The Refining through Road Irritation

I’m not usually subject to road irritation but there is one stretch of road on my way to church that does not always bring out the best in me.

Some of the mitigating factors include a van load of children, some or none of whom may have worn socks even though they were repeatedly asked to put them on, running late because I didn’t time my morning properly, lack of breakfast (see prior mitigating factor), and the knowledge that I will need to apply my makeup in the parking lot of the church with a time limit of about 2 1/2 minutes (I’ve done it).

So there are some Sundays where it’s like a van full of loving kindness and comradery. Songs are sung and jokes are told.

And then there’s the afore-mentioned Sundays (mitigating factors) where my irritation is palpable.

This isn’t a blog about how we put on nice face for church; I regularly come into church realizing that I’m in need of peace that passes understanding.

This is about how my getting to church sometimes lets me know how much I need church.

My story of woe begins with socks, half eaten breakfast, so we were actually half way to good, but yet timing things just right so we would be at church on time. On time only.

I was doing the speed limit. Not by my own virtue but because my youngest is inclined to have an internal radar detector that lets her know when I’m going even 2km over the speed limit.

So I wasn’t speeding but I was intentional about being there on time.

And we were well on our way until, horror of horrors, someone pulled in front of me and proceeded to slow down to 20km under the speed limit and stay there. There was not passing, I needed to be in that lane. And I was miffed.

Not angry, more in the area of exasperated/ticked/miffed/irritated but yet trying to maintain my poise in front of my children who will not learn road irritation from me, that’s for sure!

As the, I’m sure, very nice lady in the sensible sedan turned left I drove by thinking.

“Well, at least she wasn’t one of us. Because then I’d really feel bad.”

…………………………………………………

Oh yeah. I thought that.

Because if she had gone a bit further and turned left, then she would have been going to my church and then wouldn’t I have felt bad thinking nasty thoughts about someone I knew.

Yeah.

I’m not proud of it either.

But these not proud moments are ones that thankfully, God uses to teach me something about myself, my reactions, my impulses that haven’t yet reached the pinnacle of refining that he’s doing in my life.

So why would it matter if she was at our church or not? And for goodness sake, I should want her to be part of our church!

I’ve been trying to puzzle this out all day. Why would it matter if I was irritated with that lady and I ended up following her all the way to the church parking lot?

I think it’s something about the goodness of church.

Because at church, I’m surrounded by people who I care for and people who care for me.

And part of that caring means I let them into my life, make space for them to speak into my life about how God dreams I can be.

There are people there that I know on a deep and intimate level and I know that we all struggle.

And there are people there that I love very deeply.

It’s not that I would feel judged if someone knew that I had those unkind thoughts this morning. It’s that I’m on a journey with these people to seek Jesus. To love as he loved. To love everyone because knowing him means that I represent his love to others.

And driving into the parking lot of the church with people seeking to love means that when I don’t love, I’m reminded of why it’s my privilege to do so.

And today was a reminder that loving people extends beyond the church walls. That we reach out to those who irritate us, repel us, reflect us.

Realize that grace in the little things is a reflection of God’s grace to me in the biggest thing.

My irritation with that lady is no reflection of her, but a reflection of the gentle work that God still has to do in me.

And driving into the parking lot of a place where grace is offered to me is a good place to continue my journey.

 

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The Most Important Thing I Did Today Was Hold Someone’s Hand

The most important thing I did today was hold someone’s hand.

It was a hand gnarled and twisted with pain, a hand that gripped mine as the soul and body’s hurt issued outward through quiet groans and whimpering.

It was the hand of a stranger. A person who had called for someone, anyone, and I happened to be the one at the other end of the phone.

They did not know they wanted me, they just knew they needed someone.

As I sat with them, I asked what they wanted, what they needed. And what they needed was not to talk, but to sit, to be touched and seen. To have their hand held as they struggled through their pain and fear and sense of being alone.

It was a holy moment.

A moment where I remembered that this is the reason for being here. That this is worth the disinterest and the brush-offs. That for every 10 passing conversations, God intervenes with a situation so holy it takes my breath away.

God was not in the conversation, but God was in the room.

He was in the stillness, in the grip, in the quiet voice of caregivers, in the fluttering of eyelids and the recognition between strangers that this was a space where names didn’t matter, but presence did.

And my heart broke and rejoiced all at the same time.

And I felt, in that moment, the certain experience of being the present hands and feet of Jesus. All the medicine in the world could not do in that moment what hands could.

