly do it or it is usual] short of the glory of God. So wait…even though I didn’t do to him what he did to me, I am no better than him? OH! I was saved and forgiven by the grace of God. It then hit me that I needed to give the same grace that I am given every day in spite of my inherently sinful heart. God loves each of His children wholeheartedly, without fail, even when we hurt Him, lie to Him, cheat on Him or disobey Him. After God exposed my heart to me I knew I needed to not only repent, but also ask God to change me.
I was recently listening to a talk about Jesus and #Blacklivesmatter and one of the things that the speaker said that stuck with me was “I cry MERCY for my injustices, I cry JUSTICE for other people’s injustices.” What I took from that is that when I am the one doing the wrong, whether it be against my brother or sister in Christ or ultimately against God, I’m looking for, hoping for, praying for, and expecting to receive the grace and mercy that we as children of God are constantly afforded. BUT when someone has wronged me I am putting on my legalist reading glasses, heading over to Exodus, pitch fork in hand and looking for an eye to put out (21:24). It turns out, its easier to forget that I need grace just as much as (and often times even more so than) the next person, rather than forgive as I have and still am constantly being forgiven by the saving grace of Jesus Christ. So while I am over here praying that God give me strength and restraint to deal with this person, His answer was (and still is) that I not forget that I am no different from my son’s father, I am inherently sinful at my core, and have an equal need for God’s grace. God’s love and grace are the key to changing any heart.
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. – Hebrews 4:11 ESV
I had already started to feel God changing my heart and changing me, but I still seemed to struggle at times with letting little things get under my skin and I found myself in moments trying to take back the very issue that I had gotten rid of. I was so used to handling things my way that I didn’t know what to do after letting it go. As I text Maria and told her about being anxious in regards to a coming transition in my life (unbeknownst to her I was still struggling with fully relinquishing this situation as well), she told me to rest. Rest in God’s grace.
Now for those who really know me, they know that I can be an overly analytical person, as well as that I often have a need to be in control and know “what is going on” at all times in my life, and I have a history of worrying a lot. So grasping the concept of just resting did not come easily. What was I supposed to do while resting??? I know this sounds like a silly question but as a full time single mother who also works full time I have come to learn that there is always something to be done. But that’s not what Maria meant. In the past weeks and months I have come to learn and enjoy that resting in Christ means that no matter what happens, no matter what anyone says or does, God is in control. He holds today, tomorrow and yesterday and nothing that my child’s father or anyone else says or does should take my mind off of that fact. To be honest, it is a daily struggle and I have to constantly be reminded that, not only am I not in control of my life, but I must look to God daily for everything that I need. This includes peace from negative feelings and grace for the condition of my heart. For myself and other single mothers (single parents) that I know, it is so easy to get caught up in everything that is not going right. Money is often short, bills are long, free time is elusive and it can feel like you are not doing anything right. But there is rest and peace in the fact that God loves each of us so much that he freely gives his love, is in control of all things and will provide for you.
Grace and peace,