As I sit to write this, my heart is overwhelmed by the good and the hard things that have played out since you last heard from me. Most recently though, we lost someone dear to my family and my church. The wisdom and discernment that came through this man was palpable. I knew “Uncle” Lou my entire life, but most recently, he was very instrumental in giving me clarity and strength as I walked through some of the hardest days of my 6-month spiritual, physical and mental battle earlier this year that I shared about in my post Shadows and Roars. Thank you to each of you who prayed for me somewhere along the way in my fight. Never before had I experienced anything close to all I endured, but as I said in that post, I was only “passing through” that season. In the height of a flareup in September, I felt the Lord revealed to me that it would all leave as suddenly and mysteriously as it all came. It was the very next morning in church, while guest speaker Sean Smith spoke, that I felt something break within me. By the grace and power of God, I have been back to my healthy self ever since. Thank You Jesus!!!
Okay, so it has been on my heart for some time to share about a particular area of my life where God has been working deeply in hopes of Him working deeply in you too. Over a year ago I wrote the post, This is My Story: God Uses Imperfect People, where I shared how months earlier, I had hurt someone and someone else had hurt me. It was a very difficult season in my life as I navigated feelings and circumstances that I was not used to…and don’t intend to ever get used to. The two situations happened only one month apart, and both went without any closure for a full year and a half. The way God scripted the following pages was poetic as He brought closure, forgiveness and healing to both, only 3 months apart from each other.
Sometimes we can’t control our feelings, but that makes us no less responsible for if and how we act on them. Two years ago, I justified feelings I never should have had, and then allowed my feelings to dictate my words. Though my friend was not the recipient of my words, she and her husband were the ones who reaped the harm of them. My heart hurts as I admit that. When she didn’t respond to my apology, I knew I was to stay far away…which I did; but man did I pray often for God to somehow restore our friendship.
Then one Sunday morning this past summer, God placed my friend and her family heavy on my heart before I even got out of bed. The details are too many, but bottom line, God divinely led me to send my friend and her husband a scripture passage along with a short note. Admittedly, I was afraid to press send, unsure of the response (or lack of) I would receive. Would I feel rejected again or would she give me a piece of her mind? …which I deserved. While I imagined different responses, I could NEVER have imagined the response she gave me. It started out as, “Hi Michele! – that is so crazy because you were on my mind as well today just before church! First, please know that I do not harbor any ill feelings toward you. Neither of us do.”
I was stunned and awed. The grace and forgiveness that my friend chose to show me will forever be a challenge and inspiration in my life. Later in that same text though, she went on to share with me how she has been in the greatest fight of her life with her health. My beautiful friend is desperate for a supernatural miracle. I will never fully understand why I have found favor and trust in her eyes after I wronged her so, but she has allowed me the privilege of walking the highs and lows of her grueling and heart wrenching journey closely with her. Nothing about our friendship makes sense (to either of us) except that we are both keenly aware of God’s presence and providence in the heart of it. To that point, one day as we talked on the phone, a symbolic shadow casted on my studio wall in the middle of our 4 hour phone conversation, in the middle of our friendship (photo above). I really cannot put into words the unique beauty and purity of our relationship since that first day of restoration.
Then one evening in early October, I received an audio text message from the one who had hurt me. Her words came from a broken, heartfelt place as she confessed to taking from me. Her words were followed by a very generous gesture to repay, the best she could, what I no longer had. Because of the ridiculous grace my friend showed me only 3 months earlier, I was able to forgive that much more readily and sincerely the one who had hurt me. In that evening of restoration, God breathed peace over that restless chapter…I’d imagine for both of us.
After such hurt and betrayal and a year and a half of silence in both situations, I was truly blindsided by the forgiveness and healing that played out. The truth is, incredible beauty was born where, in the natural, it should not have been; but the Author of Life plants even in the places that we’ve ruled “hopeless”. Makes me think of one of my favorite scriptures… “…God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.” Romans 4:17 NASB
It is the time of year when many of us are gathering with family and friends from far and wide. Some of those reunions are likely bringing a tremendous amount of joy, but maybe there are relationships mixed in that have been bruised and broken along the way. Perhaps you have been hurt, or maybe you are the one who inflicted pain. I’ve been in both pair of shoes and neither feels good…at all. May I gently encourage you to pray through your upcoming time with any strained relationships and choose humility. Choose forgiveness or repentance. The beauty, healing and freedom waiting on the other side far outweighs the weight of bitterness or shame. It’s why Jesus came to our world…to free us from the wrath and oppression of sin.
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
I said that I was able to more easily forgive the one who hurt me because of the “ridiculous grace” shown to me by the one I hurt. Shouldn’t that always be the way for us though, having had the ridiculous grace of our Savior forgive us of all OUR sins??? Come on!!
Truthfully though, forgiving my offender was a lot easier for me than forgiving my offense…even after I knew my friend had forgiven me. I’ve never questioned whether or not God forgave me, but for some reason have struggled to receive His forgiveness. Psalm 103:12 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” For me not to walk in that truth in my heart is to deny the saving work Jesus accomplished for me. Nonetheless, it is still a process for this flesh and blood. One truth I do hold onto is that my sin is what I did, NOT who I am. It’s not who you are either. And it’s not who your loved one is. Here’s to celebrating our Savior’s birth with hearts of repentance and forgiveness. After all, we are so much stronger together than apart. Merry Christmas to each of you and may your celebrations be filled with love and peace!
*Please know that I shared my friend’s text with her permission and blessing. Also, if the Lord leads you, please pray with me for divine healing for her and incredible peace, wisdom and strength for her and her family.