What a gift.

To be the living and breathing presence of God’s spirit to people who don’t know him, who don’t necessarily want to hear about him. But the hands are there.

So often I wrestle with the reality that much of what I do is less about words and more about action. I’m a words person, speaking and writing, and so much of my wiring is orientated to making Christ known through word.

But God is stretching me to know that the holy is found in deed. That making him known expands beyond the words of my mouth to the care by my hands.

As I held the hand of this fellow journeyer, I meditated on the idea that how often we offer the prescription of salvation through our words when it is the deed that shows his love.

I could not offer cure but I could offer comfort.

It was not the time for me to expound on my faith, it was the time to sit silently and be present. The invasion of my words, any words, into that sacred space would have been self-serving rather than serving.

But I know God was there in our enfolded hands.

He was there in the most basic and comforting of ways. If you know me you know that my hands are NEVER warm. They aren’t capable of it on their own.

But today they were warm, inexplicably warm. And this brought comfort, my hands that were ‘so warm’, to hands that were frigid in their pain.

God uses the heat of our hands and the Holy Spirit within our hearts to show who he is. He uses the words of our mouth and the silence of our moments to share his love.

In the moment, it’s not about prescription, not about cure, it’s about the still presence of the Holy Spirit, our comforter. And in that Holy space we learn how to travel with one another.

Nope, Not Even Close

I am not ready. 

I am take-a-sedative (herbal, but not that kind of herbal) or stress-clean-the-house kind of not ready. 

I am so not ready that I can’t even wrap my head around it, I’m so not ready. 

My daughter is ready. 

She is sooooo ready that the people around her can feel it seeping out of her pores. She is so ready that people stop her in the library and intuitively ask her if she is ready? 

And boy is she ready. She’s been ready for two years. 

As I look at my girl I see her readiness and feel my own unreadiness. 

Sure, she’s nervous about things that other people look at her in shock for even worrying about. Like will she make friends. Because she will, in abundance. 

And I’m ready for her. I’m ready for her to be ready because she is so ready. I know these things are good for her, that kindergarten will be a place of remembering playing house and water tables and the elusive crab in the class fish tank. 

But I’m not quite ready for me. Because, you see, change in her life means change in mine. A change of time-focus and leaping into situations that have snowballed me into a world of newness and wobbly legs. 

The commitment that I made to myself years ago that when change came for her I would actively seek change myself. That the time when she’s away from me and I from her would be spent in walking alongside others. That I would stretch my legs,heart, and brain back to the back-burner part of myself, not dormant, but shared in time and space with the care of young ones. 

And now it is time and she’s ready and sleeping and I’m awake and contemplating the cleaning. I may have already taken the ‘not that kind of herbal’ sedative. 

Because I know the old but don’t know the new. Like I reassure my children as they enter new classrooms and engage with new teachers, I too want to hear, ‘you’ll be fine’. (my glorious husband has offered to pray for me when he comes to bed)

God and I have chatted about this new change. Well, I have chatted and felt too spun around to be able to listen much. But I do try. 

And sometimes the listening comes in the moment while I’m talking. 

My middle child, the lightbulb spirit child, was being cuddled and prayed over when I knew that there was something more for him. I asked him if he remembered Joshua and his nerves before he went to Jericho? And then I said, ‘and God brought those walls down to crumbs’. 

“Be Strong and Courageous. Do not be afraid. The Lord God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Wherever, no matter what. 

Despite the nerves and new beginnings and insecurities of self and situation, God is there in Spirit and in Truth. 

My son nodded, but still a little sceptical. But you see, he doesn’t have the years of new beginnings I’ve had. 

Doesn’t have the years of God’s presence, going before and hemming behind. 

Hasn’t yet seen the depth of faithfulness I’ve seen. 

Hasn’t seen enough that he can look at the young ones he loves and offer them the gift of his certainty that we are always in God’s presence and palm.

But his time will come, and tomorrow’s Godly faithfulness will resonate with his soul. 

And it will resonate with mine, in present and memory. 

What does it mean to be Weary?

Weary looks a lot of ways to a lot of different people.
Weariness looks like buying the weed whacker and leaving it in the van because you just cannot make the extra trip out.

Weariness looks like dinner dishes left on the table when you go to bed but at least you put the food away.

Weariness looks like making nice with your nice neighbors and wishing for a nice way to get inside.

Weariness looks like sitting when you should stand, crying when you should laugh.

