It shocked me.
Utterly shocked and pierced me right in the heart like a swift arrow hitting the bulls-eye.
One Sunday afternoon, alone in peace and quiet, I decided to plunk myself down and try to conjure up some blogging ideas on our office desktop computer.
Nothing came to me. I felt totally devoid of ideas or even coherent thoughts. So I logged off, drifted into our family room, settled myself on the comfy couch, and picked up my iPad mini thinking maybe I’d just play a game or read something on my Kindle app.
Each time I fire up that tablet, it shows me app updates/notifications which I generally ignore. But not this time.
This time, I actually blinked at the very first notification that presented itself right there in front of my eyes. Blinked. Opened my eyes again to read it. And blinked again.
“Are you listening to what God’s Word is telling you?” it said.
Say what???? Arrow to the heart.
I have a Bible app downloaded on my mini, but it has never given me a notification like this one before.
“Are you listening to what God’s Word is telling you?” Bulls-eye.
All I could do was stare at that question so plainly stated on my tablet’s opening screen and believe in my heart of hearts that God was truly speaking to me.
You see, I’m mired in an ongoing struggle and it has derailed me enough to make me feel just like a freight train wreck sometimes. I have never really grappled with such negative feelings in the past. I may have run across people a time or two who I didn’t necessarily like, but never have I experienced these kind of feelings. Until now.
I have struggled daily for quite some time with ill feelings of…take a deep breath, wrestle with the guilt, and admit it boldfaced in writing…loathing for one person. Someone who lied, betrayed trust, and deeply hurt people I love.
And I ashamedly admit that I have succumbed to too many truly negative thoughts about this person and I’ve even uttered them out loud.
As a life-long believer in Christ, I KNOW this is wrong. I KNOW it!
I KNOW this a vile emotion and I KNOW that as a Christ follower, I should do all things with love.
I KNOW that my Savior told His believers to love our enemies and pray for them. He plainly spoke these words in the Bible – Matthew 5:44: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
And I KNOW I need to forgive.
I tried. I really did.
I fought to dispel my passionate emotions and show this person love. I prayed daily for weeks and weeks for that one soul. But as weeks turned into months and even years went by, I just stopped. The offender demonstrated no remorse, no apology, and no signs of even remotely caring about the sorrow and heartache that person’s actions caused.
As a result, disgust and abhorrence engulfed me. I found this fellow human utterly despicable and in doing so, ugly, hideous thoughts of anger filled my heart at the mention of the person’s name.
Those feelings have shaken me to my very core. The thought that I could harbor such animosity towards another human being shocks me because never, ever in my lifetime, have I felt this way towards another. It’s proved to be a daily battle and I have prayed, I have wept, I have retreated, I have discussed it with those closest to me until I am exhausted.
And then that Sunday afternoon, my iPad confronted me. “Are you listening to what God’s Word is telling you?”
Am I listening? I’ve tried to. But that’s the thing. I have tried to do it on my own. I have tried to sweep this ugliness away myself but haven’t allowed God to truly transform my heart as only He can do.
Why did this hit the bulls-eye with me? Because on that same Sunday, just a few hours before my tablet asked the question which seared my very soul, our pastor preached a message called “Clarifying Love.”
Real, honest to goodness love. Not the giddy, fuzzy warm feelings of love, but love that is an action, love which is the “non-negotiable fundamental of Christian faith,” according to my pastor and I agree.
Sacrificial love. Love that is deliberate.
As I sat in worship listening to Pastor’s message and reading the scriptures he cited, I found my thoughts centering yet again on that person who I still harbor ill will against. That one who proclaimed with words to exhibit this kind of love yet, when the price of love was difficult, didn’t manifest it at all, and wouldn’t even try to make amends to the ones hurt most.
And I realized that I wasn’t exactly manifesting sacrificial kindness myself. When my pastor reminded me that this kind of love – or the lack of it- reveals the state of my heart, I knew his message was for me.
My heart surely has been in an awful state. I felt that check in my spirit as I read scripture that I have read many, many times before in the book of 1 John, Chapter 3 and 4: Anyone who doesn’t love is in death. If you do not love, you don’t know God. Yes, yes, I knew that!
But the next passage was a full frontal assault on my heart and spirit. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer. A murderer?! I tried to brush that off. I’m not a murderer. This person who so willfully wronged my loved ones is the guilty one. But yet, wasn’t I “slaying” this person with my negative words and unforgiving actions?
I thanked my pastor and told him it was a great message – which it was – and then jokingly told him that I knew I needed to take heed to it but I still wanted to punch this one person in the nose. And my pastor, being the great person that he is, laughed with me. He didn’t chastise me or give me that righteous look that makes one feel condemned. No, he laughed. That’s why I like him so much, he’s real.
Pushing that message to the back burner of my mind, I searched for something distracting to do later that Sunday afternoon. And that’s when my iPad challenged me.
“Are you listening to what God’s Word is telling you?”
No, I must admit, I have not been listening to what God’s Word tells me. But it’s time – actually past time – that I do. When I don’t speak love with my words, I am wrong. But I’m even more wrong when I don’t love with my actions and in truth.
It’s not an easy task – a work in progress. I must willingly submit myself to the Lord every day to help me rid the malice from my heart and to forgive with sacrificial love even though the offender has never asked for that forgiveness and maybe never will.
Someone once told me that to be unforgiving is like drinking poison and waiting for the wrongdoer to die. I’ve never forgotten that and I’ve even used those same words in a women’s Bible study on forgiveness that I once led.
Being unforgiving doesn’t hurt the one who wronged you, but it does great damage to your own soul.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” ~ Lewis B. Smedes
How well I know. I have been forgiving so many times in my lifetime, but this one has been the most difficult ever and I don’t understand why.
But this I do understand – God promises to help and guide me as I apply His Word to my daily life – “Are you listening to what God’s Word is telling you?” – if I allow Him to do so.
Just like He did when I opened my Bible app that Sunday afternoon and discovered the verse for the day: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” ~ Psalm 32:8
“There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.” ― G.K. Chesterton