Heaven Help us
Last time I told you about “The Great Tree Fight,” which taught me important lessons to use whenever somebody behaves in a way I don’t understand. More importantly, I tried to help my children (and now my grandchildren) to understand that becoming angry with family members or friends and delivering “tit for tat” won’t accomplish anything and will only make them unhappy and affect their health.
Most slights and “mean” acts are not the result of intention, anyway. They usually come from shyness or lack of self-esteem on the part of the perpetrator.
When my daughter wailed, “I hate Jenny, she’s so mean. She whispered about me at lunch, and when I tried to say ‘Hi’, she walked the other way,” I comforted her and sympathized. After she calmed down, I pointed out that Jenny’s mother told me that Jenny came home in tears, because Dolly gave her a “dirty look.” Both girls’ most useful response would be to forgive each other.
As in most families, cries of “Sherri hit me!” “Roch’s taking my turn on the Nintendo—make him stop.” “You gave Micah the biggest scoop of ice cream; I want more.” “Gary’s burping just to make me mad!” cluttered the atmosphere at my house. But a major upheaval in our lives taught my children better than any words from me that selfishness and pettiness are best forgiven.
A few years ago we lost everything, the entire equity in our home, built up over 20 years. We were cheated by a greedy couple who misrepresented property to us, who when we were locked into a contract, took everything and left us burdened with an unjust debt.
The bitterness I felt, when I knew my children’s college money was gone and the retirement fund we’d counted on no longer existed, nearly overwhelmed me. Instead of enjoying the fruits of two decades of labor, we would have to start all over again. But by dealing with the injustice, I began to understand the Lord’s admonition in Luke 6:29 “And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.”
My only power lay in how I reacted to all these wrongs. The law didn’t protect me, the seller’s conscience and sense of fair play certainly didn’t protect me, but the Lord’s love could protect me. I could choose not to become bitter, to cleanse my soul and live free of the cancer of vengeance. “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.” By turning circumstances over which I had no control to Him, I could relax and get on with my life.
Understanding did not come all at once. Years had to pass before Matthew’s words illuminated my mind:
(Matt. 5:44-46) “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?”
I finally comprehend why Christ insisted that we forgive all men, that we cannot hang onto bitter, angry thoughts. Modern medical research reveals that our emotions are woven into our immune systems. Hate, envy, anger and other negative feelings actually make us physically ill, while replacing those emotions with forgiveness and acceptance lets us heal.
I haven’t achieved any kind of perfection, but I’ve eliminated bitterness and discontent by leaving vengeance to the Lord. When I turn the other cheek, go two miles instead of the compelled one, I put control where it belongs, in th