Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Heart of John C. McClure III (February 27, 1945 - August 8, 2015)

Several people have asked if I would share my message from Poppy's life celebration service for those who were unable to attend. Here's the entirety. How I will miss him!



Boy, it’s just bananas that we’re here, isn’t it?  My Poppy would have loved to see you all gathered together.

In about 20 years!

We sure didn’t expect to lose him when we did. It was so terribly stunning. After Poppy’s accident which nearly killed him, he survived! He was in horrific pain, but was given a good prognosis. He’d just seen the doctor and his vitals were all good. He was healing a little bit every day.

And then he had a bad day. We expected that in his recovery — good days and bad days. This was just a really bad day. I want you to know that on that last day, throughout the whole day, he talked to Jesus. He prayed even while he was sleeping. It wasn’t unusual for him so we actually didn’t think much of it when he quoted scripture and when we asked him what he was thinking he said things like, “Well, Jesus just said…”

We didn’t know it at the time, but he was probably in and out of Heaven all day long.

In the evening, he had what seemed to be a panic attack and then was having trouble with the coordination of his breathing. We practiced with him, “in through the nose, out through the mouth, in through the nose, out through the mouth.” We sat together downstairs since he was unable to go up the stairs and we had some lovely moments. At one point, he said, “Laurz, are you here?” and I said yes. He asked, “What are we doing?” and Mama replied, “Oh, we’re all just hanging out together.” And he said, “Oh, I like that…”

Mother stayed with him and finally said I should go to bed just after midnight. About 20 minutes later, she called out to me and I flew downstairs to find her on the phone with the paramedics and Poppy not breathing on the couch.

I never imagined one day giving my Poppy CPR until the EMTs arrived.

I certainly hope he was with Jesus by then because otherwise I’m going to meet him in Heaven and he’ll say, “What did I ever do to you that you should bang on me like that with all those broken ribs?! Poor Poppy!”

It all happened so fast it was stunning. He arrived at the hospital just before we did and Mother went back with him. I was in the waiting room down at Hoag Irvine for maybe 3-5 minutes and then was called back and Mother and I stared in awe at him as she said that they were turning off all the machines because he was unable to recover.

When the wonderful doctors and medical team invited us in as they turned off the machines that were keeping him alive, we in unison laid our hands on him and praised Jesus for this wonderful man, fantastic husband, loving man, great father… and we worshipped.

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

It was dramatic, traumatic, and scary. But, every moment of it was Spirit-drenched and holy. We have said over and over again, we would not have missed it for the world.

We expected 20 more years!

But, how can there be just grief after a life so well lived? A life so well-modeled after Jesus? There must be rejoicing and thanksgiving.

God’s timing is His perfect plan.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

The Word of the Lord in John 14:27:

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Psalm 31:15
My times are in Your hand…

As Uncle Don said this morning at the graveside, we don’t know why the Lord took him seemingly too soon, but we can trust in God’s sovereign goodness.

(This is for my Pops:) To quote William Wallace from Braveheart, “Every man dies. But not every man really lives.”

Poppy lived big. He lived loud. He loved enthusiastically.

My dad loved the Lord and he loved people with all of his heart for all of his life. So, if he were standing here he would ask:

Do you know how much I love you?

I heard that thousands of times growing up, and it’s such an exquisite gift.

He would say: You’re great! You are. You are wonderful, smart, gifted, funny, capable, wanted, valued, treasured, and beloved. No matter what you’ve done or failed to do. No matter if you won or lost. No matter what your age, gender, race, height, weight, political party, financial status, or how many people follow you on social media. You’re great.

Even if you don’t believe it. Even if you’ve made a royal mess of your life, and who hasn’t? I certainly have! Even you’ve been abandoned, rejected, mistreated, fired, dismissed, replaced, mocked, used and abused. You are not forgotten. You are seen. You are known. You are loved. You are priceless. You are delighted in.

YOU. Are great.

For some of you sitting here, life is going swimmingly. Some of you are in the sweet zone with the wind at your back. Hallelujah for that! Write down every detail of that in thanksgiving to God! Yes! Celebrate those seasons of joy and plenty!

