Countercultural Parenthood

Five years ago, when my older daughter was in the first grade, she got into my car in the pick-up line after school and without so much of a hello declared, “My friends and I were talking about our moms today and we all decided that you are the most strict out of all of them.” I was dumbfounded. To be honest, my first emotion was hurt. I longed to be considered the cool mom. Now I was the strict one? And were a group of 6 year-old girls really sitting around the playground griping about their moms and rating their strictness? And what did my own daughter say about me that made them come to that conclusion? My heart sank a little, but when I discovered what my infractions were, I stopped feeling bad. My offenses included: not allowing my girls to listen to most original versions of pop songs, but favoring cleaned up kid versions, not allowing them to watch YouTube videos without adult supervision and not allowing them to say any version of the phrase, “Oh my g—-,” even if the word “God” isn’t being used. Okay, big whoop. So I didn’t want my young kids to learn swear words and innuendo and hear/see things that are frightening or use God’s name in vain. If those are crimes, then I’m guilty as charged.

I later shared the story to a few other mom friends of mine—of varying ages and stages of mom-dom. The reactions were interesting. The younger moms gasped and sympathized with my initial hurt and asked if my daughter gave examples. The older moms laughed, patted me on the back and congratulated me on a job well done! I was later able to laugh about it as well and chalk it up as funny things kids say.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 This verse is very frequently referenced in sermons, books and studies related to child-rearing. Before kids, I found it as a comfort. Later, while in the thick of parenting, I felt a sense of pressure and urgency. Like trying to diffuse a bomb before it detonates. When my girls leave home, will we have done enough to seal their faith and trust in their Creator and God? Or does faith become something they believe to have belonged to only their parents?

One of the biggest challenges, without a doubt, is parenting a child in a world that teaches kids that “God is dead” or doesn’t exist and that you should “live your truth”–that ‘truth’ is relative and there are no absolutes. And that if the “Universe” wants something to happen for you, it will. But for a Jesus-follower, we know that none of that is actual truth and belief in such ideologies leads people away from God and into folly.

My goal in the past 11 years has been to model the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deut. 6: 5-9)

Over the years I’ve attempted to relate their personal experiences of failure, disappointment, rejection, envy, love, forgiveness, gratitude and joy towards the Word. But I’m also very human and thus very imperfect and suffer from missteps and trials just like everyone else. Many times, I fail at giving thanks in all circumstances and praying without ceasing (I Thess. 5: 17-18). And that’s when I tell them about God’s grace…of which I could not live without and rely on day by day. I recently told my girls that Jesus is the only thing holding me together, which is true. They watch me cry while I pray and when I worship. They ask if I’m okay. I tell them I will always be okay. The world tells me to be strong for them, and to show them that I am a wonder woman who can do it all if I find the strength inside of me. I tell my girls that my strength comes only from the Lord.

Of most importance, I would say, is the Gospel. If not for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, no amount of works or penance could earn us a place in eternity with God. And talk about counter-cultural—most 21st century intellectuals believe the Gospel to be complete garbage, going against science and man’s innate need to believe that he is good enough and doesn’t need a savior.

American society largely encourages us to befriend our children, and put them first.  Whereas, my children are reminded that they definitely come in second to our marriage. Honoring our covenant in marriage brings honor to God and does the ultimate good for our families as a whole. NCAA basketball coaching legend, John Wooden, famously said, “The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” This contradicts a societal trend that allows people to be guided by their emotions and how they feel about a person. Rather, love is a choice. God chose to love us and sent Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice to bridge the divide that sin tore between us. Likewise, marriage is a choice to love, honor and cherish until one dies.

For this blog post, I asked my girls what growing up in a believing home means to them. This particular season is challenging for them because they will transition this fall from private Christian school to public schools. The older one is entering middle school. The anticipation is mixed with both excitement and anxiety. They said they have learned that being a Christian will make them stand out because they resist peer pressure to swear, gossip, and will do atypical things like stop to give thanks at lunchtime, and want to be kind to kids who may seem lonely. One thing that my tween said was that she is okay with not being popular because she knows she won’t always do what everyone wants her to do or say. She would rather do what is right in God’s eyes. Even as adults, it’s difficult for us to stand so firm in our convictions.

I am now comfortable with whatever conversation starts in the car after school because I know I am not in it alone. And neither are you.

