Most of us have those in our lives who have wounded us again and again. We have all had to deal with the irregular people. Those who are self-centered, or seemingly angry, or harsh or critical and are more self-absorbed in their lives than willing to give. We long for their words of love, encouragement, grace and yet are met with harshness or impatience or passivity or the with-holding of love. Often it is a family member--a spouse, parent, brother, child. Sometimes a neighbor, or a "fellow Christian." Our hearts cry, "It's not fair. I am not willing to be hurt one more time. I want to leave."
But in reality we are sometimes ourselves the irregular people.
The tension of having to live with such a person or ourselves, is very difficult to manage. Our desire is to run away, to leave, to not allow ourselves to continually be in that place where deep wounds may occur again any time.
At a couple of our mom's conferences this year, when surveyed, we found out that well over half of the women who attended came from alcoholic, divorced or abusive families. Astounding--a majority of the people around me, though it is not evident in their outside appearances, have wounds, scars, deep insecurity, pain from the closest of relationships in their lives.
This world is the broken place--the place where Satan is the ruler of the world, and yet there is Easter.
As I approach the Easter season, I ask Christ to show me what He wants me to know, to understand, and how to love Him more. Each year I am surprised at the outcome.
I have a little group that has evolved over the past 3 years. We made it a priority to be friends. We gather weekly or as often as we are all in town. We and our children do ministry together. We do life together. I knew I needed support systems since we have no family near by and we travel so much. Ours is a strange life.
And so we all decided that over the weeks before Easter, we would gather and share a meal and then watch a portion of the movie about Jesus that is based on the gospel of John. The movie only has the words of John, nothing else.
After spending time talking, giggling, munching on home-made bread, cheese and fresh fruit and hearing from different ones who had been reporting about different topics found in the gospel of John, we noisily tramped downstairs to my friend's basement and squeezed in together on an over-sized couch, grabbed and jerked blankets around ourselves and then became immersed in the middle-eastern world of Jesus.
His words penetrated our souls, amidst the lakeside waves, the tumble of the personalities and antics of the disciples, the responses of the Samaritan prostitute, the amazed rejoicing blind man who received sight, the broken-hearted harlot who was caught in adultery amidst the angry, screaming, accusing Pharisees, the tousling of heads of children as Jesus passed through, the compassionate feeding of the 5000, who were weary and hungry; the patience and forbearance with constant arguing, questioning, accusing.
I was surprised at how hungry my soul was for His message and became drawn into His heart. The crowds argued with Him, the Pharisees accused Him; twice they sought to stone Him, His authority was questioned, his miracles were questioned. He was accused of being filled with a demon. Haunted by constant, pushy, demanding, crowds, relentless needs of lost, lonely, hungry souls. And yet from the beginning, John tells us, He was ever moving toward his death, His cross, His sacrifice.
The divine meekness, the encompassing gentle spirit, the transcendent humble being, enveloping all in His pathway with profound, true insight, healing love, soothing soul-felt words of life was a witness of the power amidst the rubble of life.
And more, taking 5 chapters to explain His heart to His cherished friends, John sought to give us a glimpse into His compassionate heart, they who would be left alone, His disciples. He gathers them for a private, intimate sharing of souls, over the comfort of one last shared meal.
The creator and supreme, stooped on the dirty ground to wash 120 dirty toes. He gently washed, touched, dried the feet of his most intimate friends.
"If I have done this to you, so you should do this to one another."
Even to the one who would betray him, he washed and ministered his humble love unto him on the very night he was to be betrayed.
His words washed over my soul, "Just as the Father has loved me, I have loved you. Abide in my love." 15:9
"Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down His life for His friends." 15:13
"They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another." (5 times)
"If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you." 15:18
"How many times should we forgive? Seventy times seven."
"These things I have spoken to you that you may be kept from stumbling,..., an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think he is offering a service to God." 16: 1-2
"You will weep and lament, but your sorrow will be turned to joy."16:20
"In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world." 16:33
And then, he went to the cross, willingly, humbly, generously, feeling all the pain, despising the pain, yet holding on for the joy ahead where redemption and healing and love would reign supremely for eternity.
Peter tells us, "While being reviled, he did not revile in return, but kept trusting Himself to God, who judges righteously.
And then, his dying breath, "Forgive them because they do not understand what they are doing."
And so for me, the message of this year from His spirit became clear. "if I am to understand my God, I am to imitate His life, his love, His generous forgiveness and mercy, and his servant, life of pouring himself for others, so undeserving--no more room for the pointing of fingers or critical attitudes or the pettiness of hateful thoughts that rob my soul from grace. In order for a muscle to be built, it must be torn and then repair itself--the ending result is strength. And so soul strength comes through the same process.
In pondering how he could love, serve, die for the unlovely, forbear with unconditional love, I am being chiseled into His likeness. When I practice with those unlovely, the irrational, those with whom I may have to deal for my whole life, the unconditional love, patience, forbearance-even the injustice, "It's not fair," feelings, I am renewed to soul knowledge and deep understanding of the very nature of my savior.
In this place, there is no room for bitterness, accusations, hate or anger to overpower, because the light of His forgiving love overcomes all darkness. Choosing to remain in the suffering with a face of forgiveness, my soul is transformed by His grace and light begins to pour into my being.
In pondering, loving, worshiping this man, my God, by exercising the same grace He lived when, "while we were yet sinners, he died for us," my soul is spiritually, surgically, stretched in the fire of reality to begin to understand a little more of Him, and my heart is bowed down to worship more fully the One who is love, grace and forgiveness. And in this knowledge, I, too, find generous, unconditional forgiveness and healing love.
No longer owned by those who choose t o injure, but freed to dwell in the sweet grace and accepting love, that by my experience from His own hand and voice, gives me the strength to live by His empowering in the shadow of His healing, life-giving love.