Psalm 100 King James Version says:

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations.

Some of you sitting here are in a season of terrible crisis. Some of you have been in a hard, hard situation that has knocked the snot out of you and it seems absolutely endless.

Psalm 34:18
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 56:8

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in Your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in Your book.

Some of us are lifelong believers.
Some of us are new believers and we are AMPED about the Gospel, EXCITED about this brand new life in Christ Jesus, and PUMPED to share the Good News!
Some of us aren’t sure what we think about this whole Jesus thing at all.
Some of us are jaded, tired, and really annoyed with this motley bunch of messy, argumentative, beautiful, bumbling, holy hooligans we call the Church.

Some of us feel like quitting.

Don’t you quit! Don’t quit that hard thing. Life is so short!  Sometimes it’s decades shorter than we anticipated!

Keep going for Jesus!

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. — Galatians 6:9

Wherever you are, I pray today that if you are a believer already that your relationship with Jesus is deepened, strengthened, embolded, spirit-refueled, and exhorted by the life of John McClure.

And if you are not a believer yet, I pray that today is your day to receive Him as your Savior. He will exchange your sin and the blackness you cannot bear for a life of freedom in Christ Jesus! Your debt has been already been paid. All you have to do is one thing: receive it. Say, “Jesus, I’m with You.”

He wants so much to be with you that that’s His Name — Emmanuel — God WITH us!

Poppy — Mr. Enthusiasm — would say, “LET’S GO!”

Don’t hold back in your relationship with God! Give Him everything! If you’ve got some concerns about what that’s going to look like, what the cost is going to be, then tell Him. There will be cost.

In this world you will have trouble, but take heart because I have overcome the world. — John 16:33

Take your doubts to Him. He isn’t offended. Jesus engaged honest questioners.

Take your anger to Him. He already knows what you’re so mad about.

Take your hurt to Him. He cares so deeply about what hurt you and wants to walk with you through it.

Take your fears to Him. He will strengthen you. He will give you the courage to do it afraid!

Take your sins to Him. For heaven’s sake, don’t hide. It’s not too ugly for Jesus. It’s not too dirty. He will take all that junk and garbage, the times you slandered Him, hated Him, rejected Him, wounded others, stole what wasn’t yours, busted up relationships, and years and decades of sins that you’ve been hauling around and He’ll throw them in the deepest, darkest trench in the ocean never to be seen nor thought of again. Never to be remembered by God again.

As my cousin, Marcus, said yesterday at Grams’ graveside service, if we didn’t have the Lord many of us wild McClures would’ve probably ended up in jail. We’re all punks in some way or another. We’re all sinful, weak, or selfish, or hot-headed, or easily distracted from Jesus, or we just plain forget to love Him more than worldly passions or our own personal concerns. We all leak holiness and need to come back to Jesus to get cleaned up, rested up, refilled, and find security in His love again.

And, He’s ready to give that to you today.

I’m so thankful that my grandparents met the Lord, that they raised their raucous children to love the Lord, and that they modeled love. Particularly Grams. She oozed loved.

She taught Poppy to LOVE.

He loved my mother. I’m so deeply thankful that my children got to witness this precious love and have it modeled for them, particularly for the last 3 ½ years as we’ve lived together. Poppy stepped in as surrogate father for my children and he modeled huge love, especially for Jesus and my mother. They were spicy. They argued in the early years, but I don’t think they had anything beyond a slight annoyance in ages. And I’ve had a front-row seat to their love!

I remember very well, at our home on Balboa Island coming home uncharacteristically early and opening the front door to my parents making out hot and heavy on the stairs in various stages of undress. Poppy took one look at me and said one word, “OUT!” and I shut the door to the sound of them laughing.

Here’s a sweet sampling of my mother’s poetry that shares a bit of their love:

You kiss me with your eyes
In the middle of a group of people
They search for mine
And kiss me.
No one notices
But I.
And I get such a rush.
I begin to look at my watch —
Isn’t it getting late?
We have an early meeting, we should be on our way.
Because of that kiss.
It is a promise —
Or a mending
For harsh words unthoughtfully exchanged that morning.
It is a healing
And it is effective. Just one kiss
With your eyes
In the middle of a group of people
Or it is a comfort;
Only we know that the need is there
Your eyes reach to my lips
Kiss
The tear that’s hidden inside away,
In the middle of a group of people
Or — it has no purpose but the grandest purpose —
The private seal of the most intimate love
No one shares
But me
And you
In the middle of a group of people
Who don’t catch on
To the passionate kiss going on
With your eyes.

