about forgiveness

Pick Up Your Mat

Then Jesus said…, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

John 5:8 (NIV)

And just like that—one of my closest friends stepped out of my life.

I thought I would be the only widow to say that until I heard it from about a zillion other widows—many here on our pages.

The break happened years ago, and I can happily say she and I have reconciled and forgiven each other. Who knows if we’ll ever restore the trust we had before, but at least we’re able to laugh and share memories.

But those feelings of betrayal and abandonment–goodness, they hit me like a second grief.  I stopped everything and cried my eyes out while she went on with her happy life, surrounded by her entourage of friends I no longer had time to hang with.  While she held her girls-night-outings without me, I was busy raising my boys by myself. At the time I didn’t know why it bothered me—it wasn’t like I had time to socialize anyway.

On the other hand, I now know why it bothered me–old scars from high school.  I was one of those independent types who wondered why I seemed to avoid the deemed “in-crowd” while my sister pranced about in her cheerleading outfit–near the center of attention from that same crowd. I would have been fine with my own nature, academics, if it weren’t for subtle comparisons made between us by well-meaning folks. It takes time and maturity to see standing apart from the crowd as a good thing. Seeing it now doesn’t erase the memory of that feeling I had as a girl wondering why I simply didn’t run with the popular crowd like my sister did.

That feeling got triggered many times during those early days as a single mom. Without a social life and without a husband to boost my confidence, I would sit and mutter over my queen-bee friend’s abandonment.  How dare she?  Why do I care? Why can’t I be the queen-bee? Why does being the lonely widow feel like the one who chose not to hang with the cheerleaders?

When you’ve been kicked in the shins and you’re down and lonely, you start to think and reflect.  Sometimes Satan has a heyday with that thinking and you come up with some ridiculous notion that you’ll always be stuck with whatever hardship life threw at you as a child.

I was taking those feelings of the academic kid not hanging with the popular crowd and applying it to the single mom not running about with my queen-bee’s friends crowd.

This is called victim mentality, and the enemy loves digging this knife in you.  You’ll twist about, taking that pattern of whatever seems to have happened yet again and applying it to every example in your life you can think about.

Unless you pick up your mat and walk.

When Jesus heeled a paralyzed man, he didn’t dwell on why he was paralyzed.  He didn’t have the man lay on the mat for a while and reflect on how much it hurt.  He commanded the man to pick up the mat and walk.

And that’s exactly how I was able to forgive and redeem at least a light friendship with my queen-bee friend. I stopped laying on my “mat” of abandonment and sorrow. My friend did something unkind, but I didn’t need to be unkind back. I could even forgive.  And I could get up and start anew.  Once I freed myself from any bitterness, I could even relax and enjoy her.  I choose not to engage too much with her because I’ve learned where her limits are. And besides, since then I’ve made many new friends who are far more faithful and trustworthy.

Be healed. Walk healed. Christ calls us to be redeemed.  To be born again. To begin anew.

Staring at your mat only holds you back.

Abba Father,

All it takes is a word from You, and the widow reading this can be healed.  Point her forward, not backwards.  Show her what You have in store for her, and give her the healing and strength to pick up her mat and walk.  Amen


Kit Hinkle is an author and speaker. She was an original writer of A Widow’s Might in 2008, and after four years with that ministry, expanded it and founded A New Season Ministries, Inc. Once the ministry became established, she turned the leadership over, yet continues to contribute articles while she focuses on her finest career as a mother to two high school boys, two boys in college, and a grown son and daughter whom she helped her husband raise before he passed away. She has lived through corporate careers as a chemical engineer and a management consultant, but now enjoys walks on the beach with her chocolate lab.  She loves to sit with another who is walking through her tough road and show that woman Christ. It’s an honor to participate in His kingdom.

If you are interested in having our team speak, please contact us via email at: admin@anewseason.net

Check out more posts by this author at- Kit Hinkle.

You might also like these posts by our team:

Into the Great Unknown   Finding Your Pearl   Blended and Bonded

Rejection- Take Mom’s Advice

 

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…

Matthew 5:44 ESV

One of my children got a birthday card in the mail.

Why did that bother me so much? I mulled over the nagging pain in my heart until I decided what it was–REJECTION.

I never get a card from a particular relative on my birthday. All of my kids get cards, and I am skipped.

