Monday, April 2, 2012

Devotion: Keep Forgiving

"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'" Matthew 18: 21-22

"I'm sorry." The words were spoken with so much conviction. It was the type of scene you see in a Nicholas Sparks movie were the guy is gently grasping the girl's face between his hands, looks deep into her eyes, and whispers "I'm sorry" in a way that would melt any girl's heart. And this was happening to me. In my kitchen. My husband and I had gotten into a disagreement the evening before over how to fix a tire on a bike stroller. It was a silly argument, and really, at the time, I couldn't understand why my husband was getting so upset with me for asking if I could fix it since he was so busy. But it happened, and he apologized. And I forgave him.

That evening, though, he got upset with me again. We took the entire family to a baseball game. Two-thirds of our kids weren't really into the game (if you know my kids, you know which ones) and were climbing all over the seats, bumping into other spectators, begging for more food, and just being kids. I was getting frustrated because I just wanted to spend some time with the kids and my husband, but I ended up spending the entire time making sure those restless two weren't disrupting other people. So when he asked me to scoot over a little more, I sarcastically said, "Oh, sure, honey." And that started another argument that ended with him picking up our other child and moving to another seat so the two of them could see the game. Both of us were in the wrong, but my feelings were so hurt and I was frustrated already, that I just couldn't believe we were back to square one. When we got home, he tried the "I'm sorry" route again. This time, though, I knew it was coming. I knew he was going to apologize and do something like clean up the kitchen while I was getting the kids into bed as a way of apologizing. And what did I do? I rejected his apology. He apologized, and I said, "Really? For what?" We both went to bed without speaking to each other.

The only problem was I couldn't sleep. As soon as the house was quiet and I was lying in the dark, a voice as clear as could be said to me over and over again "Not seven times, but seventy-seven times." I immediately knew that my words and actions were not called for. All night long I kept thinking, "Who am I to judge his apology?" "What if someone didn't accept my apology?" And honestly, I was reminded of the other times God has opened my eyes to forgiveness (see here and here). Then my thoughts turned to how often God has forgiven me of repeated offensives. Oh man, I was feeling so incredibly guilty. My husband, a kind and gentle man, who gets along with most everyone around him, was having a stressful couple of days. He does not normally get upset with me so easily, and I should have taken all of that into consideration. Who  was I to not forgive him?

As I continue to work on my relationship with my Lord, He is showing me more and more that everything is about the condition of my heart. Living for Him means to have a pure and honest heart. It means to see others where they are and to not get upset over the little things. It means to admit when I am wrong and to seek forgiveness. And it also means that when others ask for forgiveness, it is my responsibility to show them God's love in accepting their apology and to get back on the road to making things right with them.

Because He loves me so much and has forgiven me for the countless ways I have disappointed Him, I, too, have the responsibility to love others and forgive others "seventy-seven times" and more.

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