I’m living through some humbling revelations right now. Revelations that opened a door into more ugliness that exists inside my heart, but which lead to hope.
Let me back up.
This past weekend, my father, sister, and three brothers all came to crowd into my house and fill it with suitcases and stories and laptops and laughter and logic puzzles and other odd things that make the six of us uniquely who we are…the things about us that make us belong to each other in a way that no one else ever could. We live scattered around the country, with no fewer than four hours and no more than however long it takes to drive from the Pacific to the Atlantic between us. In fact, between all five of them, they traveled over 11,000 miles for this weekend. So this visit has been a rare and highly-anticipated treat for all of us.
I prayed over the visit, longing for it to be a good one and not marred by anything undesirable.
But I was the one who stepped out of line.
Put simply, I snapped at my sister in front of everybody over something that definitely didn’t warrant the way I raised my voice or the attitude that flew off my tongue. I apologized fairly quickly (although not quickly enough), and things were “patched up,” yet for two days now, I’ve struggled with grief over what I did. My sister’s been through a lot lately, and she definitely didn’t need me snapping at her. She needs my love instead.
It doesn’t seem fair that my sin would hurt her (as it definitely did) and hurt my witness for my Savior (to my family) more than it hurt me. It should hurt me instead. If I could go back and be hurt myself in order to take back the hurt I inflicted, I would. But that’s not possible.
The grief and the questions of why and how I fell into temptation so easily have been hovering along the edges of my thoughts ever since. Sunday morning, I was worried that it was going to inhibit my ability to really sing out my praises the way I long to. How can you praise when you’re struggling with guilt? But the first song my Holy-Spirit-inspired-worship leader and friend chose for us held the answer. I don’t think she knows that it was for my sake that He picked that song to be first, but it most definitely was.
“I know He rescued my soul.
His blood has covered my sin
I believe… I believe.”
Instantly, right in the middle of the E and A chords and up in front of everyone behind the keyboard, I was face to face with this question. Do I believe that? Do I believe that His blood covers both my sin and the hurt my sin caused?
“My shame, He’s taken away
My pain is healed in His name
I believe….I believe.”
Do I believe that He has taken away my shame, or am I clutching it too tightly? Do I believe that He heals not only my pain, but my sister’s pain? Can I rest in His ability, instead of my own?
“My Redeemer lives
My Redeemer lives
My Redeemer lives
My Redeemer lives…”
Right then and there, I had a choice to make. To trust and believe that He really is both my Redeemer, and He is the Redeemer of each and every hurt caused by my sin–this sin. The decision was extraordinarily hard, in the way that things are when the devil chooses to torture you with something that you know other people would say isn’t that big a deal.
Or when God chooses to take something “minor” and do heart surgery with it, which is definitely what He is doing.
And so I gave it all to Him. I submitted myself to whatever He wanted to teach me through it, and however He wanted to use it for His glory, no matter what that meant for me.
And the rest of worship became more meaningful, for we do not praise Him because of anything we do or don’t do. The only worship that really matters is when we raise our voices to Him and say, “I will praise You for who You are.” (Which happens to be the next song we sang.)
This morning, the whole incident came to mind again, and again I was wondering why in the world I did it. That’s when something occurred to me. (It was probably Him talking.)
Here I’ve been, horrified that I snapped at my sister the way I did and wondering why I gave way so easily…yet I do this all the time to my kids and sometimes my husband as well. And I don’t think anything of it. Or rather, I know in the back of my mind that it’s wrong, but I certainly don’t feel the grief over it that I’ve felt over hurting my sister this weekend.
The reason this weekend’s incident happened is as simple as the fact that, like many siblings, my sister and I grew up “going at each other.” You see, as the one who happened to be born second (after me), she’s often been the recipient of me snapping at her for little or no reason, probably since I was two and she was old enough to crawl over and innocently try to eat my crayons.
With almost everyone outside of my family, there is this natural guard that keeps me from snapping at them. But it’s no where near as strong for my family…those whom I love most in the world. And so I snap at them when I get too tired, or just cranky, or forget that His patience is never-ending when mine is long gone.
The heart surgery continued as I realized something…
The thoughts that went through my mind before I snapped were nothing remarkable or unusual at all. And that makes it even worse, for if what comes out of the mouth is what’s in my heart, and if it is only a will-power-guard that keeps me from snapping at the rest of the world like that…then that means that my heart is no good with anyone. And it means that there is nothing unusual about my heart being in that state. Ugh.
I feel like God has opened a window into a hidden portion of my heart and shown me a bunch of blackness that I never knew existed. You see…in all of the times I’ve thought about the sins we commit with our tongue, I always thought about how not sinning was holding your tongue. I never thought how much deeper God wants to go in something like this.
If Jesus said that he who even looks at a woman with lust in his heart is guilty of it, then surely she who thinks of another human with thoughts that (if not for that guard) would lead to snapping at them…then surely that means that I am guilty of snapping at hundreds and hundreds of people, throughout my entire life.
Oh, how much God still needs to do in my heart to take this out! Completely!
I am also wondering if that natural “guard” can be just as bad as we think it is good. For I see now that if my heart was truly like God’s for every person around me, then the guard would not be needed. I don’t believe Jesus had it. And what if that guard is also what holds me back from many good things that God would have me say?
What I am trying to say is this:
In the past, when I’ve thought and prayed about how I sometimes treat my kids, I’ve thought that I need that same guard that stops me from yelling at other people to be raised to protect my kids, too. But now I realize how wrong that is. God doesn’t want me to raise more guards. He wants to change my heart so the guard is no longer needed. Anywhere.
Clearly, the surgery has only begun. I don’t have the power to remove my thoughts…the most I can do is choose not to encourage them or dwell on them…as I will and do. But that is not enough.
The only other thing I can do is to, once again, give my heart to my Savior. I can submit to whatever is needful to tear these nasty roots out of my heart. I have no doubt that that the result will be something glorious and a testament to His goodness and greatness, both to me and to those around me.
And that gives me hope. Only imagine the freedom of never having to bite my tongue, because nothing but love exists!
Throughout this, I find myself so grateful for who He is, and what He gently persists in doing inside of me. These sorts of discoveries, after all, aren’t a bad thing. What was bad already existed…this discovery is merely one grace-covered step along the way to the restoration of me, which is the most glorious gift of all.
And so, for today’s Gratitude Monday (which I am still doing, though on more haphazard basis), I am grateful for:
561-565. All four of my brothers and sister
581. Their willingness to travel those 11,000 miles
582. That God’s heart surgery is gentle and loving
583. That He does not exclude me from His presence when I mess up
584. That He does take away my shame
585. That His blood has covered my sin
586. That every difficult lesson is but one step in the process of being changed from glory to glory
587. And that each revelation of glory surpasses my wildest dreams and leaves me only hungry for more, that I may then be even more filled with praise for who He is.