—-

Written by Joyce Young

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The Art of Noticing

When the editor of She is Dignified asked me to write a blog post on the topic of marriage I quite literally responded with the word “Arghhh.” It’s my pirate word. The word I use when I loathe something, especially something that I am called upon to do that feels out of my wheelhouse. Marriage feels very much out of my wheelhouse, as my journey has included widowhood and divorce. Not exactly what we dream of when we think of the beauty of Christian marriage and how we want our marriages to reflect Christ and the church. Still my life reflects the beauty of a God who sees me, and was gracious enough to redeem the brokenness of my past, applying forgiveness where I had stumbled and mercy where life visited pain upon me without my consent.

Widowed at 34 and then divorced at 41, God took me on a seven-year journey of singleness and healing that led me to my husband who I lovingly refer to as “The Hubby Man.” Coming to faith in his forties, this man I love has also walked the broken path of divorce and widowhood. We came to each other wearing our grief on our sleeves, and many more than one time have we wiped the tears of the past from each other’s eyes. Ours is not a perfect marriage, but a union in which we both understand that to have a committed married life that overcomes the brokenness of our past we must both fix our eyes securely on Jesus, and on noticing each other.

To notice and see other’s with care and concern is a quality that comes straight from the character and heart of God. In the Old Testament one of the Hebrew names for God is “El Roi,” which is translated “the God who sees me.” This particular translation is found in the story of Hagar as she is wandering lonely and feeling forsaken in the desert lands (Genesis 16).   God sees her there and meets her needs in a personal and sustaining manner. Psalm 139 attests to the truth that God has known and seen us even from the womb. Luke 12 speaks to the truth that God pays such careful and detailed attention to us that he knows every hair on our head.  And Jesus coming down as man, arms spread in surrender for our every fault and failure is the ultimate act of noticing and seeing the true need of another.

The Art of Noticing within my marriage personally has taken shape in many different ways. I love listening to the little clues my husband gives me in every day conversation. They indicate ways that I might choose a thoughtful gift for an upcoming holiday. They also give insight to his needs and concerns which help me pray for him. Gift-giving has become an adventure in the bucket list he didn’t even know he had. As for the hubby-man, he notices in the little things such as getting my drink at Starbucks correct, and reaching out to hold my hand often after I shared that a recent study I read indicated that holding hands reduced stress and increased intimacy.

The Art of Noticing goes far beyond the construct of marriage, and in truth it has the power to transform your day-to-day perspective on God and humankind. To open our eyes to creation and to seeing God in our daily lives enables us to live a life of praise and gratitude as we open our eyes to the beauty of a starry night, or a cooling breeze. We begin to look for and see His hand in all of our comings and goings. I often ask God to help me to see other people through His eyes. As the Holy Spirit fulfills this prayer in my life, I find I am noticing beauty in others, or perhaps their needs which brings my heart to compassion and my hands and feet to action.

As I close this post I cannot not help but think about the words of Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good…” The Art of Noticing is one of savoring. It is to stop and taste God’s goodness and beauty in your everyday life, and to look with intention at your spouse and others with eyes truly to see.

May our eyes be open to notice, and may we each see as our Father sees.

Written by Stacey Monaco

Father’s Day

Early 2016 was an extremely difficult season of life that left me with no option but to grow spiritually. At the time, I was serving in EFree’s youth ministry. We were covering 1 Corinthians 15.  The chapter is (to put it very loosely) about this eternal life, this eternal Hope on which we stand. It’s about Christ’s resurrection, the resurrection of the dead, and the resurrected body. I remember leading deep discussions about this theologically-heavy chapter. I remember being able to sympathize but not empathize with those who had lost loved ones. I remember calling 911 on a Wednesday morning, letting the firefighters and paramedics in, being in the ER that day, and driving to EFree to serve that same evening. After serving the youth, I remember bumping into Nancy Salvato at the church parking lot and asking her to pray as I headed to my car to go back to the hospital. A few days later, Jesus unexpectedly called my dad home and 1 Corinthians 15 became so real. Surreal.

Details. I remember layers upon layers, endless layers of detail surrounding that time, layers that I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to blog about. God’s love. I remember that too. It’s what got me through that difficult season and into one that seemed surreal but in the best possible way. I can say with full confidence that whether we are walking on hills or in valleys, God remains constant. And as our Heavenly Father, He’s ready to either bless us on the hill or carry us through the valley to find the blessing in Him.

It’s impossible to be completely shut off from blessings. As believers, we only need to look within our souls, to where the Spirit dwells to know that our mere existence and salvation is a blessing. Furthermore and as 1 Corinthians 15 emphasizes, our current condition is not our permanent condition. God created us to be this way with a soul built to house the Holy Spirit because He is Good and desires that connection with us. And as we celebrate or commemorate Father’s Day, let’s take a moment to reflect on our Good, Good Father.

