In my devotional last night, these words stand out:
“It requires far more of the restraining love of Christ to love our cousins and neighbors as members of the heavenly family, than to feel the heart warm to our suffering brethren in
Tuscany or Madeira. To love the whole church is one thing; to love - that is, to delight in the graces and veil the defects – of the person who misunderstood me and opposed my plans yesterday, whose peculiar infirmaties grate on my most sensitive feelings, or whose natural faults are precisely those from which my natural character revolts is quite another.”
-Elizabeth Charles – Daily Strength for Daily Needs
I think on this long and hard, about how easy it is to feel deeply for the suffering of the orphan in China or Russia, the persecuted in the underground church, the impoverished or enslaved – and yet how hard, sometimes, to live with those where we are planted.
There is, perhaps, the clerk at the grocery store more interested in her conversation with a coworker than her customer, the friend whose words have stung, a spouse whose tired spirit needs space to breathe and isn’t intentionally ignoring. There are children with needs – perhaps a whining or bickering – that grate nerves and make edges raw, and there are young people trying to find their own way, sometimes stepping on others in the process.
Oh, how much easier it is, to love those others from afar, than to love those around me sometimes – how much more of me it requires! Can I listen, nurture, and be patient, instead of judging, snapping angrily or holding a grudge?
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another. If anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you must also do. But above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”
To get rid of the judgment and impatience, I need substitutes – tender mercies, kindness, humility, patience and forgiveness. Strongs defines forgive as to do a favor, show kindness unconditionally, give freely, grant forgiveness, forgive freely. The word is from the same root as charis, “grace”. Freely forgive – as I have been forgiven, can I forgive? Some hurts are hard to pass over, and yet how much I’ve been forgiven.
There is more:
“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deeds, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:15-17
Thanksgiving - there it is again! How much better each day, and each relationship, progresses when I look for the gift in each person and each circumstance, taking my eyes off of the far-away and trying to see the beauty in what is around me.
And so today, let’s start with thanksgiving. The boys near me, they’re playing cards and there’s a bunch of noisemaking and some good-natured bickering. I’m thankful for these growing young men and all they bring to my life; thankful for the husband up early and off to meetings; thankful for the dishes in the sink that meant we enjoyed late-night snacks and a family movie last night. I’m thankful for the little one waiting to play “Sleeping Grump” with me, and for dog lying on my feet. As today progresses, I’ll get irritated, annoyed and grumbly about something and I hope to grab onto thankfulness and forgiveness again, putting on the love and patience of Someone much stronger than me – but one who amazingly, never gives up on me. For this, I am most thankful.
Trusting in Him,