Easter is fast approaching. My oldest daughter and her husband are going to spend the holiday with us, bringing our other college daughter in tow… or maybe it is she who is towing them along… you never can tell. It is a delight to have grown children who want to come home. I am looking forward to them!
My family never observed Lent, but this year I have been contemplating the meaning of this 40 day preparation that some people journey through as the calendar ticks down to Resurrection Sunday. I’ve been thinking about how pruning a tree prepares it to bear more fruit. And then I think about how we so often consider fasting (from anything) for spiritual reasons as being a sacrifice that God can honor, when maybe it is just a pruning—simplifying our lives to make more room for God. Rendered.
Are our hearts fully rendered to God??
Render has more than one meaning. One is given or yielded. Are our hearts completely yielded to God? Another is to cause or become: to Make. Lard is rendered… it is melted down so that all the impurities are released and float to the top so that they can be filtered out, leaving the clean fat for cooking other foods. When we yield ourselves to God, He renders our hearts clean and good and usable. The hindrances are filtered out and we are becoming– MADE. Clean and restored to His image. We are not what we used to be.
Christ was rendered as a sacrifice for us, and in all of it, He was treated horribly; yet He was humble, secure in who He was to the Father, and He bore the shame with dignity so that we could be forgiven for being law-breakers. Instead of getting offended, He was willing to “be offended.”
Elizabeth Elliot taught a lesson entitled, “Why Not Be Offended,” which aired on Revive our Hearts some years ago. Her main points taught about forgiveness in various forms. Some people hurt us and ask for forgiveness because they feel sorry and they are repentant. Those people are easiest to forgive. Others may hurt us and not even realize that they have done so. They may be easier to forgive, or maybe we think we should enlighten them about what they have done so that we can help them feel sorry? Some people hurt us, and they realize it, but are not sorry or repentant. That can feel like a pebble in your shoe. Can we empty it out and keep walking?
Jesus died for us when we were still sinners and, technically, his “enemies,” all so that God could forgive us because our penalty has been paid. He requires us to forgive others, because He paid their penalty also (whether or not they have accepted his pardon at this time). We are supposed to love those whom He loves. And we are supposed to forgive because we have been forgiven. When his disciples asked him how often they should forgive, He told them 70 x 7, but maybe he would use our familiar phrases today and say, “Just do it!”
Whether other people are sorry or not, we need to forgive to keep our own hearts from rusting out. Of all the things that we can think of to allow God to prune away and throw into the fire, anger, resentment, and strife are things that our societies seem to have in spades today. People are offended for all kinds of reasons. I am finding politically correct difficult to discern. In so many arenas, we are “darned if we do and darned if we don’t.” I had to drive my daughter back to college after her spring break, and in five hours of driving there were two incidents in which I was sure the other drivers were trying to kill me… on a Sunday, when we didn’t even have to navigate rush hour!! Talk about road rage. People are just offended. And then we HAVE to work to NOT get offended. We have to prune away our grudges.
My husband has a book entitled, “The Problem is People.” A lot of days, that feels accurate. But then we have to remember that Paul wrote that the problem isn’t people, but that we have a spiritual enemy and he loves to use and abuse people, them and us. If Jesus was willing to “be offended”, so should we.
When I heard Elizabeth Elliot’s sermon, she had my attention. I was estranged from my parents for what turned into sixteen years, and didn’t know how to do anything about it. We had other family that was pushing us away, accusing us of things that weren’t true and really, treating us like enemies, and my heart was so very bruised. I took notes on all of Elizabeth’s main points in a notebook with tears streaming down my face, and her words were a balm. She reassured me that I could keep forgiving, even if I was never understood or vindicated, and I would still be okay. I could be secure in the Father. Yet, when you are in the middle of it, the struggle of dealing with difficult people is all the yucky feelings that rise up inside when you are offended. I just want to say, “Please don’t offend me.” Don’t make me mad. Or sad. Or grieved. Or whatever the emotion is that seems to stick in the throat and set memories and theoretical conversations on replay. “I don’t want to feel this way.” And I think that no matter what the emotion is, deep down under all the feelings, it is pride that is inching its way over the side of my heart. It is pride that makes me offended, and this difficult situation can be seen as a mirror that is revealing to me where it is that I need a little more pruning.
Somewhere in the mess, I think about how a small child can get so stinkin’ mad when they are offended, and they can get just lit up and unreasonable, and they will push everyone away while they have their great BIG rant. But if you wrap them in a hug and don’t let go, pretty soon their stiff bodies turn to rag dolls as their ranting melt to tears. They forget to be mad when they know that they are unconditionally loved. Then they will hold on for life, trying to keep their head up against you where they can hear your steady, calming heartbeat.
That’s where we need to be. Turning to the Father with our hurts, holding on for life where we can hear His breath and melt into His heart. Confident in who HE says we are.
Then we need to carry others there as well.
There is so much hurt out there in the world. God is the only one who can offer us HOPE.
How can we make room in our lives for more of God so that we are fully GIVEN and fully MADE.
Are we Rendered?