God is Good even when we’re not.

In fact, even if we’re not good to Him, He will still be good to us. God in His nature cannot be anything but good. He desires good for you, and He’ll sometimes use trials in your life to grow you so that you can experience His goodness. The Parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15 perfectly illustrates His Goodness in the midst of our lack thereof. We were all once prodigals, running away from God even as He desperately sought after us. Even in our badness, in our rebellion, He is Good and His love for us remains constant.

Jesus loves you more than you’ll ever know.

God created you with a purpose. He knows the exact number of cells and atoms that make you who you are. In fact, He made these microscopic elements to create you! You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and you are absolutely worth everything to Him. He put a lot of thought into your life – more thoughts than we’re capable of thinking! What you’re going through matters to Him, so reach out to Him in prayer during your times of need and praise Him when you’re feeling on top of the world.

Despite what we go through, as believers we have a seat at God’s table.

Jesus not only raised people from the dead, but He overcame death. He knows what it’s like to be human because he’s 100% human and 100% God. Many times, we feel as if our prayers are not being answered because they’re not answered in the way that we want them to be. Even Jesus had prayers that weren’t answered the way He wanted them to be (Matt. 26). In the hospital, I prayed for my dad to be healed in this life and God healed him by taking him to Heaven so that he wouldn’t be sick anymore. Billy Graham famously said, “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” Billy is no doubt fine dining at God’s table! And there’s no reason why we can’t leave a legacy like his! The same spirit that dwells within him dwells within us. Let’s pray for people to join us at God’s table!

And as we celebrate Father’s Day, let’s celebrate Jesus and praise Him for our earthly fathers! He’s given us our earthly fathers for a purpose, one which we may never know on this side of Heaven. Some of you may have strained relationships with your fathers or may not know them at all. Others have dads who are no longer with us. Whatever your relationship is with your dad, know this: your Heavenly Father loves you very much!

Written by Christine Hu

Why Your View of Work Needs to Change

This last semester, I took two Saturday classes, which met for seven hours every other Saturday. I did not anticipate the toll it would take on me or how much I would long for a weekend free of school.

Now that I’m finally on summer break, each weekend is like a day at Disneyland, minus actually going there. (It’s far too expensive.)

But, really, the weekend has become sacred to me. I look forward to it every week. I had never experienced the Monday blues quite like I do now. I want my weekend to last forever. It’s a universally held unwritten rule that we celebrate Friday and hate Monday.

Why do we have such a negative view of work? I’ve met people who truly enjoy where they work and yet still dread Mondays. Our culture has a terrible view of work. The Bible sees work differently. In Scripture, work is actually seen as a good thing.

We are hardwired to work

I recently listened to a podcast featuring a compilation of TedTalks addressing the human motivation behind work. One of the physiologists, Barry Schwartz, said humans work because we “have an innate need to feel valued, to feel like what [we] do means something even when [certain] jobs might not be what [we] necessarily want.” The main point of his talk is that humanity has an intrinsic desire to work and it is not fundamentally tied to financial gain.

The reason we feel this way is because this is actually how God wired us. He created us to work. In Genesis 1, God created the world and then charged man to fill the earth and subdue it. God had called Adam to care for the earth—to work. From the very beginning even before sin, working was always part of the good life.

Work was designed as a good thing. Something for us to enjoy. A gift from God.

It may be a little difficult to buy into. Work can be a burden or even an unhealthy obsession. I wouldn’t need to look far to find someone who says they dislike work. That’s because this good and perfect gift has been tainted. Genesis 3 is known as The Fall because that is when sin entered the world. And from that moment, everything in this good and perfect world God created, including the intrinsic gifts within us, became tainted and distorted. The goodness and enjoyment of work became buried underneath the hardship.

But buried that intrinsic desire within us to work is still there and seen today. Our longing to create, build, operate, to do something using our own abilities is not a character trait or personality type. It’s a desire and urge that God created within the DNA of every human being.

We work because God works

The Bible begins with God’s story of creation—with Him working. This was not something God had to do, but something He wanted to do. There was beauty, creativity, structure, and joy in God’s work. Even as Jesus was walking on the earth He was actively holding the universe together Himself (Colossians 1: 16-17).

As image-bearers of God, we work because God works. We share in His delight and enjoyment of work. This truth really isn’t that difficult to see. Think of something you have worked on, labored over for hours. Think about that moment when that project, creation, task is finally completed. You feel a sense of value and pride in what you have just accomplished.

This enjoyment of work starts at a young age. I have seen my nieces and nephews, who are between 3 and 5 years old, come up to me marveling at the way they stuck macaroni noodles to a colorful piece of paper. They labored and toiled with glue all over the table, noodles scattered everywhere. And when those noodles finally made it to the paper and stayed, they were filled with joy. We work because God works.

Work is worship

I am always blown away by the way God has so carefully interwoven who we are to fulfill the purpose of bringing Him glory. To think that our desire to work, which was designed by God, is itself an invitation to glorify God is far more complex and beautiful than my mind can comprehend. It truly reveals God’s care and love, which is so much of who He is.

Even though we are equipped with the opportunity to use our work as worship unto the Lord, it is something we have to choose. This is the call of Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not man.” This requires action on our part.

As believers, we should reflect Christ by being the best employee in our workplace. That does not just consist of doing your job well, but also being a good employee. We should be the ones that are on time, the ones who accomplish what is requested of us whether our supervisor is watching or not, the ones who never contribute to the office gossip. We should work unto the Lord.

When we allow our work to be worship to the God who gifted us with work, it will truly change the way we work. As Martin Luther said, “It’s only by grace that you can truly work to the glory of God.”

Our entire perception of work changes when we realize that we were wired to work, that God Himself works, and that work is worship. Would the grace of God equip us to work every minute, every hour, and every day as unto the Lord. Would our view of work be seen as a true gift from our Creator.

Written by Tamara Chamberlain

Overcoming Pain From Your Past

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him…” Job 13:15

Over two decades ago on July 2nd, 1995, I received a phone call from the U.S. Coast Guard that there had been an accident at sea involving my 34-year-old husband and my 14-year-old son. There were no further details given at that time, just the simple instructions that I should surround myself with family, and wait for further information. I followed those instructions and found myself at the nearby home of my sister-in-law where later I would have what I already knew in my heart to be true, confirmed by a local Glendora police officer. He came out personally to my sister-in-law’s home, and in the kindest way possible took my hand and told me that my husband and son had perished at sea.

I want to tell you in the days, weeks, months and years to come that I easily held to God in the midst of my pain and suffering, but the truth of the matter is that I clung to Him with one hand, and shook my fist at Him with the other. I was not equipped for the pain that I and my children would endure, and the starkness of our loss began a journey for me of rocky-road wandering that caused my heart to turn from God, and then caused me to fall in love with Him in a way I had never known before the aching loss of that day.

“Who is this coming out of the wilderness leaning on the arms of her beloved?”

Song of Solomon 8:5

The journey of overcoming pain from our past is one of twists and turns. For the Christian woman or man this process can be fraught with confusion and guilt as we grapple with loss in the midst of our faith construct. As Christ-followers we may think that we need to lean into a place of stoicism so that the unbelieving world around us is not stumbled by our loss and grief, but in truth, life is filled with all forms of grieving, whether it be a loss to death, or the death of hope as one waits for a longed for spouse, baby, or dream to be fulfilled. For a watching world, the richest testimony of faith that we can have is to process our grief authentically before the God to whom we have chosen to commit our hearts. As individual human beings, this is also the healthiest manner to walk out the pain of our past.

Job met God in the process of his questions, and David grappled with his pain through the journaling process of the written Psalm. Hannah sobbed and prayed uncontrollably on the steps of the temple, even being accused of drunkenness. Naomi became the bitter Mara, and then she and Ruth saw their grief become hope as they held a tiny life in their hungry arms. My process of healing was multi-faceted and came through the understanding, patience and kindness of women who looked like Jesus. They intentionally looked beyond the broken choices I had made in my pain, and before they tried to point me at Jesus, they loved me in the midst of my pain.

As you seek to walk alongside someone in pain, or through the treacherous journey of your own past pain I can share a few small helps.

• Don’t minimize or trivialize a person’s pain, or your own, by trying to explain where God is in the process. If they are questioning God, simply affirm His love, but do not try to explain the why of their loss event. The truth is that, as mere humans, we do not know God’s plans for them, or the why of an event. It is painful for those grieving to hear trite, though well-meaning, explanations. Also, don’t minimize or be ashamed by your own pain and grieving. Your loss and pain are worthy of your tears and recognition.