So that was it. Rejection. I had named it.

Now I could deal with it. I started with what “mother said”–one of her sayings I hated while growing up, mostly because she was right.

My mother often said, “It isn’t the action; it’s the reaction.” In other words, I can’t control what someone else does – only what I do or don’t do. That is completely up to me.

Mother’s words still play in my head today. I even say them to my own children when they fuss with each other.

On this day, I dug deeper into this newly uncovered emotion of rejection.

Verses came fast and furious to my mind.

Isaiah 53:3 ESV He was despised and rejected by men,
    a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;

So Jesus knew rejection. Okay, got it. He understands. So what?

Matthew 5:44 ESV But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…

Well, it isn’t persecution like prison camp but I think the principle to pray for them might still apply.

2 Corinthians 1:5-6   1 Peter 2 :4-5 

Philippians 2:5 NIV   In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Romans 8:17 NIV …we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

So what do I do with this rejection I feel from family members? I have decided to accept it as sharing in the suffering of Christ. This rejection is allowing me to share more in His glory. It draws me closer to Christ as I am reminded of what He endured for me.

He was rejected by His closest disciples in His most desperate time of need.

His brothers turned their backs until after the resurrection, when James became an integral part of the early church.

Since my husband passed away, some family members have not been involved with me and the kids to the extent that I hoped. (It’s those “great expectations” that get me into trouble every time.) And I miss it. I want to be over and done with these feelings of rejection. Honestly, it allows people to have control over me that I don’t appreciate their having. It is like they have a chain around my heart and can tug it whenever. I am breaking that chain today. I declare myself “chain free”!

Do you need to break the chains binding you to a feeling that someone’s words or actions have over you?

  • Dig into Scripture
  • How did Christ deal with the feeling?
  • How should I deal with it?

Often others don’t even intend on inflicting hurt on you. They are dealing with their own grief in a way that may not be healthy, or they may need help you can’t give. But you can PRAY.

Father in Heaven, thank You for knowing the emotions we deal with. Your Son felt rejection from those closest to Him. Help me break the emotional chains trapping me today from other people’s actions that I cannot control. I lay those at Your feet. Amen


 

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Elizabeth Dyer lives in Oklahoma with her six children named after Bible characters, a large dog named after a grandfather, a noisy cat named after a German race car driver, and guinea pigs named after candy bars!  Elizabeth lost her husband in 2012 and is learning that she only THOUGHT she knew what trusting God was–widowhood has taken that “faith walk” to a whole new level for her. Psalm 94:19 has become a special verse for her family – “Lord, when doubts fill my mind, when my heart is in turmoil, quiet me and give me renewed hope and cheer.”

 

Our team at A Widow’s Might would love to send a speaker to your next event. Email us at admin@anewseason.net to get information about our speakers.

Do you want to read more articles by Elizabeth? Read them here. 

Another article about loving and forgiving our inlaws by Kit.

Here’s a great one by Leah about hurting people who hurt people.

People Are Messy

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:17-19 (NIV)

This is my first article since I took a break in May from writing. A LOT has happened in my life during that break! Some things I saw coming and others were a total surprise. My only daughter graduated high school and went off to college. I had to put one of my dogs down. My dad had some serious health issues and had to be hospitalized. I made the difficult decision to take a break from a very special relationship. All the while, I was still running my home, working a full time job, and continuing in my volunteer roles.

During this time of major change and struggles, I had to step back and reflect, and I realized people are messy! This world is messy! I am messy! My world is messy!

So, as I faced this new unknown I asked: Who am I? Whose am I? I was led to the passage of scripture above. I am an adopted child of the King of Kings. My Savior is my advocate. I am in Christ and therefore a new creation. The old is gone and the new is here! God doesn’t count my sins against me.

People are messy! The world is messy! What do I do with that? People don’t act the way I want them to or react the way I want them to. How do I react to this messiness?

If I am I being honest here, my reactions sometimes are anger and resentment, resulting in broken relationships. This isn’t the picture of a new creation. It’s a picture of I…me…mine…! That’s old and it does not have love in it, so Christ is not there.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.
1 John 4:12-17 NIV

Scripture clearly states that we are to have love for the messy people of this world. We are to respond with love and in love. Love evaporates anger, resentment and repairs relationships. When we love, Christ is in us and people see the Savior, the One who made us a new creation.