Weariness looks like tired ears that don’t hear the question, a tired mouth that can’t form the words.

Weariness looks like frustration that you are weary because what do you have to be weary about?

But weariness is real and legitimate and sometimes physical and sometimes chemical but often spiritual.

We get weary from walking alongside the broken hearted. We get weary from standing strong while the earth under their feet crumbles. We get weary from the bending to embrace and to serve.

And we don’t want to be weary because there is work to do, callings to be fulfilled, and rides to be given. We know that we want to just be but the work requires that we do.

I have been through a time of great fulfillment that has come to completion and I am weary. I’m weary of the growth and the stretching. I’m weary of the slap dash nature adapting to a life with extras in it. I’m weary of combining the pieces into who God has made me to be and the ‘wherever next’nature of an exciting and ambiguous future.

So after putting the food away but not doing the dishes, I sit on my deck because I’m tired of bed. Because it’s not tiredness and not sleep I need, but rest.

What I need is a cave. The retreating Elijah space where God says to me ‘stop, and be filled’.

And I don’t need the extra sleep/chocolate/Netflix cure for weariness. I need the submitting, dedicated rest for the weary and heavy laden.

But my soul is tired and the physical and mental make the spiritual so much more difficult.

Like Elijah in the cave I recognize that this is journey. A journey of the three in oneness of my restoration. Where the physical, mental, and spiritual all weave together in the formless and void before being restored and recreated.

And I wonder what the ravens of God’s restoration will bring. Because I know they will come.

Right now, in this moment they bring the scent of cut grass in the twilight and the return of the creative impulse. Earlier they brought the energy to eat salad rather than cookies and the wonder of Narnia offered to young eyes.

And there are tears of release and cleansing and a willingness to someday again venture forth into the murk of walking alongside others, those others who need a conduit to the ultimate bearer of burdens.

But for now, among the cut grass, twilight, smell of pot smoke from the other side neighbors, I can recognize the end of one journey and the transition between another and find the potential for rest.  The rest that is offered by Him in grace and time and space and obligations of life that walk alongside the rest. And in that I am tentatively content and will be content.

Cancelling Debts

One of the toughest and easiest lessons to teach and learn is forgiveness. 

I look at children, my own especially, and I see such capacity to offer the ‘I’m sorry’. Even in the midst of the embarrassment of having done something wrong, and much worse, being caught in it, children know that the easing of the situation comes from the short phrase. It makes all things better. 

That’s the easy part. 

The difficult part is the other side of forgiveness. When we are asked to receive the I’m sorry rather than give it. I know this seems counter intuitive. It would make sense that being in the wrong would be harder than being right. 

But sometimes being right is so much harder when we’re called to be part of a culture that forgives. When Jesus tells us to forgive we know that an apology goes a long way to righting a situation where we’ve wronged someone. And there is a sense of emotional release, a ripping of the spiritual bandaid that happens when we acknowledge and say the words of repentance. 

It’s the 70×7 that I struggle with. 

And I see my apparently mature spiritual self rebel at the injustice of having to forgive. Like my kids say, ‘It’s not fair! You don’t understand and if you did you would know that this just doesn’t cut it!”. 

Because if forgiveness was just, then it would be harder to receive forgiveness. 

I’m sorry wouldn’t cut it.

It’s the feeling we have that the anger of hurt outweighs the heaviness of guilt on the scales of justice. 

And I’m sorry doesn’t seem to have the human capacity to balance it out. 

I’ve known for a long time that God’s idea of justice and mine don’t align. That I’m so glad to be able to receive his grace and forgiveness but hav such trouble when he asks me to be like him. 

Because then it’s not fair. 

It’s an eternal struggle, seeing justice and mercy meted out where I don’t see a resolution. Where it doesn’t seem fair. 

I was reading in Deuteronomy 15 (if you ever want to ponder justice and grace, try reading through that lens) and came across the year of cancelled debts. It’s the idea, the requirement that God gave the Israelites to forgive debts of others every 7years. Wiped away. Clean and forgotten. 

This is a financial and social form of justice but in this passage God nudged me. 

What about the forgiveness part?

Some of our spiritual and emotional debts are excruciating to forgive. There may be no justice, no repentance, no face or a too familiar face to the deep wounds that plague us. 

There are debts that feel like they can never be repaid or forgiven.

I struggle with what to write next. There are platitudes about forgiveness that undermine the need for security and don’t acknowledge the depth of brokenness. There are words of should that we say in order to make another person better or, at least, their problem go away.