• Seeking help is an honorable act, and seeking to engage in a grief group, coaching, pastoral counseling or a good grief psychologist can bring immense healing and strengthening in the stark journey of past pain.

• Sit in the Psalms. As you are able, open a psalm for comfort, or to process your anger. David did both. I often find myself reading them aloud, praying them back to God, or plugging in my earpiece and listening to the Psalms at bedtime to set my heart at peace. The poetic beauty and raw truth of the Psalms speak authenticity and healing to the very depths of an aching soul.

These are three possible tools for healing, and for each of us there are many steps of overcoming past pain and grief that may include a journey of forgiveness, loss and then reaffirmation of faith, newfound relationship with God, counseling, journaling, and finding new areas of hope and life. The process of overcoming past pain is wildly important for moving forward in our lives. For the grieving and pain-crippled I encourage you to affirm that even the smallest move toward healing is a move toward freedom and becoming one who heals and brings freedom to others.

I can say that God brought me up out the wilderness of my pain, and my response has been to forever lean upon His arms.

May you find strength in those same strong arms.

Written by Stacey Monaco

Being a Full-Time Missionary: Ministering to Your Unbelieving Family

If you are a follower of Jesus, there’s probably at least one person in your family who isn’t a believer. Or, if you’re like me, you may be the only believer in your family. I came to faith as a 13-year-old middle schooler in 1992. At that time, and even until this day, I remain the only believer within my family of origin. I long for the people I love, who bore and raised me and have loved me unconditionally despite our philosophical differences to know Jesus and experience His grace, redemption and healing. For years, my father, mother and sister were fine with me being a Christian as long as I didn’t preach to them and church didn’t interfere with my academics (my parents’ number one priority).

When I was a junior in high school, my church at that time was organizing a summer short-term mission trip to help a small, struggling bilingual sister church in a city outside of San Diego. They needed guidance in developing their children’s ministry and training on how to execute a Vacation Bible School, as they had never done one. As an active children’s ministry volunteer, I jumped at the chance. Being underaged, I, of course, needed permission from my parents. My dad said no because he didn’t believe it was a good use of my time during a summer when my focus should have been on preparing for the SATs. Full disclosure—I lashed out in anger and cried (Read: full-blown teenage drama). I could not believe my parents wouldn’t allow me to go on a mission trip, considering what I knew other kids in high school were doing to pass the time over the summer.

In my disappointment and frustration, my youth pastor sat me down to talk. I expressed how I wanted to honor my parents in their decision, because they were my parents. But I also felt robbed of an opportunity to serve an excellent cause while using my gifts and talents. My youth pastor said something I will never forget, “You can be a short-term missionary anywhere in the world at any time, but you are full-time missionary in your own home, with your family.” It was a combination of feeling like I was being dubbed a knight while also being punched in the gut. It has taken me more than half of my life to try to learn how to love and minister to my family, and I remain a poor expert and an often poorer witness, but here are some things I’ve learned along the way:

1. It’s not about you. Each individual’s choice to follow Jesus belongs to them. Each of my family members has past experiences that have shaped their view of God and even though I have been their “in-house” missionary, others have shared the Gospel to them and they have not yet made the decision to follow Christ. It is between them and God (not you) to make that decision (Rev. 3:20). Jesus even warned the apostles that their enemies would be in their own households. You may disagree with one another, but don’t take it personally (Matt. 10:34-39).

2. Equip yourself to explain the hope you have. In I Peter 3:15, Peter writes “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” This really comes down to how real your relationship with Jesus is. Are you reading the Word? And more importantly, are you obeying it? Are you growing in your faith by serving? Are you being challenged in an area of your life where you are trusting wholly in God and relying on Him for wisdom? Fine-tune your story so that you can tell it in about five minutes but also be challenged in being able to include how your current circumstances are adding to your story.

3. Pray consistently for them. Over the course of 27 years, I have become complacent and have at times lost a little hope and definitely motivation to pray for my family. It can, at times, feel hopeless. Jesus, himself, prayed for the unbelievers being crucified alongside him (Luke 23:33-36), and Paul exhorted the Romans to do the same (Rom. 10:1).

4. Be real and honest in your journey. Following Jesus is not easy, and He said so (John 16:33)! Instead of trying to appear as if your life is blissfully carefree because you bear the name of Christ, I think your family will appreciate knowing that your journey isn’t easy, but that you have a hope and a peace that transcends all understanding (Phil. 4:7). Your authenticity will speak of your love, peace, hope and obedience to Jesus. It’s the je ne sais quoi that an unbeliever often marvels at in a true believer.