I am a work in progress and this is the big area of my life that God is working on. It is very easy when people let us down or don’t react the way we want them to, to walk away and just move on. There is hurt for a time, but eventually you get out of the habit of having that person in your life. Jesus loves us when we are our messiest and that’s where He meets us. Can’t we try to meet others there too?

That’s what I’m working on…responding in love with the author of LOVE and then showing this messy world that Christ is in me. I don’t always hit the mark, but Christ always responds in love to my pleas for forgiveness and I start again. I encourage you to respond in love too!

Dear Lord, Thank You for forgiving me and meeting me where I am in my mess. Thank You for loving me in spite of my messiness and, Lord, please help me to remember how You deal with me when I encounter others in their messiness and may I respond with Your Love. Amen

The Safest Place for Your Soul: In Surrender

Do you truly believe God is working everything out for good?

Lately I’ve been asking myself the same thing. Am I really ready to lower my head and lean fully on Him? Can I lay down my efforts towards solving a seemingly impossible situation in trust that God is working in the spaces I cannot yet see?

If you’re anything like me, we so often slip into leaning on ourselves or others around us instead of consulting the Savior who went before us and His Spirit in us. We try to handle it our own way, white-knuckling the wheel so tightly our Savior can no longer steer!

We wrap ourselves protectively in a blanket of social acceptance or self-dependence instead in of His sacrificial love.

Problem is that’s the socially expected and accepted route of dealing with our worries, hurt and regrets. It’s the world’s version of safe problem solving telling us we must strive to solve it ourselves instead of letting God gather us up into HIS secure arms offering eternal safety.

But, if we operate on our Christian faith, we’d walk directly away from the ways of the world. We are called to redirect any worldly path and turn towards His promises.

It comes down to whether we truly trust this simple yet powerful verse: “……by His wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2: 24, (ESV). Here’s why:

He’s already done enough to make us safe and to heal our wounds with His! So, even when it feels unsafe or unnatural in the worldly way we can rest, no matter what, knowing we’re already healed by His wounds.

You see, recently I’ve experienced some heart-wrenching, exhausting family issues. I feel wounded and weary. I didn’t meet their social expectations and I can’t solve it alone. I can only lower my head and lay it down, letting go of the wheel in utter surrender so my Savior can steer.

In the past, I’ve been guilty of trying too hard to control the outcome, to take care of things myself and, even claiming to follow God, not truly trusting He has got this!

This time I’m taking that verse to heart and watching as He weaves His heavenly handiwork in unassuming places or through things I cannot see. While hurt hangs heavy in my heart, I know my Healer has already won by His wounds!

Sometimes our faith and trust means knowing we must willingly suffer unjustly, just like Jesus did. Letting go of the control doesn’t mean the work won’t be exhausting, frustrating or that we won’t feel like we’ve failed! But, we must do the hard work then dump the burden on Him because His ultimate sacrifice is ultimately healing.

“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2: 19-21 (ESV)

So, if you’re with me walking weary or dealing with hurt or worry, together let’s let go of the society’s safety to work it out on our own. Instead, let’s take solace in our suffering. Let’s rejoice in it because we are blessed with the opportunity to lay our troubles down at the cross.

His safety and His expectations are not of the world. So we must stretch ourselves into the safety of His Spirit, placing our problems into HIS soothing, soul-SAVING hands. Because if we really want safety, if we truly want His healing, we must live in surrender trusting God’s working everything out for good.

Lord and Savior, remind us that the only safe place is when we’re in Your hands! Give us the strength and wisdom to lay down our every worry and burden, into Your Son’s hands who has already done everything we need for eternal healing. Help us keep the problems of this world in perspective as we work through our rough patches. Amen

Hurting People Hurt People

I never noticed her come through door of the doctor’s office waiting room where I sat. It was when she wheeled right up to me on her motorized scooter that my attention was captured. I’ll never forget the first words out of her mouth.

“What’s your handicap?”

“Excuse me?” I questioned with a puzzled look.

“What’s your handicap?” she repeated.

Suddenly, it dawned on me! I recently had knee surgery and still struggled to walk. My surgeon had given me a temporary handicap tag, and I had been so grateful to have it on many occasions since my knee is not even close to healed. This mystery lady must have seen me get out of my vehicle and wanted to “swap handicap stories”.

I shared my knee surgery story, informing her it was the second one I’d received in two years and how I was considered a candidate for a total knee replacement in a few years without some significant changes.

She simply replied, “Well, you’re walking pretty well considering what you’ve been through.”

I thanked her only to discover she didn’t mean it as a compliment. Rather, it was the beginning of a tongue lashing that followed for all the reasons why I shouldn’t have parked in that spot, even though I’m fully allowed by law to do so. According to her, I should have left it for people with more profound handicaps.

I was stunned. Speechless. Fighting back tears, I briefly responded.

“I’m so sorry. Would you like for me to go move my car?”

“No,” she answered quickly. “I’m already settled. I just thought I would take a moment to educate you on how some people, even while temporarily handicapped, have no business parking in those spaces.”

Again, fighting back tears, I listened as she shared her tragic health story.  She told me she was dying. She couldn’t walk far without the use of her motorized scooter. Her lung capacity had been extended only by the oxygen she breathed in and out through a tube connected to her virtually every minute of the day.

I was torn. My selfish, hardheaded side wanted to set the record straight. Granted, there was no doubt she was significantly more handicapped than me. Even so, I wanted to tell her that while I might have been walking fairly well in the moment she saw me, there’s no guarantee my knee would have held up for the next two or three strides to follow. It’s very inconsistent these days, and until it’s stronger, I need to either be dropped off near the entrance to where I’m going, or park in a handicapped spot, if alone.

I wanted to kindly ask her to not judge my situation without knowing the full-depth of it. For all she knew, my handicapped may have been cardiovascular or some other unseen debilitation.

I also wanted to ask her how in the world I was supposed to know who was going to be in a physically worse condition than me when I made the decision to park in that space? How could I possibly know she would be the next one there? I actually despise having to use that tag. I despise having this temporary physical limitation!

But, I said none of those things. I simply smiled at her, while choking back tears, and I said, “I’m so sorry. How can I help you?”

She didn’t want my help. She wanted my ears. She wanted me to have just an inkling of sympathy for what she was experiencing. Well, I most certainly did. While my ego and feelings had been bruised, I left that day with a sweet reminder, “Hurting people hurt people.”

I’ve heard that expression countless times before, but I’ve never known it as first-hand as I had in that moment. This mystery lady was deeply hurting…definitely physically, probably emotionally, and perhaps in other areas too. Out of that hurt, she hurt me. Did she get up that morning looking for that person that she was going to dump on that day? I doubt it. But, I entered her moment of hurt just as it rose to the surface and I received a bit of a lashing.

The question remains: how many times have I done something similar to someone else? Especially to those I love the most? And yet…God continues to pour out his grace upon me through the people I may have hurt the deepest…through the avenue of forgiveness.

This time, it was my turn. I could either harbor resentment for what transpired between the mystery woman and me. After all, her words hurt. Or…I could forgive, recognizing her hurt, and whispering a prayer to Abba on her behalf. Only by the grace of God and His forgiveness extended me, I chose to forgive.

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. ~Colossians 3:13 (NLT)

Stop Feeding the Dragon

“She’s not the dragon, Kit,” my friend told me.

I had been struggling with a friendship bruised by pride and misunderstandings. “The dragon,” she added, “is sin.”

That wisdom turned my sense of fault and blame on its head and got me looking at my friend and at myself in a different light–the light of compassion.

I had been wincing from the cold shoulder treatment my friend was giving me and reeling from the gossip coming back to my ears. I kept looking in the mirror, asking myself, “where did I go wrong?”

And when I did, I found things I said and did. Things I wasn’t proud of. And I remembered things she said and did. Things I struggled to let go of.

When I looked at it through new eyes I saw it. Sin. Not just her sin, my sin.

And whether I get wrapped up in bitterness over her sin, or shame over my sin, I’m just feeding the dragon.

When Cain found bitterness in his heart against his brother Able, God warned him to be careful. “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7, ESV). God was warning Cain that his anger at Able was misdirected. It’s sin that’s the enemy. Had Cain heeded God’s warning and learned to love Able and reject his own bitterness, he and Able would have been spared the crime that followed.

When I’m hurt over something someone has done, or ashamed over something I’ve done, sin is crouching, waiting to pounce. And in a friendship, that pounce happens with an unkind word, a dig, or a cold-shoulder that raises the walls between friends even higher.