When 70×7 doesn’t even feel like the tip of the iceberg and it’s said with the tone of a cocked head and wagging finger. 

And yet, the truth of God’s word that says forgiveness is necessary and obedient and healing. 

And there is my tension. 

The acknowledgement that God’s abilities are not mine, but are available to me. 

A decision to pursue his idea of justice even when I don’t understand it or feel that it’s sufficient. 

And the need to ask for the ability and strength to forgive soul debts. 

Forgiveness is not easy and forgiveness without visible justice is sometimes only possible through the strength of the Spirit.

But it is asked of us.

Asked of us in our wondedness and outside of our understanding and willingness. 

But we are not asked by someone who just wants it over with and swept under the rug. 

It is asked of us by the One who sees past the past and into the future healing and justice in ways we don’t see. 

We are not asked to forgive as a result of our punishment. We are asked to forgive as a testament to grace freely given. 

So maybe the tension is a reminder. A sacramental reminder of love poured out for us. A baptism into our slow rising toward greater healing and understanding of the holy mingling of justice and grace.

70×7 steps toward Him who receives us without blemish and with loving arms, wounded and broken, healing in his presence. 

Redrawing the Boundary Lines

Boundaries are hard.

And this post is hard to write because boundaries are something that are easy for me to teach and preach but hard for me to submit to in my own life.

Because I’m a people pleaser.

And there are expectations on me and I want to meet them because then people will need me and want me around and I will be valuable to them.

And that’s messed up and messy and a miserable place to be.

And I thought I had all this all figured out.

God, Family, Other stuff.

But I didn’t. My head had all this figured out but my will and my treasure was not focused in these directions.

God, Family, Other stuff.

This was not the order. The order became other stuff, family, God, sometimes.

I have boundaries like our old Basset Hound, Zelda, had boundaries. If you know anything about hounds, they get the scent, put their head down, and follow, boundaries be darned.

Following it through traffic, through staff rooms and mail rooms. It’s a climbing-on-top-of-1997-Ford-Mustangs-to-scale-6-foot-fences-with-your-4-inch-legs kind of following.

And that’s what I was doing. I was following a goal to the good of that goal and the detriment of everything else. Because that’s how it happens for me sometimes, and maybe it happens for you, that all the things are good things but all the good things are in the wrong order.

And the good things take the place of the best things.

So I found myself weeping on a stool in our garage as my husband gently reminded me that saying no is sometimes the most loving and holy thing you can do for yourself.

That saying no to the outward expectations and yes to the long-term potential for family memories is a sacred space and healing place.

That the outside world and my world would not crash and burn if they did not intersect for one day.

Because if you’re like me, then you begin to believe the lie that the things that bring you accolades are the same that bring you nourishment.

That the  approval of one who seems great is not worth disappointing the heart of the one that is tiny and trusting.

When I turn my heart to what is the less permanent treasure, when I lose sight of the God then family, I lose focus and direction.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also

Matthew 6:21

Sitting on that too tall for comfort garage stool I realized that my focus was outside-in and backwards. That I was so tied up in outward expectations that inwardly I was slowly wasting away. And the decisions I was making, so concerned about doing my duty, for being accountable to what I had signed up for, were decisions that meant saying no to the nourishment from God and nourishing of family.

I was all wrong and boundary-less.

My heart and my head needed to align. My sight needed to focus in on the one who creates and gives life.

And I needed to re-draw the boundary lines in my memory and intentions.

To remember that the fleeting Samaritan interaction does not compare with the memory stored in a child’s heart.

To remember that I am God’s treasure stored in this jar of clay. That I am free to choose, free to seek and strive.

And

That I am freed to be free of the outward expectation when it does not align with the still small voice heard in the quiet seeking.

The tears on the garage stool were healing, full of purpose and repentance.

Because that’s what Jesus offers when we need to reorient and walk our boundary lines. Direction, clarity, courage, and sure-footed peace.

It’s Normal to Fuss

My son’s gymnastics facility is the loudest place on the planet. Really. Not kidding. 

 A kid’s wilderness dream haven of play structure, sponge pits, trampolines, and decibel level that is unmatched in anything I’ve seen in my life, apart from a U2 stadium concert.

And it’s my pleasure and privilege to take my two youngest children to this wonderland every Monday evening for the next foreseeable future. 

What is my cure for this, you may ask? Why, headphones, audio books narrated by soothing British accents, and the handcraft of my choice. 