5. Lastly, take comfort that Jesus himself had unbelieving family members. The Apostle John wrote, “For not even his brothers believed in him” (John 7:5). Prior to His crucifixion, not one of his brothers was mentioned as a disciple, but after His resurrection and ascension, they were worshipping Him as the risen Savior in the upper room (Acts 1:14). His brothers knew Him for over 30 years but didn’t believe. Granted, I can’t imagine having Jesus as a sibling–with His sinless nature, wisdom, and favor among His parents, who knew He was the Lord. While no specific accounts are in Scripture, I don’t doubt Jesus loved and cared for his brothers and ministered to them. I’m sure He also experienced rejection and ridicule from them. So take heart—we worship a Savior who really knows exactly what we are going through, and his unbelieving brothers eventually came to believe. Please don’t give up hope. Continue to love and pray for your unbelieving family.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance,”

-II Peter 3:9.

Note: After I calmed down, I submitted to my parents’ decision and after a week or so, they decided to let me go. It was a great, fruitful trip and our team did what we set out to accomplish and more, through His mighty power.

Written by Joyce Young

Forgiveness

You’ve been hurt so badly it’s affecting other areas of your life. You have been wronged, slandered, gossiped about, insulted, lied to, or betrayed. It is human nature to want to hold on to the hurt, the anger, and to retaliate. But as a follower of Christ, you are called to forgive the person who did this to you. Forgiveness is the act of giving up both the resentment we have toward someone and the desire to retaliate. But how can you, and better yet, will you?

Everyone experiences hurt and disappointment. I have been hurt, and I have wept. Conflicts arise in relationships. We live in a fallen world. Broken relationships happen, but we must take our burdens to the Lord (1 Peter 5:7). Jesus was betrayed by someone very close to Him (John 6:71; cf. Psalm 41:9). He knows our pain. He weeps with those who weep (John 11:35; Romans 12:15), and He is able to ‘empathize with our weaknesses’ (Hebrews 4:15).

Forgiving those who have wronged us is a hard command to follow. You are not alone. It is often easier or more satisfying to hold on to the anger, to defend ourselves, or even to escape the pain by ignoring the problem. But in the long run, it takes its toll on us.

Our gut reaction when we are hurt stems from viewing the person as an enemy instead of seeing him or her as someone loved by God. The real love of Christ sees past our hurt and pain and focuses our eyes, and opens our hearts to remember what He has done for us out of His love. When we choose to forgive, we actually become stronger in our walk and have a deeper understanding of what Jesus did for us. We must live out what we read in the Bible…as hard as it is and die to our self (Matthew 16:24-25; Romans 6:4-8; Galatians 2:20).

As we seek to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord” (2 Peter 3:18) and to be “transformed by the renewing of our mind,” (Romans 12:2) He convicts us by His Holy Spirit as we read and hear His Word. May our hearts be motivated by unwavering obedience to repair what was broken and seek restoration. Healing will begin in our relationships, even in our body, mind and soul as we let go. “Forgiveness of others is important to the healing process. Holding on to bitterness or nursing a grudge only poisons our own spirit. Yes, we may have been truly wronged, and, yes, the pain is real, but there is freedom in forgiveness. Forgiveness is a gift we can give because it was given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ.”
(S. Michael Houdmann)

We don’t ignore the sin, the offense, the disappointments, or the affliction it has caused. And we don’t allow our feelings to guide our actions into what is unpleasing to our Lord. As Christians, we have access to the power of the Spirit of God, the One who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up our wounds” (Psalm 147:3). True forgiveness and reconciliation are only possible with Christ.

“We forgive because we have been forgiven by God (Ephesians 4:32). We forgive in obedience to God (Matthew 6:14-15; Romans 12:18). It is important to remember that forgiveness is not granted because a person deserves to be forgiven. Instead, it is an act of love, mercy, and grace.” (allaboutGod.com).

Look at Jesus in the Gospels, and look especially at the cross. You were created to be loved by Him, to love Him and reflect His love to others. Use the time He has given you to reach and be witness to those that need to see and experience His forgiveness, as you forgive others. May that not only draw you closer to the One who forgave you, but allow a new life to find the ultimate forgiveness from Him.

As children of God, we move forward in the grace He has given us,“forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (Philippians 3:13). With the love of Christ that we received, may we share and spread His forgiving redemptive love. May our relationships strive to be ones that honor God and bring about peace and forgiveness to those around us.

Written by JoAnn Park