So how do you slay a dragon?  Stop feeding it!

  1. Notice dragon food – Every time you start to mutter to yourself about the situation, think of that mutter as a juicy bit of meat the dragon is ready to devour.  Whether you are muttering “I can’t believe she did that,” or “I’m such a fool,” recognize that thought as fuel for the dragon.
  2. Give that thought to God instead – Say, “wow,God,  sin got ahold of me again,” or “Lord, sin got ahold of her again.”
  3. Use eyes of compassion – for both of you.  See she and you from His perspective. You are both daughters of the living God.  You are both precious to Him.  Can you see yourself and her as precious in your eyes too?

No, she’s not a dragon. She’s a sister in Christ.  And He loves her.

And He loves you too.

* * *

Would you like to read more on this topic?  Try these posts:

The Least of Our Brothers

F is for Forgive

He’s not Being Very Nice to Me

F is for Forgive

I’ve caught myself mumbling before…Have you?

At first I thought, nah… I don’t mumble to myself. Only crazy people mumble to themselves, right?

But have a few kids under your belt, and you’ll find yourself talking under your breath.  “If I step on one more of those Legos!”

There’s a different sort of a mumble; a grumble which points to a lack of grace or forgiveness.  It sounds a little less like the  mumbles of motherhood and a little more like petty highschool gossip.  “I can’t believe she said that!”  They were a symptom of a lack of grace and forgiveness that can work its way deep in a woman’s soul and create misery out of a situation that shouldn’t be  more than a slight nuisance. I knew to really stop the grumbles, I had to change why my heart wanted to grumble.  I needed to forgive.

kit hinkle a new season a widows might setting boundaries in relationships dealing with someone with a temper

That’s the sixth and final tip in a set of ABC’s on setting boundaries. I kicked off the series when I wrote an article listing six ABC’s about drawing boundaries with difficult people in your life (you can see it here). Each article shares one of the “ouch” lessons I’ve learned over the years on setting boundaries–lessons that hurt badly as I experienced them. But when God was done with the lesson, His indelible truth stuck with me forever, helping me use His wisdom to create better, deeper relationships, even with some difficult people. Sometimes, I’ve even spotted where I’ve slipped and become the difficult person myself!  Haven’t we all?

The F in the ABC’s is “Forgive! Really Forgive!”

It’s funny how forgiveness works.  I can forgive some of the most awful offenses and never blink and eye.  I can look at the person, laugh with them, and truly love them from my heart–as though the offense has never happened.

And then there are those offenses that just get your Achilles heal.  Usually it’s a betrayal that, no matter how small or seemingly meaningless, cuts me to the core because I never expected someone so close to me to have such ill-will towards me.  Or perhaps the ones that get me are the offenses that make no sense.  A person seems to have it out for me–gossips about me or snubs me, and I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what I’ve done to upset them!

Then the thinking comes… “maybe it was that time I said…”  or “maybe she wanted me to invite her where when I went…”  And the more I think about it, the crazier the thoughts get, until I finally come to the the conclusion that I’m being treated so terribly unfair that the very thought of the person gives me shivers.

So I announce to l myself– “I forgive her!”

I yell it out through the trees in my backyard.  I look up to God in the Heavens and tell Him, “It’s done!  I’m letting this go!”

…and then I mumble.  “I just can’t believe…”

And then I stop, and pray. “God, please take this feeling away!”

And I smile and pray for her. And go about my business.

.. and grumble.  Argh!  Not again, I think!

You see, I hadn’t really forgiven her.  True forgiveness means no more grumbling!  It doesn’t have a but behind it.  “I forgive her, but I never want to see her again.  It means I can actually coexist in the same room and not let her offense make me nutty. I can love her–offenses and all.

I can’t tell you that I’m there in every case.  But I’m learning to be forgetful of offenses.  Label them. Don’t put up with them. Set boundaries to prevent them. But forget them.

In Matthew 18:23-35, Christ tells a parable of the wicked servant, who, after being forgiven his debts, turns around and demands payments from others for their tiny debts against him.  When God forgives you, HE FORGIVES YOU!  The debt you owe Him for your sin is gone.  And He expects  you to do the same for others– forgive. Really forgive.  Completely utterly let go and forget, just as God completely utterly forgets our sins from our past. It’s the only way He can feel complete love for us.