He loved our family. He loved being the spiritual leader of our family and he was great at it. About a week before Poppy passed away he called the house and talked with each of us. And he prayed… and he prayed… and he prayed. Loooong prayers. That was Poppy. I wish I had recorded our talk on my phone because I’d love to play those passionate and loving prayers back over the years to come!

He loved his kids and grandkids — Pops loved to sit on the ground playing board games or Barbies, going out for froyo or a movie, sitting in the Jacuzzi, and especially going on vacation together.

He loved his siblings and sibs-in-law — Walt and Sherry, Ray and Jani, Nels and Heather, Don and Jean, Ron and Willy, John and Marilyn, and cousins Harry and Susan who got grafted in as siblings, he loved you so much.

He loved his church. He loved his Bible study guys. He loved the outcasts and the popular, the pious and the partiers, the successful and the disenfranchised. He loved the black sheep. He loved the bad guys.

Poppy loved without limits.

Because of who he was and how he lived full of life, and joy, and enthusiasm, and encouragement, Poppy was well loved. You can’t throw a rock in this room without hitting someone who thought of him as their best friend. Gosh, I look around and I wish I could give a big ol’ smooch to so many of you who loved Poppy as he loved you.

And… he was hated and treated hatefully by a few. He was treated just so cruelly, stolen from, lied about, slandered, tricked, and kicked around for way too many years by way too many supposed friends…

And some of you are here.

But, here’s the secret sauce to Pops — It was one of his most annoying habits… Man, it would make me so mad! People would hurt him, malign him, attack him, and he would completely forget. I’m not joking.

He would actually forget the event or actions and if he ran into someone who stabbed him in the back he greeted them like that person was his long lost best friend, with true joy, huge hugs, and a kiss!

He loved those who chose to be his enemies. It was diabolical.

Here’s what I want to say to those of you who treated him hatefully, to those who chose to be enemies to him. (Well, not what I would say — I have a few things I could say… but I won’t.) Here’s what Poppy would say, “Ahhh, it’s ok. You’re my brother. You’re my sister. I love you. I already paid the price for that. It’s finished. It’s over and done… And I don’t even remember it anymore.”

He was so like Jesus that way.

And now he is with Jesus and I can hardly take it in. In Glory! Face-to-face! He finished the race! He got his reward! And he’s waiting for us there.

If he were here he’d tell you, “Don’t wait to make a personal relationship with Jesus! He loves you so much! And Heaven is AWESOME!”

Dr. Martin Luther King said this:

Genuine faith imbues us with the conviction that beyond time is a divine spirit and that beyond life is life. However dismal and catastrophic may be the present circumstance, we know that we are not alone for God dwells with us. God’s creative power is not exhausted by this earthly life nor is His majestic love locked within the limited walls of time and space. Even if we die without having received the earthly promise, He shall lead us down that mysterious road called death and at last to that indescribable city He’s prepared for us. Our earthly life is a prelude to a glorious new awakening and our death is an open door that leads us into life eternal.

Think about the Stained Glass people, the heroes of the faith – all failures. All broken. All flawed. All sinners. Jesus chose a wild bunch of average, unschooled, mostly poor people to be His disciples. They were hot-headed. They chickened out. They made mistakes. They completely misunderstood what Jesus was doing enough that He often called them “little faiths”. The early Church was made up of a bunch of sinner-saints like us — a motley bunch of messy, argumentative, beautiful, bumbling, holy hooligans.

What made the difference in their lives and hearts? Faith and trust in Jesus. Loving Him. Choosing Him. Don’t you want Him today?

Jesus wants you. He just wants to hang out with you. You’re His favorite.

As I close I want to remind you: If you have yet to ask Jesus to be your Savior, I or any one of these heroes who’ve been up here would love to pray with you today. 

You are treasured by God.

Your debt is already paid. You have only to receive Him. 

You’re great.

Don’t quit.

Keep going for Jesus.

And, LET’S GO!


I love you.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Him

You know, as I’ve walked through this agonizing divorce (which isn’t over), I’ve logged a lot of middle of the night hours with God. 

I’ve told Him every hurt, angry, confused, shocked, embarrassed, ashamed, grieved, and broken thing a thousand times over. It’s really stunning what amount of grief the human body can not die from. Endless conversations about the parts of the breakdown that were mine alone, sin and repentance (lots and lots), hopelessness, frustration, the death of what could/should have been but wasn’t, the suffering my kids have gone through and my what was my wrongdoing in that as well, financial desperation, seemingly lost and wasted years, betrayal, bitterness, loneliness, fear, and my deep need for the Lord’s presence, and on and on. 

As those of you who have experienced your life being shipwrecked and walked with God through it have already learned, at some point along the way I realized that Jesus Himself has been through it all (Hebrews 4:14-16). Except He did so perfectly. Me, not so much. He knows what it’s like. He’s had His own middle of the night grueling prayer sessions and cried out to God for relief, too.
And, this dawned on me last night: because of that, I treasure those hours. 


Because even though they’ve been harder than childbirth and more painful, 
He’s been there and He’s held me (Isaiah 41:10), He’s never let go (Deuteronomy 31:6), He’s listened to every big and small thing (1 John 5:14), He cares (1 Peter 5:7), He’s gathered up every tear (Psalm 56:8), He’s forgiven me my sins and doesn’t even remember them any more (Hebrews 8:12), He will cause good to come out of this (Romans 8:28), He’s changed my perspective and He’s changed me (Ezekiel 36:26). God is not any different (James 1:17) but I’ve realized that in clinging so desperately to Him, I am. If it weren’t for this long trauma, I wouldn’t know the nearness and the dearness of the Lord. I wouldn’t know the agony of needing Him so profoundly. I wouldn’t have discovered that He doesn’t require perfection — He doesn’t mind the ugly snot-bubble kind of crying one bit. I wouldn’t know the foreignness of praying for those who’ve hurt me (Matthew 5:43-48) and even learning to pray prayers I never could have prayed before for my husband — for God to pour out His love on him and his mistress and bless them. Those, my friends, are rubber-meets-the-road prayers! I wouldn't know my own sin. I wouldn't recognize it or even care.

I wouldn’t know that sometimes praising God is the bravest and most life-changing thing to do in the face of fear, shame, anger, loss, anything really. I wouldn’t even have looked for the treasures and joys along the way, His “small” gifts like the beauty of quietude, sunrises, and the sound of birds waking up, the loveliness of pre-dawn fog over the ocean, and the smell of rain in the early morning. 

I wouldn’t know that, when push comes to shove (and it has), He’s all I need. It's all about Him. It turns out that those middle of the night hours are not my own personal torture chamber, but instead they are probably as precious to me as the births/adoptions of my kids. Although they’ve been filled with pain, those are the times He’s drawn nearer than my own breath (if that’s possible) and held my hand. Even if nothing has changed on the outside, even if circumstances have stayed the same or gotten worse, He is with me. 

And that’s the actual, unmistakable, remarkable, surprising gift — 

Him.



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"Unstoppable" Author Chat with Christine Caine


Christine Caine is an on-fire evangelist, a powerful preacher, and the author of five books including Undaunted and Unstoppable, and a blessed mum to Catie and Sophie. She and her husband, Nick, founded The A21 Campaign which is an anti-human trafficking organization that fights slavery the world over. Christine’s passions are: evangelism, building the Church, freeing slaves spiritually and physically, she’s a devotee of coffee, and a beach girl like me.

We had such a great chat on FaithGatewayLIVE! I've been a huge fan of Christine for years because of the heavy anointing on her life and ministry and the passion with which she preaches and lives, so this was a pinch-me experience!

