Not long ago, I was working through a chunk of painful events and mean treatment that repeatedly characterized a close relationship for decades. It was the kind of difficult process maybe all of us go through at some time in our lives. It’s the relationship that began, got rough, and slowly ground away your emotional strength and dignity. Oh, I hope there will be readers who can gently say, “No, Jen, I have no idea what that’s like,” in response! Wouldn’t that be wonderful? I’d warmly and genuinely celebrate that with them. I think we all would.
I’m wrangling my thoughts back into place. Sorry, back to what I was saying—
As I considered the sandpapery relationship that left me raw, I realized a couple of things. First, the repeated offenses and roughness was completely wrong. Very few of the personal exchanges were characterized by love, respect, or honor. While expected outside of strong, godly instruction, it is inexcusable. The behavior often qualified as abusive. This kind of thing happens in relationships where there is a “one up and one down” perception.* I was always the “one down” at the time, so I was on the receiving end of the nastiness from the “one up.” Secondly, I realized there are things that shape us like tools in the trades (saws, chisels, and sandpaper), but these tools are vastly different in the hands of ignorant humans versus a loving God. One haphazardly wrecks; the other patiently, methodically finishes to a masterpiece.
When I think about all that, I’m sort of stopped short. There is a dual reality coming to mind: others have been horribly misguided in their attempts to shape me, and I have been equally so in the lives of others.
Where’s the gritty grace, you ask? Can we just get to the “nice, fragrant grace” that perfumes this blog? Yes, let’s go there, but it’s not without cost.
My “grit” stemmed from tension in the dual reality. Others have done real damage in my life; likewise, I do damage to others. If the pain I cause is rooted in past hurts, I am responsible to myself and those around me to seek out the source and do whatever necessary to address it. This isn’t a “pulling myself up by my bootstraps” kind of thing. It’s sitting quietly with Jesus, reading truth, and determining the path to freedom and righteousness (and that path cuts right through “gritty grace”).
In my life, past pain has been stuffed, deferred, and transferred to unsuspecting, innocent bystanders. People in my life now have paid dearly for the agony caused by offenders in a whole other chapter in my life story. An encouraging friend helped me address the source of the pain, and I’ll give you a brief look at what the steps we took.
- Identify and focus on the relationship that caused the pain.
- Create a list of all the offenses. Every. Last. One. (I waited until I ran out of hurts and tears.)
- Determine to free yourself from all of it—accepting there may be no real payback, ever.
- Let that person who hurt you so deeply off the hook. (That’s where I burned the list with my friend.)
- Recommit to the promise to let the offender off the hook as often as necessary. (It gets easier.)
I’m convinced nothing requires more true grit than that, but the why behind it all fuels the decision.
When I factor in the biblical understanding of my and others’ offenses, the grace I’ve received, and the truth of God’s unbreakable promises—I’m overwhelmed. I simply have to take up the challenge of gritty grace, extending it to those who don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve it either. While sins against others are definitely offensive or abusive, the reality of offending the One whose image we bear should be much more attention-getting!
Just to get me thinking about the biblical truth, I studied the following:
It is mine to avenge; I will repay. Deuteronomy 32:35a NIV
[David to Saul] May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 1 Samuel 24:12
Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. Psalm 32:2
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11
Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him. Romans 4:8
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Matthew 6:14
If those verses don’t strike you, take a gander at the “Unmerciful Servant” (Matthew 18:21-35). That story really makes me reflect on my desperate need for grace and the absolute command to extend it to others. (Yes, this growth process will be ongoing. Daily. With arduous effort. Especially in the little things in life.) It requires “gritty obedience” to be gracious to those who have wounded us. And, lest we forget, we have a tree trunk in the way as we’re removing sawdust from another’s eye.
All that said, I’m not minimizing evil behavior, abuse, or hurtful neglect. Those things may require penalty to the full extent of the law in order to address the damage, or contain the individual’s destructive influence. But, where there can be no punishment, amends, recapture of time or opportunity, or conciliation (for various reasons), we can free ourselves with a gritty decision. The power the individual and circumstances have held over us can be undone. You and I can be free!
I’ve been thinking about what I said in my post yesterday:
…doesn’t the magnitude of the offense seem to magnify the grace? I hope I never despise those things which (I thought) required the most grace.
Sweet, sweet grace! More grace, God, more grace. I think I catch the faint scent wafting through—
Have you thought about the possibility of someone in another time and place affecting your “now” and your relationships to those around you? What have you done to begin to loosen the grip the person or events have had on you? I’d love to hear more about your gritty grace obedience.
* Check out some favorite resources for further reading:
Changes That Heal by Dr. Henry Cloud
The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee