December 28, 2010
Just a Little Heart Cleaning
T. Suzanne Eller 

"So iIf you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come offer your sacrifice to God."

Matthew 5:23-24 (NLT)         

Devotion:
Yesterday I swept the mahogany wood floors in my house. I worked with so much energy it might have looked like I was a clean freak or, at the very least, industrious. I am neither of those things. In fact, I really didn't even notice the dust bunnies flying through the air. I was hurt, trying to sweep away harsh words spoken the day before by a friend.

I had spent most of the morning mulling over the words from the day before, wondering why I didn't say something. Wondering why she did. I finally put on some music, took out the broom, and asked God for His grace because mine didn't seem to be big enough at the moment.

I've heard people throw out advice on forgiveness as if dispensing aspirin. They casually say things like, "Jesus forgave, why don't you?" The reality is it's often an uneven journey for us as we accept His grace, learn from, and strive to live out His example.

The practice of living a forgiving lifestyle can be an ominous task. There is incredible freedom in living a life of mercy, but it's not something that we just stumble into. It takes a purposeful choice to move beyond the restrictive burdens of bitterness, anger, and other unresolved emotions tied to a person or event.

Forgiveness is a bridge I thought I had crossed already, and yet here I was again. I had forgiven an abusive, dysfunctional childhood. I understood the joy and freedom that come through forgiving others. So why was the small stuff with my friend tripping me up? Perhaps it is because I am still growing, a process that will never stop.

Jesus met a man who was paralyzed. His friends brought him to Jesus on a mat. The need was obvious, but instead of healing his legs Jesus said, "Your sins are forgiven." (Matthew 9:2, NLT) Isn't it interesting that He addressed the issue of the man's heart before attending to his physical body?

Jesus hasn't changed. He still sees to the heart. He sees my heart. I have forgiven - but I will continue to become a forgiver as I meet life's challenges. To do that, I have to give myself a little grace, and invite Him into the process.

Maybe you too are dealing with hurts of the past and forgiveness seems impossible. Forgiving doesn't mean that abuse can continue, or that what happened is okay. What it does mean is that you are ready to follow Jesus' example, and to live life free of entanglements to the past.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us." As I talked, broom-in-hand, with my Savior, He settled in and made Himself at home in the situation. My perspective on the incident with my friend changed.

Yesterday my house got cleaned, and so did my heart.

Dear Lord, help me to forgive one person today. I lift up my heart. I won't pretend that it doesn't hurt, but I am willing to forgive. I'm not always big enough, but You are and I am grateful. I won't forgive based on a person's response, or even what is fair, but instead I will trust that You desire my heart to be free so that You can love in and through me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:

Do You Know Him?

The Woman I am Becoming by T. Suzanne Eller

Visit Suzie's Blog for more encouragement

How to Get Along with Difficult People by Florence Littauer
Redemption by Karen Kingsbury with Gary Smalley

Application Steps: 

No matter whether it is a big or small issue, invite God into your situation today.

Reflections: 

Think about unforgiveness as a wall. We build it around our heart to keep people from hurting us. What hurts keep me inside that wall?

What can I miss when I live in a fortress?

I don't offer forgiveness to hear someone say they are sorry. It's nice if it happens, but even if it doesn't, my offering forgiveness is foundational to wholeness - in me!

Power Verses:

1 Corinthians 13:5, "Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged." (NLT) 

 © 2010 by T.Suzanne Eller. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org