Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Roots of Bitterness

This past Sunday's sermon was about forgiveness. It struck a chord in my heart and probably many others. God brought me back to a couple of years ago when I learned a valuable lesson on forgiveness.

One verse used Sunday was Hebrews 12:15:
Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.
 I have a dear friend who does an amazing job at looking after me to make sure I'm receiving the grace of God. We text back and forth often and once a couple of years ago, when she was planning her wedding, I brought up something from our first year of marriage that was laced with bitterness.  Our first year being married, living in Dubuque was so much harder than we planned. Even though we'd been students for four years in the city, we felt like outsiders for much of that first year and beyond. We moved three times, experienced a difficult pregnancy and 3 or 4 jobs changes, and changed churches. So for a long time, I assumed that everyone's first year of marriage was just as difficult as ours had been.

What I didn't realize was that I had let bitterness seep in and wrap its fingers around my heart. And as I told my friend about the hardships of marriage, she graciously pointed out to me how harsh and negative my comments were. And I wondered where that ugliness had come from.

As I unpacked my feelings little by little, I discovered years of unforgiveness against many, many people for big things, little things, stupid things, hurtful things, and pointless things.

Anger at the woman at the government office who barely believed me that our marriage license from Kansas was official when it didn't look as fancy as Iowa's.

Hurt from the rejection of a person I cared deeply for in college.

Embarrassment from that one comment a friend made about something in my personality when I was 14 years old.

Inward rebellion at rules I had been expected to follow in various situations. 

I took a pencil and paper and wrote out everything that came back to my mind that still bugged me from the past. Everything. Even the things that seemed stupid or small. And then I burned the paper. I let it go.

I'd had no idea that I was being weighed down by all that junk. No idea.

See, you've got to name things or they will keep having power over you. Recognize them. Stop ignoring the pain or anger they are still causing you. Speak them out loud and then speak God's grace over them. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you've made that your head still reminds you of. Forgive others for their wrongs or their mistakes against you. Then there will be release.

Today as I was getting dressed I pulled on a t-shirt I loved (before it became ratty, haha) and remembered a stupid comment someone made about it when I first got it. I realized that literally every time I put on the shirt, I thought of that comment and it ruined my experience of wearing the shirt - every single time. Bitterness where it wasn't welcome, without even realizing it was there. So I named it and let it go.

What are you holding onto? What memories spring up as you go about your day? What or who makes the hair on your neck stand up when you're reminded of them? Those are a pretty good indicator of unforgiveness you're holding onto. Let it go. Receive the grace of God and walk in freedom.

It's so worth it.

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. - C. S. Lewis

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