Keeping my eyes on the cross
I didn’t get much sleep last night. I never do when a relationship in my life is strained. It usually hits me about 3 a.m. The tension and angst wake me with a lightning bolt to the soul. I toss and turn and think about the ways I’ve been wronged. How justified I am in my frustration and anger. How much that other person needs to change.
I finally fell back asleep around 5, only to be woken shortly thereafter with the morning breath of my sweet three year old wanting to snuggle.
And holding my son tight, I did the only thing I knew left to do. The thing I should have done at 3 a.m. but I’m stubborn. That’s no big secret around here.
“Lord, I am sad. Just plain sad. And mad. And really frustrated. How could she? Why would she? I need your peace today Lord. I don’t want this to steal my joy again today. I don’t want it to steal my patience with my kids. I don’t want it to ruin the special day I have planned with my sister and niece who just got into town. Lord, please come quickly and bring me the peace I need for today………”
But before I could finish my prayer, it happened. The Holy Spirit made His presence known. And He did that thing He does. He lovingly convicted me.
“Jeannie, I want you to ask for forgiveness first.”
WHAT? No! No no no. Seriously? Come on Lord. You know what she did. You know how she hurt me.
While my pointed finger was flying, I knew I was fighting a losing battle. I know I can’t deny the sweet conviction of the Holy Spirit.
But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative- that is, the Holy Spirit- he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
I’d already tried to ignore the conviction the day before when my husband gently said, “Wifey, God doesn’t need you to teach her a lesson. He needs you to love her.”
I tried to ignore those Holy Spirit nudges. But this morning, praying in bed, I knew- might as well surrender now Jeannie. You know you won’t have peace til you do.
So I began my mental list- the list of all the ways I have let this friend down. The ways I have disappointed this person. The ways I have not loved like Jesus loves and served the way Jesus calls me to serve.
And you know what happened - With each “offense” I recalled, the hurt was slowly lifted. The self-righteousness was dissipating. My need for Jesus coming into focus.
And the thought came – there are two kinds of people in this world. Those who need Jesus, and by grace, are free to confess that need. And those who need Jesus and chose to ignore that need and carry a needless burden.
If I say I am the former then I am free to confess my sin first and maybe, just maybe, forgive without a sorry ever being offered in return.
Sorry doesn’t come easy to me. Ironically, it comes very easy to me when I need to apologize to my kids. But other than that, I am a much better friend with pride than I am with humility.
Augustine, the church father, says that pride is the mother of all sin. All sin ultimately stems from pride- when we keep our eyes on ourselves.
Humilty however is that which flows when we keep our eyes on the cross.
God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
So this morning, I set my eyes on the cross. In light of what Jesus did there for me, I was free to confess my own wrongdoing to the Lord, and His grace washed over me. I put two feet on the ground in a very different state than how I awoke. Hopeful, thankful, set free.
I no longer saw my friend as the wrongdoer. I saw us both under the banner of “No not one is righteous” (Romans 3:10-12) We stand on common ground as sinners AND beloved children of God, in Christ.
Is the situation any better? No. At least not yet. Maybe it never will be. But that’s not the point. Just like I tell my children -- “Forgiveness isn’t justifying the sin. It’s pardoning the offender and no longer dwelling on the offense.”
The act of forgiveness towards another person is a response of love that flows from the forgiveness God extends to me in Jesus Christ. It’s not about me. It’s not about me at all. It’s about Jesus - loving and living in light of what He did for me. Oh how I need to remember that.
Keeping my eyes on the cross, my own need for forgiveness is revealed and satisfied. Forgiveness then becomes not something I have to do but something I get to do in thankful response to the unconditional love- the grace- that God first lavishly pours out on me.
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins.
Underserved kindness. Grace. Forgiveness. All gifts that flow freely through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.
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