But not this week. This week is spent headphones off, listening to the echoing madness that plays out under the rules posting. Foremost of which is “use your inside voice”.

Not my idea of bliss. 

And it was in this state of compromised compassion that it began. 

The observations over the rim of my large London Fog. The sideways glance at the freaking out toddler held in a father’s fussing toddler who hits to get her way. The imperfections of humanity laid out in child-sized packages. 

Please don’t get me wrong. I love children. It’s just that when I get feeling judgemental that I realize a.) how glad I am for my own imperfect-but-not-as-bad-as -them children and b.) how virtuous I feel as a parent. 

Because for certain I would NEVER allow my children to behave that way. I wouldn’t hold them when they were screaming in temper, I would march them out to the car when they so much as fussed. 

Yeah, right.

In the observations of my judgement, I realized some things. 

My stuff is not other people’s stuff, but I and my kids sure do have our stuff. 

But most importantly, how often am I behaving spiritually like those kids?

How often does my Heavenly Father carry me kicking and screaming from a place I want to stay to a place I should be?

How often do I come before him kicking, screaming, hitting, all in my desire to have my own short sighted way in this world?

All too often.

And He parents me through. Always loving, a mixture of mercy and truth, goodness and leadership. 

He’s such a better parent than me. 

And you know how He reminds me that His goal for me is to be like Him?

He sends my daughter to me, through the noise and the chaos, dragging her new little friend (doesn’t know his name) so that I can make his owie feel better. 

A child bringing another child to a loving parent. A parent they trust to bring healing and comfort. 

I hope my daughter learned that from watching me. 

And I hope I learned that from watching Him. 

Ostrich-itis

As I sit with my head laid upon my desk and my eyes closed, I wonder, ‘Do I remember reading that ostriches don’t, in fact, bury their heads in the sand, but rather lay their heads upon the comforting earth, close their eyes, and let the world slip by?’

Because really, I can relate to both.

I can relate to the ostrich-head-resting feeling that I’d rather the details of the world pass me by. That if I could just rest a minute, maybe all the things in life will sort themselves out, will make sense.

That the buzzing around me will still once it sees me playing dead, or at least, dormant for just a little while.

Maybe ostriches are just the ultimate procrastinators. Seeing the needs around them, to feed, protect, sustain, they just want a self-imposed time out.

I get that. Anyone else?

When your to do list meets the internal response of a resounding “NOPE, NOPE, NOPE”. And the feeling that I’d rather be doing anything/be anywhere but.

Yep. That feeling.

We all get to those places every now and again. Where it feels better to hide in the bathroom for just 10 minutes rather than have to go out there and adult.

And sometimes those 10 minutes fix the flight instinct that soars within us as our inner toddler says “I don’t wanna!”

I’ve had those toddler conversations with God. Where I tell him all the stuff that falls on my head and in my lap. I tell him that I don’t want to and he should make somebody else do it.

Boy am I glad that God already knows my impulses before I even voice them. Because I really would be much more embarrassed if he weren’t all-knowing.

Those few minutes of peace, telling him what’s going on, feeling him rest his hand on my resting head, seem to sort me out.

But then there’s the times when my head’s buried.

When the weight of the world and life’s tragedies seem less mosquito and more mountain lion.

When I’ve been hit so hard with responsibility, grief, or change that I can’t seem to muster myself out of the sand covering my head and heart.

What then?

Those situations are more than a 10 minute fix.

They’re more than a grumbling prayer and straightened spine,

Sometimes the digging out is from a place so deep that we can’t even hear the voice of God through our muffled hearts.

Because we are piled under the weight of burden so deep that the more we try to dig, the more seems to flow in.

I’ve been there too.

And it’s hard. We don’t know what to pray, how to help, what to ask for.
We don’t know how to find our way out and feel hopeless and stuck and stunned.

So sometimes we hide. And we wait for it to get better.

 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along.

If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.

He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.

That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.   Romans 8:26-28 MSG

If I’m told that the hard things I’m going through are worked for good, it can make me want to shriek and hurl things and people in all directions.

Because I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know how to turn this mud into a masterpiece. I just can’t do it.

But then I remember that during these hard times it’s in God’s hands.

Remember that He’s the one lifting my heart and thoughts to a place where He and I intersect.

That in this intersection of relationship where He’s all-seeing and all-loving, I can remember and release to him. 

And know that through His work and His brooding care, not by my own mechanizations or strength, things can be worked for good.