Highlights of the Chat:

  • Christine's story of healing from cancer
  • Winning the battle with fear
  • Obeying God despite heartaches, disappointments, fears, etc.
  • Who is called to run the "divine relay"
  • How to prepare for running your race
  • How to choose which passion to run with
  • Battling fear, rejection, and doubt to fulfill your purposes in Jesus Christ
  • The story of the beginning of the A21 Campaign
  • A sneak peak at Propel - for leaders in the marketplace
  • Being a Daniel in the midst of darkness
  • The power of the unified Church to reach and help the world
  • How to live the life that Jesus Christ has placed you on earth to live


Buy the Book

Watch Now

Monday, September 22, 2014

"The Best Yes" Author Chat with Lysa Terkeurst


Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly. — Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)


Are you living with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule and aching with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul? 

I am the worst blogger! And, Lysa's right... it's mostly because I am overwhelmed with all the busyness of being a full-time single mom (the hardest-BEST job in the world!) with a full-time job! I should have posted this blog a month ago, but I've let my little blog gather dust over here instead. The other day I picked up The Best Yes again and remembered this great conversation we had that I'd love to share with you!

It was such a treat to chat with author Lysa Terkeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries on FaithGatewayLIVE. If you don't know Lysa, she is a wife to Art and mother of five like me, including two adopted sons from Liberia, Africa. She’s a teacher, a preacher, and she serves and encourages women all over the globe through P31. Among many titles, she’s the author of Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God, Leading Women to the Heart of God, and one of my personal favorites Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions.

Highlights from the Author Chat: 



  • The 3 steps to unrush your schedule 
  • How not to miss sacred, God-ordained moments! 
  • The 2 Most Powerful Words 
  •  How to avoid "Analysis Paralysis" 
  • The 5 Parts to Making a Decision 
  • Making wise choices 
  • The "Small No" is a good gift to ourselves as well as others 
  • Enjoying the unrushed life

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Soul Keeping: Author Chat with Pastor John Ortberg

Recently, I chatted with John Ortberg, author or Soul Keeping. Talk about a soul-enriching half-hour!

John is the pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church (MPPC). He is the author of many books on spiritual growth including Who Is This Man? and The Life You've Always Wanted. Pastor John was mentored by Dallas Willard who soaked him in deep lessons about the soul and the importance of caring for it. 


Watch the Live Chat Replay!

Monday, August 4, 2014

How to Pick Up a Stripper and Other Acts of Kindness [Author Chat with Todd & Erin Stevens]

A while back I sat down with Todd & Erin Stevens and chatted about their new book How to Pick Up a Stripper and Other Acts of Kindness.



Todd is the pastor of Friendship Community Church. Erin is the founder of Nashville Strip Church which is just the kind of outreach Jesus would have started Himself! They serve the women in the stripping industry in Nashville and love on them right where they are, no strings attached.

If that sounds scandalous to you, listen to this...