And it’s the only way you can go foward in peace in love, without any ill will towards your offender.  And…without any desire to mumble or grumble!

Lord, please help this sister with the very offense that’s causing her heart to stew in anger rather than be free with peace and joy.  Release chains that bind her heart in through lack of forgiveness and help her look to You for the strength to do so.  Amen.

D is for Don’t Assume

Does it bother you when you feel like ranting and someone interrupts?  You’re on a roll.  The person you’re ranting about has HURT you, and you want to vent–get it off your chest!

Trouble is there’s no humility in going on with your rant. The more you explain how the person has hurt you, the more you step in a danger zone of “me up here–her down there”.  Step back a moment… isn’t that an ugly picture?

Don’t you think others might wonder if your assumption of her being a villain and you the damsel in distress is a bit exaggerated? Once you think about that, remove the tendency we all have to worry about what others think of us, and consider how you appear to God when you continue your rant.

kit hinkle a new season a widows might setting boundaries in relationships dealing with someone with a temperThat’s the fourth tip in a set of ABC’s on setting boundaries. I kicked off the series when I wrote an article listing six ABC’s about drawing boundaries with those difficult people in your life (you can see it here). I’m moving through these with six articles revealing some of the hard “ouch” lessons I’ve learned over the years on setting boundaries. Lessons that hurt badly as I experienced them; but when God was done with the lesson, His indelible Truth stuck with me forever, helping me use His wisdom to create better, deeper relationships, even with some difficult people. Sometimes, I’ve even spotted where I’ve slipped and become the difficult person myself!  Haven’t we all?

The D in the ABC’s I listed is “Don’t Assume You Aren’t Contributing to the Problem”.

I particularly struggle with assuming my innocence when I’m dealing with a challenging person.  Here’s my struggle–maybe you can relate.  When someone rubs you the wrong way, to refrain from sin, you have to lift that person in prayer and bend over backwards just to be around them.  At least until you resolve what’s under the surface or find a way to have some distance from that person so she’s not getting under your skin anymore.

Because your irritation towards that person will show. You might try to hide it, but it’s there–between clenched teeth or an accidental roll of your eyes.  People can instinctively feel when you aren’t comfortable with them, and your “enemy” might do exactly the wrong things to compensate for your lack of warmth.

Then you are more irritated.  Then you focus on the irritation –on the speck in her eye.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:3, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”  

Try beginning each conversation with that person in silent prayer. “Lord, this person gets under my skin, but I want to see You under her skin. Help me to treat her as though You are there, hiding in her as if she’s the costume, and You’re wanting to see how I treat You.”

I did this once with my teenaged stepdaughter who got dropped off from school every afternoon at 3:15 as I was finishing up working from home.  She had so much hurt over being separated from her mother. That hurt led to behaviors in the home that eventually got under my skin.  Every afternoon at 3:00, I would start to tremble, not because I didn’t love her, but because I knew a spirit of sullenness and brooding would be walking through that door.

One afternoon, I peeked through the curtain and saw her head dropped low and her hair covering a barely perceptible frown.  I started to tremble again. “Not again, Lord. Can’t she just smile?  Does it have to be weird around here?”

I felt Him physically drop me to my knees and tell me to pray. No, Kit. That’s Me coming towards your house.  Will you welcome Me?

I began to pray for her like I’ve never prayed before.  I prayed for the scars from her parents’ divorce.  I prayed for the weekends of unaccountable time in another state while she was on visitation and I feared she wasn’t properly supervised.  I prayed over what awful experiences she may have encountered. And I wept.

She started up the front stoop. I dried my eyes and sat back in my chair.

The door opened. She stepped in–droopy, angry–the biggest scowl you could possibly see on a 16-year-old’s face.  Her eyes glanced up at mine.

My heart melted–it was Christ–in all of His suffering, hidden in the body of a rebellious teen.

“Hi,” I whispered in a long gentle voice.  One simple word, but the way the Lord had me say it, it meant everything.  It meant:  it doesn’t matter how ugly you’ve acted, I love you.  It meant: you’re home now. You’re safe here. There’s nobody here to pick on you.  It meant: I won’t make you choose me over the mother you love.  I’m just here to help you.

Tears rolled down her cheeks as she dropped her book bag.

I ran to her and brushed her hair out of her eyes. “What’s a matter, baby girl?”