The Danger of the Third Person

I noticed a bad habit in myself the other day.

Though it is Lenten time and a therefore a time of reflection of behaviors and things Spiritual, this wasn’t that kind of habit.

This isn’t a chocolate/internet kind of habit to be broken.

It’s a habit of thought revealed by a habit of word.

You see, I noticed that I’ve recently started speaking a lot in the third person. Not using ‘You’ and ‘we’ but ‘He’ and ‘they’.

This isn’t me speaking in the royal we. “She is going to take the kids for a walk” sort of crazyness that would signify to my husband that a night off was in order.

No, what I noticed was that for a long time I’d been referring to God in the third person.

This isn’t normally a bad thing. It’s good to speak about God, to speak his praises, to bring him into conversation. That wasn’t my problem.

My problem was I was talking more about God than to God.

The realization sank deep. There was a sneaking and growing sense of detachment as I spoke more and more about God in the context of conversation than with God in conversation. He was becoming the object of my words rather than the object of my focus.

I wasn’t seeking God.

I wasn’t seeking time with him. I knew him, could speak of him, could argue for him, but wasn’t seeking him.

I wasn’t trying to look him in the face; I was talking about him like he wasn’t there.

How sad. How sad that at a time when I should be focused on him, focused on the multitudinous answers to prayer that had just been answered, falling on my face in worship of his goodness, I was loosening my grip on my solid rock.

Have you ever been in that place? Realizing that the most important relationship to you in the world has started to stagnate because of your unintentional neglect?

That the person in the world you should be most grateful for and to, is the one you haven’t thought of all day?

Been there.

And it shamed me.

He didn’t shame me, my neglect shamed me. 

And I knew the cure. I knew that though I felt shame, the Father of the Prodigal was looking for me. Looking to run towards me the instant he saw me turn my head.

That he’s always been there, waiting through the ebb and flow of my devotion. Waiting in the stillness and the chaos. Ever present, all seeing, gracious love and overflowing mercy.

He will not, should not, could not forever be ignored.

As I lifted my eyes to him after lowering them to his Word, I knew my welcome was absolute. That no matter the distance I drift, a hairbreadth whisper or a league, he’s always within reach. That though I may wander and forget, he never has and never will.

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.

 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

 He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
 indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore

Decisions, Decisions

I had to make a decision this morning.

Not a wear or hair decision, but a heart and attitude decision.

And this decision took place in the shower, as all good decisions do.

You see, someone had hurt someone close to me. And this someone had hurt them right where it hurts, at the core of who God made them to be.

And I was angry. I’ve spent the past evening and now, waking hours, thinking about this person who threw the emotional dart. Thinking that they should know better. Thinking that they should DO better. Thinking that their whole perspective on the world needs a shift and by gum, someone needed to say something.

I know that person isn’t me but what temptation to think that person into submission and repentance.

Pray for those who persecute you.

Nope (accompanied by vigorous soap wielding)

Pray for those who persecute you.

(raised eyebrow in acknowledgement and skepticism)

But then I started thinking.

Why did Jesus call us to pray for those who persecute us?

Because they need it.

Because the lack of understanding and lashing out doesn’t come from a place of God’s peace.

Because the maneuvering and manipulating doesn’t come from a place of Spirit-led relationship.

Because prayer for the persecutor does as much for me as it does for them.

Because I need it.

Lifting up another person before God, on their behalf, is a way of focusing the entire situation on God, who is the healer and making-right of all things.

Because in order for this situation to be resolved in a way that brings unity and not destruction and division, I must lay my feelings and perceptions before God so that he can sort them out in his wisdom.

And as I offered up my mind and heart for Spirit cleansing, I began to see things in a new light.

That hurt comes from hurt.

That lashing out comes from the feeling of sinking sand beneath the feet and the grasping hand reaches out for purchase in the face of change.

That sympathy and pity should be my approach.

That we all need God in such deep ways.

The persecuted can quickly become the persecutor if our responses aren’t taken to the Throne and Cross.

Unreflected responses can do more damage than good.

Praying for our persecutors puts the blame where it really lies, into the spiritual realm from where it originates. The non-flesh and blood that works on flesh and blood.

So we pray for the persecutor so we don’t become the persecutor.

We pray for the persecutor because they are persecuted in ways we can’t see.

We pray for the persecutor to put ourselves in a place of submission to God, for his insight, filter, and lessons as we process this situation together.

We pray for the persecutor because on the Cross, Jesus prayed for his.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:43-45a