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Scandal of Forgiveness

2-Corinthians-13-11
I am the God of Love and Peace. Let the splendor of this glorious truth sink into the depths of your heart, mind, and spirit. The One who is always with you is the God of Love and Peace! When you feel a need for more Love, come to Me and let Me lavish it upon you.
Whenever you are feeling anxious or afraid, come into My peaceful Presence – and relax in the everlasting arms awaiting you.
I want your character to reflect Me more and more. So endeavor to be loving and peaceful in your relationships with other people. When someone irritates or upsets you, try to see Me in that person. Remember that I created everyone in My own image. The most effective way to love people is to allow My Love to flow through you to them. My Spirit lives inside you, and you can ask Him to love others through you.
To live peacefully, you need to forgive people quickly – including yourself.
Make every effort to live close to Me, the God of Love and Peace.
Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. – 2 Corinthians 13:11
The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemy before you, saying, “Destroy him!”  - Deuteronomy 33:27
God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. - Genesis 1:27
~ From Jesus Today by Sarah Young
* * *
You know that thing where you feel completely at peace about an old conflict? You are ok about it now. You’ve forgiven. Been forgiven. Phew! Maturity and peace at last! It’s totally done, right?..
Until you run into that person unexpectedly and your stomach squeezes up, your expression sours, and you maniacally duck behind cars in a parking lot and hide until the person you had no idea you still had venom in your heart for finally leaves? And, all the while you’re thinking What in the blue blazes is wrong with me? What am I… 12?
Or, if the situation cannot be avoided and you have to have a polite interaction with this unfortunate old friend and you realize you suddenly feel the urge to bite them - hard? And, all the while you’re thinking I could totally do that right now and it would feel so stinkin’ awesome! What am I… in preschool?
I had a dream the other night that fully displayed the ugliness in my heart. I dreamt of a circumstance where I was at a social gathering and unexpectedly saw a person who has consistently been extremely difficult and caused a lot of pain over a lot of years (self-righteously, aggressively and absolutely unrepentantly). This person whom I seriously thought I’d forgiven ages ago, thoroughly, haven’t-even-thought-about-it-in-forever kind of forgiven, walked up to me to start a conversation and my response was an emotional volcano eruption. Like a raving lunatic, I thrust both arms straight out, palms flat in the universal sign for Stop Right Where You Are, and said “NO! You need to back up far away from me. Right now.”
I woke up and thought,
Houston, we have a problem.
That’s not me! For many years, yes, I struggled with being that foolish, emotional lunatic woman reacting wildly out of confusion, shock, grief and anger, fear, insecurity, and the supreme agony of a crumbling, destructive marriage, but I’m not the person I used to be, thank GOD! He is helping me kill the crazy lady (over and over again) and I’ve made so much progress, but I cannot do it by myself any more than a puny pre-teen could kill a 9 ½ foot giant (1 Samuel 17) without the Lord doing the job through him. I can talk the talk, but walking the walk is like wearing lead boots. I simply am not capable of walking out of CrazyTown on my own.
No matter what the relationship or circumstances, it takes the strength of God Almighty to walk in mercy and grace towards people who hurt you “deliberately, willfully, presumptuously, impudently, boastingly, maliciously, frequently, obstinately, with delight, and continually” (Westminster Larger Catechism) and to let go of what they continually, purposefully do while not letting it dig under your skin and poison you.
Remember that scene in Spiderman 3? The ultimate Nice Guy Peter Parker has grown obsessed with revenge and this evil, alien entity attacks him wrapping around his body, encasing him in the black, tarry mystery substance. This parasitic extraterrestrial has changed him into a dark character and amplified his aggression and desire for vengeance, which initially feels good and powerful, but it takes him almost to the brink of dangerous madness. When he sheds the malevolent tar in the bell tower of the church, the black gooey stuff falls on Eddie Brock taking him over and he becomes the villain Venom.
The panic (of deeply broken relationships, the silence, the rejection, the harsh words, the absence of intimacy, the questions, the lack of answers, the hurt) completely changes people – makes them act in ways they normally never would. ~ Lysa TerKeurst
That’s it! Bitter, scornful, hateful, mocking, stomach-squeezing, aggressive, putrid unforgiveness is that vile and dangerous! It will take you over and it will take you down!
Unforgiveness can steal your thoughts, your joy, and even your health. “Not forgiving – nursing a grudge – is so caustic, it raises your blood pressure, depletes your immune function, makes you more depressed and causes enormous physical stress to the whole body.” ~ Fred Luskin, PhD, health psychologist at Stanford University
So, when dealing with difficult, destructive, or dangerous people or in painful, unfair situations, how do you firmly land in grace territory and also be a person with healthy boundaries, while not allowing your heart to get bound up in the gooey black tar of hidden unforgiveness and resentment? It is definitely a process. It may feel cyclical in that you might think you’ve made a lot of headway and suddenly find yourself back at the beginning again. That’s ok. That’s normal. Hang in there, babe.