The floodgates opened– all the pain of a mother who left; all the pain of the kids at school.  All the frustrations with me–how she loved me and hated me all at the same time.

And I said nothing.  Just hugged her and understood, and recognized how wrong I was to think of myself and judge this precious sweet child.

Lord, help every sister stop to see You–even inside their “enemies”.  Help them to consider we are all sinners and give them grace with each other.

Amen.

 

C is for Close the Door

In a household with four boys, I knew I’d be in trouble if I didn’t teach them not to slam doors during an angry moment.

Want to know how I did it?

Simple. When one of them slammed a door in anger, I’d calmly direct them to go back to the door, open it, and close it gently five times in a row.  It never failed–by the fifth reshut, temper overtook the tyke and he’d slam it again.  At which point I’d calmly and lovingly start the count over.  And over.  And over.  Until he finally closed the door gently five times in a row.

Get the point?  Don’t slam doors.  Close them.  Gently, so that they are easily opened when the person is ready to come out.

kit hinkle a new season a widows might setting boundaries in relationships dealing with someone with a temperClosing doors is the third in a checklist I wrote about dealing with difficult people. I kicked off the series  with an article listing six ABC’s about drawing boundaries with those difficult people in your life (you can see it here). I’m now in the middle of sharing with you  some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years on setting boundaries–lessons that had His indellible Truth stick with me forever, helping me use His wisdom to create better, deeper relationships, even with some difficult people.

The C in the ABC’s I listed is “CLOSE THE DOOR”.

How about closing a door to a relationship?  Have you ever felt so frustrated by a person’s behavior that simply being around them caused disruption in your ability to function?

It’s happened to many of us. Sometimes it’s the other person’s rudeness. Sometimes it’s our own lack of forgiveness which keeps us from moving forward. Either way, there comes a point when we have to take care of ourselves so that we can function. My friend Claire had a cousin she had grown up with and deeply cared about.  This cousin simply didn’t understand how rude her constant “advice” to Claire was.  Claire tried letting her cousin know lovingly and that only provoked anger.  Claire then tried some boundaries like keeping their conversations short. But the cousin noticed and called more frequently, demanding longer conversations with Claire.  Claire tried meeting her cousin for lunches rather than driving in the same car, but the cousin reacted to not being able to spend car-time together.

While Claire loved her cousin and knew she wasn’t wicked to the core, the cousin’s antagonistic behavior towards her had all the markings of wickedness.  Claire loved her, but not her attitude. Proverbs 4:14-17 tells us not to stay in the path of the wicked. “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on. For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble. For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.” ESV

Claire finally decided she just needed time to hit the reset button with her cousin. She prayed about how to do this.  Any “real” conversation with her ended with a volatile reaction.  So she knew actions would just have to speak for Claire’s words.  She had to close a door for a small time, but gently.

When the cousin called, Claire kept the conversation positive and short.  When the cousin asked to get together, Claire told her with honesty and love, that she loved her and wanted to get together soon, but that she felt so beaten up by her lately that she wanted to just chat occasionally and pray over how to reconnect with the cousin on a more positive note.  That got another angry reaction. But the door was pretty much closed by then, so Claire didn’t have to be drowned in her cousin’s tirades.  She simply answered that eventually they would talk more. That maybe it was just Claire, but she felt a need for a little time to be with God.

It took months for the two of them to get over the awkwardness.  And then the cousin reemerged. Kinder. More respectful.

The cousin even commented that setting boundaries with people helps to teach a hard-headed person a good lesson for their sake.

It still isn’t perfect between Claire and her cousin.  But Claire has taken charge of her side of their relationship. She respected her cousin with the gentleness and temporary nature of the closing, but nevertheless closed the door for a time.

Lord Jesus, help these sisters know the difference between slamming a door and gently closing it.  Help each of them know they don’t need to expose themselves to angry wickedness in order to follow You or be a good friend. Give them the strength to close a door when You call them to close it and open it again when You call them to.

Proverbs 22:24-25, MSG Don’t hang out with angry people; don’t keep company with hotheads. Bad temper is contagious – don’t get infected.

A is for Always Think the Best

Do you always think the best of others?

