A member of my family came forward to apologize for hurtful things he has done and said. I admit, I was shocked. I had more or less given up on him. Not that I had ill will toward him or hoped for a way to pay him back for his meanness. I have even prayed for him. But I had decided I wasn’t going to make any more efforts at reconciliation.
Maybe that wasn’t wrong; when ten or twenty overtures are ignored (or repaid with hostility), a certain fatigue sets in.
The real issue was that I was angry. In spite of my efforts to remain charitable, I had occasional thoughts of fighting with him. At times, it seemed the only reasonable response to his treatment, especially after I learned he had made false statements about me. When I tried to set the record straight, I was ignored.
Recognizing that it was mainly my ego that had been hurt didn’t seem to help. I knew his statements might affect my standing with other members of the family. Something about being completely invalidated was infuriating.
Then he called and apologized. It wasn’t a token apology. There were tears and real contrition in his voice. That’s when my conscience kicked in.
You were telling yourself this guy was some kind of sociopath, it said. Now look at your theories. He’s just as human as you.
I felt even worse when I realized that everything he had done to me, I had done to God, not once but many times in my life. Perhaps to other people as well. But not only did God not write me off — he treated me with incredible warmth and affection whenever I came back and apologized for my behavior, often even when I didn’t bother.
I can’t help but observe that God is in a better position to handle offenses with patience since our actions can never take anything away from him. He isn’t vulnerable in any way. Nothing can thwart his plans. We can grieve the Holy Spirit, but that’s about it.
But as I thought about all this, it hit me: God’s children are in the exact same position. Not because of any emotional strength, personal wisdom, flexibility or anything else we have, but because we are heirs with Christ of everything God has. We suffer now, but so did Jesus. We may be in turmoil because we see some situation imploding at work, at home or in our relationships. But God has promised to give us comfort, feed and care for us, to prosper us. We don’t get to choose the way he does it, and we may have to deal with some catastrophic health crisis, or worse, watch someone we love go through it. Any of us can be taken away prematurely. But the truth is that all the bad things will be used to develop us and bless us (Rom. 8:28). After God is finished here, we will have everything and enjoy it forever with him.
So many times I have gone through fits of anxiety over my circumstances only to realize later that I was never in real danger. Such experiences have a way of helping produce calm even in the middle of the next crisis.
So thank you, God, for reminding me how you treat us — and how you expect me to pass it along to others. Make me a distributor of your grace and kindness to the people in my life. Amen.