"Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me." Psalm 51:10. "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows". Galatians 6:7. "Jesus declared, Love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind....And the second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." Matthew 22:35-40.
This is the season to spread love and good cheer. Unfortunately, for many, this is a time when past hurts and old grudges surface. This, I tell you, can wring the life out of joy. Get beyond it! So easy to say, but sometimes hard to do. As usual, I tend to look deeper into situations (I have the time). Those of us who are retired know of what I speak. Nevertheless, I digress.
Many years ago, my grandmother sat me down one day (do not ask me why) and started to reflect on the ways of the South. In particular, she expounded on how some people would work "roots" (some type of witchcraft or voodoo) on people who had offended them in some way. Usually, it was reserved for thieves and homewreckers. As a teenager, this did not make sense to me because my grandmother grew up around people who believed in God. One interesting point she did make was that the working of these roots eventually came back on the one who initiated them. I suppose this was a chance they were willing to take or maybe they believed God would overlook it.
This many years later, I do not know of anyone who practices this type of revenge, but the desire to get back at someone has not gone away but has evolved into wishing a person harm (for those who do not have the stomach to go any further than this) and doing actual physical harm. To those who do actual harm, you know there is a consequence. But, what about those who wish you well with their lips, and their heart is far from it; that is a whole other category. I know I have to stop and explain this a little. Take for instance two people who are in a competition and one says to the other, "break a leg." Now that is supposed to mean, "have a great performance." Sometimes it means to literally break a leg so that the person will be eliminated from the competition. Sadly, some people are not aware that they secretly harbor ill feelings toward someone. They have unresolved issues that prevent true forgiveness and sincerity when wishing one well.
The heart can be very dark and it requires constant checks and prayer to keep it pure. "The heart is deceitful above all things: Who can know it?" "I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings." Jeremiah 17:9-10. It is not always easy to understand what our own intentions are. But, your intentions do matter. God is the only one that can keep the reins of our hearts in check.
In Psalm 51:10, noted above, David's confession is regarded as a model for repentance. His prayer to God is an acknowledgment that he has sinned and is fearful, and he is seeking God's forgiveness. In David's situation, he knew that he had committed wrong and was truly remorseful. He sought and received God's forgiveness. David wanted to go even further by asking that God create in him a clean heart and to change him (renew a right spirit) so that he would be able to avoid sinning.
Years later, I believe I get what my grandmother was saying. Now, I do not know if what I understood her to be saying is this, but here is my take: We are all accountable for our actions, no matter what. When someone offends us, we have to pay close attention to how we respond. Whether we think we are entitled to be avenged for an offense committed against us or not. I extracted this from my grandmother's revelation that those who engaged in the dark arts were aware that there would be consequences, perhaps even to the point of risking that what they were doing to someone else would happen to them. The people of God in my grandmother's sphere understood that in our natural tendency to do what is expedient for us at the moment; that is to get back at someone who did us wrong, God is listening. His word has not changed; "A man reaps what he sows." Galatians 6:7.
One may think that by saying you want the best for someone, you want the best for someone. This may not be honest. Either way, you need to be certain. Check it out:
SEARCH YOUR HEART: You have to ask some deep and probing questions. It is essential that you are completely upfront with yourself. If you have been deeply hurt by someone, it is possible that you are harboring some feelings of unforgiveness and simply have it buried in your heart. It is the unforgiveness that you need to get rid of. Your heart will not be pure without getting rid of unforgiveness, and neither will your actions. Since we do not always know that we have these feelings (we can be deceived into thinking that we are over a situation), we must seek God's assistance in letting go). Like David, we not only want a clean heart, but we want the right attitude to avoid pitfalls in the future. Search your heart often. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Matthew 5:8.
IMPLORE GOD'S HELP; FORGIVE AND MOVE ON: Believe it or not most of the time we are inadequate to fix things on our own. Feelings often get in the way of reality or our inability to accept reality. That is why we need help. I see clearly how the people of the South that my grandmother spoke about felt about being treated with contempt or harmed by someone. I even understand their desire to retaliate. That they did take matters into their own hands is unfortunate, given the awareness of the consequences that would be sure to follow. Upon looking closer, I see it as a matter of unforgiveness and a lack of and/or a crisis in faith. It is naive to think that we will respond only with a smile to people hurting us. But, we do have at our fingertips a better and more appropriate response. We can give the problem over to God. "Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath; for it is written: "It is mine to avenge, I will repay," says the Lord. Romans 12:19. I heard a preacher once say that our enemies seem to be blooming in their efforts against us. He said to look at them like we would look at cut flowers. Yes, they look like they are in full bloom and will last forever. But in a short amount of time, they will be no more. They have been removed from their root. Trust God to take care of those who offend you. Pray and keep on living.
MAKE IT A HABIT TO ASK FOR FORGIVENESS WHEN YOU ARE THE OFFENDER: I know, sometimes we think we are the ones being offended. If you look closely, you will see that we may say, do or think things that we need to ask for forgiveness. Seek God's forgiveness first and pray for God's guidance to approach the one you have offended knowingly or otherwise. Ignorance of our actions does not excuse us from the consequences. That is why we are to make it a routine to search our hearts regularly and to pray daily. Write things down if you have to. Some of us are in that age group where we might forget. Let me put it a kinder way. We do not multi-task as well as we used to. Make it a habit to be aware of your actions in all circumstances and pray that your behavior reflects your best self.
There have been times when I have had to reexamine my behavior, especially as it relates to dealing
with service providers. It seems sometimes we are in a climate of rudeness. I would like to say that I have always responded appropriately. That would not be the whole truth. Sometimes, I get a little testy, but I stop short of being out and out rude. I do my best to remember who I represent and try to conduct myself accordingly. But, that does that always cover my thoughts. Therefore, I have cause to repent and to ask for forgiveness and the kindness and patience to treat others how I want to be treated and not necessarily how I am being treated. This I do daily. Remember to love your neighbor as yourself. This is not a suggestion.
In this blessed season, we have much to celebrate. We are reminded that God gave us His very best during this season. Remember to always give your best. However, this season is also a time of stress for some. Elevate your thankfulness above whatever difficulties you may be facing. If someone or something is taking you out of your character and you are behaving in a way that you have forgotten consequences, get back to basics. Confess your sins, and ask for forgiveness. Offer forgiveness to others. Pray always. Then do something during this time to bless someone less fortunate or someone who is stressed out. You will see that you have a lot to be thankful for. You in turn will be blessed. You will be reminded that God uses us to bless others.
From my heart, I am wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year! May God grant you the desires of your heart! May your heart always be right with God and your fellowman. God bless you!
I want to say thank you to all of you who have supported me in this endeavor throughout this year and before. My heart is filled with gratitude for your responses. You have encouraged me to be the best I can be. With God's help, I am living my blessed/best life. "He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly." You have also helped me to understand that it takes a village to be well-rounded and to feel loved. That village does not have to be large, just supportive. I pray that you will continue to be blessed by these writings. Thank you, with love and sincere gratitude.