Christ did. I think of how He hung dying on the cross, suffering excruciating pain at the hands of his enemies. And what did He say to Father God? “Forgive them, Father, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

kit hinkle a new season a widows might setting boundaries in relationships dealing with someone with a temperToday over at aNew Seasons Ministries, I wrote an article listing six ABC’s about drawing boundaries with those difficult people in your life (you can see it here). I’m going to take a little time over the coming weeks to tell you about some of the hard “ouch” lessons I’ve learned over the years on setting boundaries–lessons that hurt badly as I experienced them. But when God was done with the lesson, His indullible Truth stuck with me forever, helping me use His wisdom to create better, deeper relationships, even with the some difficult people. Sometimes, I’ve even able to spot where I’ve slipped and become the difficult person myself!

The A in the ABC’s I listed is “ALWAYS THINK THE BEST OF OTHERS”.

That isn’t easy to do. Christ is perfect. We’re not. I’m certainly not, and I found out how prideful I could get when I met Eleanor while working a middle management job at a management consulting firm years ago.

I was cruising along, getting along great with my coworkers and my boss–a partner at the firm. I had connections throughout the organization that helped me serve the firm’s clients well. I had cultivated a network of good relationships so that when a client asked the most detailed technical question about a computer system they were updating, I didn’t need to know the answer–I knew whom to call. I loved my job, and was on track for a bright future.

And then came Eleanor.

She seemed sweet and demure. My boss, the partner, asked me to train her. I obliged, sharing many secrets and openly sharing my network so that she too could help the firm and serve the clients. That’s the “Christian” thing to do, right?

Well then why, I later asked myself, was I rewarded with a complete stab in the back? Every idea I had, Eleanor claimed. Every project I started, Eleanor criticized. Every great ally I had, Eleanor gossiped about me to, until even my boss started to question me.

I was so hurt. I tried confronting her. Her answer…. “Don’t take this personally, Kit–this is just business.”

I tried playing her game, asking others about her, only to find she had angered and upset them too–our conversations turned into venting and gossip, only to dig ourselves into deeper anguish over her games.

Meanwhile, Eleanor found her sweet spot with the boss. She thought Eleanor was fabulous and believed Eleanor’s take on every project.

Could I find joy in that situation?

Not in my state of mind. I had fixated so much on the audacity of this woman that she had become an enemy larger than life to me.

Then came the crushing blow. Review time. Eleanor was promoted. And me? I was given a lecture on why I needed an attitude adjustment.

Seems unfair, doesn’t it?

Trust me, God knew what He was doing. This was the year that changed my heart towards enemies in life forever. God says to love your enemy. Did I love Eleanor?

I sat and prayed, and God gave me this Truth: Phillipians 2:3: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

I thought back to Eleanor’s first meeting with me– how she had just spent a year raising her sister’s baby because her sister had a stroke at thirty-one years old. How her husband had lost his job. How she told me she was determined at all cost to earn enough to support her and her sister’s families.

Of course, none of that justifies Eleanor’s deceptive tactics. But my heart softened. And I thought about Eleanor’s qualities. As much as she stomped on me to get where she was, she was effective. People listened to Eleanor. She seemed to be able to cut to the chase where others, including me, were a bit too nice to tell others they were wasting their time.

I made up my mind. I was going to change my attitude and stop thinking the worst of Eleanor. I was going to THINK THE BEST OF HER–ALWAYS.

I prayed each morning for her. I started asking her what she needed from me to get her projects done. I changed my screen saver on my laptop to scroll the words of Philippians 2:3, replacing the word “others” with a blank. And everytime I read it, I filled in the blank with Eleanor.

The result?

My boss, the partner of the firm who promoted Eleanor and put me in my place, took me out to dinner and asked what happened? She was so blown away by my “performance improvement”, that she disrupted the normal flow of hierarchy and gave me a promotion to senior management even before promotions were to be given.

And Eleanor? She softened towards me. She respected me more. She became an ally, and she began to treat others in the workplace a little better…. well, maybe only a little better. Only Christ can really take the tiger out of a corporate ladder climber.

Every time I think of Eleanor I pray for her. It’s been years, and I bet she, like me, ended up staying home with her kids and probably looks back and thinks, “why was I so harsh on my coworkers?”

But the real wisdom here is God’s, sisters. When someone is harsh with you, ALWAYS think the best of her. She is one of God’s children, with qualities and gifts that you can see if you open your eyes and heart.