Before forgiveness is even possible, you have to acknowledge what happened that caused you pain. Think back, walk through it, let yourself look at the situation from beginning to end. Maybe it was years long and this may take a while to unfold, or you may need a friend or two who knew what happened to help you sort out the details that have gotten smashed together. You may need to talk this out with a counselor who can help you pull out the parts you’ve not wanted to admit happened especially if there was shame and/or abuse involved. But, spend some time there, acknowledge it, allow yourself to admit what hurt and why.
In the middle of that, please remember you are valuableloved andcherished. It’s a good idea to have someone walk through the messy parts with you – a loving spouse or friend.
Remind yourself:
  • God loves your weakness because it is perfected in His Strength (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  • There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
  • We aren’t called to forgive, or invited to forgive, or asked to forgive. It isn’t a suggestion. We are commanded to forgive because we’ve been forgiven so much! (Colossians 3:13)
  • It’s something that we choose to do in faith and it’s required again and again. (Matthew 18:21-22)
I am absolutely Guilty As Charged for being: selfish, self-centered, immature, touchy, controlling, sharp, envious, discontented, ungracious, suspicious, gossip-y and on and on. I’ve thought really bad things. I’ve said really bad things. I’ve done really bad things and yet I’ve been forgiven. So, I have no reason on earth not to extend that same inconceivable, no holds barred, lavish grace and mercy on those around me. Even those who have done the most harm. Even the remorseless.
It always comes down to Love, doesn’t it?
Love changes the whole ballgame.
In a weird sense, what someone else chooses to do to you or me is none of our business. Hang on, you might be thinking WHAT?! Of course, it’s my business!but hear me out.
It’s God’s job to bring justice, not yours or mine. It’s God’s job to speak to others’ hearts, not yours or mine. As a wise preacher once said, you are not Holy Spirit, Jr. We might need to press into relationship with difficult people or through really hard situations purely out of obedience to God, even if that person doesn’t see the harm they’ve done or feels self-righteous about it.
“Avoiding people who’ve disappointed you is an easy thing; moving towards them and praying for redemption is a Gospel thing.” – Scotty Smith
It doesn’t mean that we cannot still pray for God to deal with injustices in His perfect way (which we usually do not understand and sometimes takes a long, long, long time to come about). Depending on the situation, we might need to make wide, tall boundaries, or put safe “bodyguards” in place to handle unpredictable circumstances. We might even need to make a clean cut and stay away from it all together for safety’s and sanity’s sake. Particularly in cases of repeated abuse, it’s important to remember that there’s no command to forgive & forget. For a lot of women forgiving & forgetting has been tremendously dangerous.
But, it’s my job to be aware of my own sin and deal with that between me and God. Daily root out bitterness. Daily cut out self-righteousness. My heart and my standing with God is my concern. What I choose to do with His unimaginable love and forgiveness is my choice. I can either throw it away with scorn, and sarcasm, and division, and focus on anger and upsetness, injustice and resentment, or rejoice in the goodness and mercy of what He has done for me and choose to leave the rest to Him. That’s easily said sitting in my comfy chair with a cup of pomegranate tea, but it is brutally hard in the face of radical betrayal, particularly unapologetic, radical betrayal. Especially the “deliberate, willful, presumptuous, impudent, boasting, malicious, frequent, obstinate, with delight, and continual” kind.
To tell you the truth, I started researching, studying and writing this a while back and then was dealt an awful, ironic and cruel injustice and had to start the battle from scratch again. I’m really glad that my initial response was Jesus, I cannot touch this thing with a ten-foot pole or I will get eaten alive! I choose forgiveness right now! God, this is Your problem, not mine. That helped, but it has been wicked hard. My heart is so easily filled with immature, selfish, petulant, vengeful thoughts, particularly when stung bitterly. It makes me daily cry out Oh, Father, please don’t ever leave me as I am. Change my heart!
Forgiveness really is a scandalous decision.
For God to forgive me and forgive you when we still choose to betray Him and His covenant over and over again – it’s nonsensical, preposterous. For you to forgive, for me to forgive – it’s 100% counter-culture. A rebel yell of Jesus-culture.
It’s an act of brazen defiance against my own flesh. Choosing soft-heartedness is choosing to have your heart tenderized with a meat mallet. It’s painful. It’s bloody. It changes the shape of you. It changes your malleability. Lord, whatever you have to pound out, pound away.
But, it’s something we must do out of obedience to God and it is for our benefit. What do we get out of choosing to forgive others? FREEDOM! Freedom from the tarry, malevolent parasite of resentment, anger, bitterness. Freedom to love those around us wholeheartedly. Freedom to dream of and pursue happy reunions and beautiful reconciliations. Freedom to live the abundant life (John 10:10).
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. - Colossians 3:13