Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Guest Post: Unoffended...

"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever."

Psalm 136:1 NKJV

It happens to everyone-- somewhere, some time, you are going to be disappointed with how things go in your life. It doesn't matter how long you have been walking with the Lord, or how great your prayer life is, something is going to happen that is going to shake your hope, tempt you to be mad at the world and make you reevaluate everything you've ever hoped for. I've definitely experienced this, personally, a few times; one of the most intense times being when my father died last year. Now, keep in mind that he was older (he died when he was 85, I'm 27-- long story), and he had been sick for awhile, so it didn't necessarily come as a shock, but it still managed to catch me like a sucker-punch to the stomach. I found myself secretly feeling bitter that I lived in a house of girls who had terrible relationships with their fathers who were all well and good, while this man who I loved and who told me he loved me every day was wasting away at a hospital, and then a nursing home, and then hospice. I was also angry at how long it took, and angry at myself for essentially wishing that he would hurry up with the inevitable. I was jealous of my sister, and yet happy for her at the same time-- happy that she had gotten married and Dad had been well enough to walk her down the aisle, sad that he didn't have the strength to dance with me at the wedding and jealous that I would never experience what that was like. But I knew one thing, one thing I clung to- God is good. That experience brought me to a point where all I had was to say that God is good- that He *must* be good, regardless of this situation.

This year, I met a man, fell in love and made plans with him to be married. I learned what it meant to let go of the list I had made in my head and allow the Lord to uncover the list He had placed in my heart. This was a guy who was born and raised out in the country. He liked red meat, football and trucks, certainly not the urbane artist, the "cool guy" I had always envisioned myself with. But, He loved the Lord and desired to serve Him, he had a passion for eschatology and had a willingness to lay down his life for this First Love. He was also intelligent and well-read, and we shared a passion for nerdy like Lord of the Rings, super heroes, video games and Star Wars. The Lord taught me what it meant to be grateful for His gifts, even when they don't come packaged the way you thought they might. But we struggled. And ultimately, we decided that there were things in our hearts that aren't healthy and that need to be dealt with before we could ever marry, and so we decided to end things. It would be so easy for me to be offended at God for allowing me to be in that situation, or heaven forbid, watching another woman in the future possibly reap what I had sown into him. And if I'm honest with myself, there definitely were seeds of bitterness being strewn about this dirt I call my heart, just waiting for an opportunity to take root.

It was about this time that I listened to a teaching by a woman named Misty Edwards, from IHOP- the International House of Prayer- called, Becoming A Friend of the Bridegroom (you can listen to it here). She spoke about offense, quoting what Jesus said to John the Baptist's disciples, "And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me" (Luke 7:22-24 NKJV). The Amplified translation describes offense as being hurt, resentful, annoyed, repelled and being made to stumble. Essentially, any and all offense points back to the Lord. My resentment at my father's passing away? Guess Who it was that gave me as a daughter to an older man! Guess Who called me to join the congregation that man served in and move down the street from him? Bingo. Being free of offense at what the Lord does or doesn't do in our lives opens us up to leading happy lives, with "joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, apart from outward conditions," as the Amplified defines 'blessed'. It also says that those who have this blessing are to be envied! There is a fullness and a lightness that comes from this positioning of the heart when we remember that He works ALL THINGS to our benefit. All things. All. Things. The world is going to see this freedom in us, be touched by our joy and envy our constancy despite all outward conditions.

I'm on the worship team in the church family I belong to, and we played a song one Sunday morning that the Holy Spirit used to link these verses together for me. We all have a collective hope, knowing that one day Jesus is going to come back and make all things right. On that day He will judge with perfect justice and perfect mercy; all tongues will confess and all knees will bow-- but the good news is, that starts now for us. We get the opportunity to bow our knees and confess Him with our mouths now, we can make Him King of Kings over our life *now.* It also says in the Word that it will be His mercies that will be forever remembered, not His judgements, and guess what! That can start for us now, too! There will be moments to come where we will be tempted to get frustrated at what the Lord does or does not do, and He has given us a choice in that moment: we can either decide to be offended and made to stumble, or we can choose to remember His mercies and be blessed. Those are our only options.

It was a mercy that the Lord gave me a father who hugged me and held me, who told me he loved me every day and got weepy-eyed remembering my sister and I as babies who were precious to him. It was a mercy that my marriage and engagement plans have been suspended-- the Lord wants so much more for that relationship and has begun to show me how much I am truly worth in His eyes, and how much I deserve. I really believe that if I didn't have that freedom because of my decision to remember His mercies and forget my offense, I wouldn't be able to allow the Lord to now redeem that relationship and begin to allow this man to pursue me in a Godly manner that honors both the Lord and me. I'm not exactly sure what will happen for us in the future, but I do know that I won't be remembering heartache, only His mercy that the Lord didn't let us settle for less than His best for the both of us.


About the Author:

Alexandra Marie makes food for a living but wants to love well for a life time. 
You can find her baking up yummies at Sugar Cupcakery or find her blog, Restless Things.

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