Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The work of the day

One might say, if one were the saying kind of person, that I'm an open book, inclined to tell all matter of things about myself, some worth the telling and others a little TMI, as kids call it.  So I've been pondering all day how to share my own part in this story without either A) casting aspersions on someone (I learned at an early age that whatever the heck aspersions are, I certainly better not to go casting them about all willy-nilly) and B) even divulge information that isn't mine to reveal.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with that person, then come and offer your gift.  Matthew 5: 23-24

Over the course of my almost 54 years on this earth, there have been one or two... dozen, (or hundred or thousand) times when I've had to take my hat in hand, set aside whatever work I was doing, leave my gift at the altar, as Matthew puts it, because a brother or sister held something against me.  And whatever it was that they held against me was distracting me from the true work of my life--that of worshipping God in whatever He called me to do at any particular time and place.  Sometimes it's as simple as picking up the phone to call Beve to tell him I'm sorry I raised my voice at him, or stopping a roommate in the kitchen to say I was sorry for small thing they didn't even notice.  But these aren't really what Jesus means when He tells us to make our peace with our brother or sister before presenting our gifts at His altar.  He means the kind of offenses that grow and build and expand until they are rock walls between people.  The Berlin wall kind of walls.  Large and fortified with armed guards and barbed wire and don't even think of trying to get through it, let alone break it down.  Offenses that create such walls are not easily taken down.

There has been such a wall in my life this year.  It popped up without warning, had no discernible cause, and try as I might, I had no success in taking it down.  And I tried.  I did all kinds of things. Was advised to let it blow over (or down in this metaphor).  Backed off, kept my distance, acted as if it wasn't there (which made me feel like the biggest fraud on earth).

But this morning, after my time with the Lord (not during--I've been reading the Minor Prophets!), I was sitting at my sewing machine thinking about this situation.  In the last several days I have been reminded a couple of times that this person is still angry at me.  I kept turning it over and over in my brain as the needle went up and down, and finally I couldn't stand it any longer.  I simply had to go and make my peace with this person.  I had to go and ask forgiveness for the offense that changed our relationship.

The problem was that I hadn't the slightest idea what that offense was.
That small sticking point is what had kept me from asking forgiveness for months.
But Jesus didn't say we had to know what the offense was before going to our brother or sister.  The issue is that we know he or she has something against us.  And this I definitely knew.

As with so many things in life, the steepest path is just getting there, if you know what I mean.  Once face to face with the person, my words tumbled out coherently enough (along with a few tears I'd neither expected nor wanted).  Forgiveness was asked for and granted.  On each side.
Yes, on each side.  Because God does this.  He stands between and breaks down the wall on each side.

I love seeing Him in action this way.  In me, despite my stubborn--"But I don't even know what I did, so why should I ask for forgiveness?"--heart.  And in a room with another believer who wants to honor God with every step.  He is there between us, as we do the primary work He asked us to do--"Forgive one another as I have forgiven you."

Yes, this was the work of my day.
Now, where's an altar?  I have a great gift of praise to offer Him for the fine work HE did in me and in this day.

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