12 ELUL 5769
When I was around seven or eight years old, I did something that shocked my family out of moral complacency. I cursed a man out because he repeatedly refused to allow his niece to come out and play with me. (Hmm…, I wonder what gave him concern). My cousin, Tom who is three years older than me – jerked his head towards me in shock as the words came spewing forth out of my mouth. Without hesitation, this ringleader of mischief broke the code of juvenile honor and immediately went home to tell his mother, my Aunt Gloria.
Now Aunt Gloria does not believe in spanking children. I can’t remember her ever giving any of us a spanking EXCEPT for me on that fateful day when I lost my pre-adolescent mind. My actions shocked her out of making nice with bad behavior, and with her house shoe she spanked me all the way back to the house of the verbally assaulted fellow (who I don’t believe was shocked at all) to deliver a very repentant “I’m sorry for saying all those mean things.” After my heartfelt apology, I was spanked all the way back down the street, into the apartment and into my room. I cried myself to sleep.
Now for those of you who are freaking out about child abuse – believe me – this was not one of those situations. I still remember feeling very sorry for what I had done and the spanking (not beating) given by someone I knew who loved me, brought home the gravity of my actions. It is one of my earliest memories of embracing the Gift of Repentance. I realized I had done wrong. I wanted to make it right.
In my lifetime, I have experienced many opportunities to embrace the Gift.
The most frightening times have been when I have seen what was in my heart – a stubbornness, an anger, or selfishness and I did not want to change. Sometimes it was blatant rebellion and other times it was very subtle compromises. In any event what startled me most times back to my senses was my refusal to change in the moment. Even my rational thinking brain would begin stating “you know you are not in your “right mind” because if you were thinking straight you would ….”
I pray my heart is always soft and responsive to the convictions of the Lord. It’s not easy being corrected. I just hope I can receive correction and reproof graciously – regardless of how it may come.
Isaiah 57:15 | For this is what the high and lofty One says— He who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
11 ELUL 5769
In preparation for partnering with G-d in the healing of the world, we must first truly embrace the fact that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of G-d. We all need forgiveness, mercy and lovingkindness regardless of the flavor of sin we choose.
When resolving conflict with others, the authors of Crucial Conversations stated it this way
“We need to forgive others for not sinning the same way we do.”
Think about it…
Matthew 6:12 | Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
While sitting on a plane one day waiting for takeoff, I considered all the people involved in the takeoff process. Without a doubt, it takes a CREW to prepare for takeoff: air traffic control, the pilots, flight attendants, and all of those individuals down below directing the plane away from the gate unto the runway.
Consider the last time you endeavored to participate with Hashem in the healing of the world. Were you ready to navigate the difficult conversations? Were you open to the “air traffic controllers” in your life giving you an objective perspective of the situation? Did you ever make it to your destination?
If you have ever attempted to ask some one for forgiveness, or attempted to share with some one why you are hurt, you know it can get real messy if not handled properly.
In most cases, I needed a CREW (people with objectivity and wisdom) to help me PREPARE FOR TAKE OFF in the reconciliation process. How about you?
Over the next several blogs, we will explore what it takes to properly prepare ourselves for repentance, forgiveness and reconcilation. What does it really take to partner with G-d in the healing of the world?
Romans 12:18 | If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
23 ELUL 5769
OK – I am “fessin up” about confessing my faults. In truth, this is the most difficult step in the Teshuvah (Repentance) process for me. I’m ok with stopping, and regretting but if I have to say what I did – Urgh! my stomach goes into knots. And let me be the first to say – it is easy to “fess up” to G-d but if I have to fess up to others about a sin, attitude, behavior – the process begins to slow way………….. down.
It seems as humans – this is a rough road that many of us avoid. From “one heart that tries to hide” to the next – don’t be afraid. Let’s take a lesson from Jacob as he struggled with the Man the night before his meeting with Esau. What was Esau’s response to reuniting with his brother that cheated him out of his birthright – nearly two decades before?
Genesis 32:6-7 | Then the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies. 8 And he said, “If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the other company which is left will escape.”
He brought “FOUR HUNDRED MEN with him?!!!….” Obviously Esau had NOT forgotten what Jacob had done. Reconciling with Esau was not going to be easy.
This was not a time to save face and try to offer up some reason for his actions. Jacob needed the wisdom of the L-rd to deal with a situation “he had created” (none of this “G-d knows my heart stuff”). The only resolution for this situation was a face to face encounter with G-d and…….. himself. Jacob needed a miracle – a miracle within.
24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” 27 So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” 28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel;for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
The miracle was not Esau sending his army away. The miracle was not Esau sending a message to Jacob saying, “I love you man, come on home. I forgive you.” Jacob’s miracle was NOT a change in ESAU. The miracle was a change in himself.
The struggle that we have is NOT with other people. If we try to save face and rewrite the truth about our actions, our behavior or attitudes, we will not prevail. (It’s not like the delusion of Las Vegas, where “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”) What happens in the heart is known (by G-d and ourselves). We can not escape from the truth that questions our excuses, intentions, and motives. We can’t “Save Face” in the heart.
When we need to repent, confess (say “I am sorry”) and make things right – coming face to face with the living G-d is the answer for the struggle of the soul.
The clarion is sounding…. Until we deal with the fact that we also contribute to the pain in our world, we will not be in position to stop the hurt. Rather than “saving face” and fighting those around us, let us wrestle with the person within and cling to G-d until he changes our name. Perhaps, we too – will be blessed to see Him face to face and live!
Genesis 32:30 | 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”
22 Elul 5769
~Dirty Confessions with Pure Intentions~
Many summers ago, my sister and I were enjoying a vacation with our grandparents deep in the heart of Texas. Although, we had to heat our water and the modern conveniences of suburbia were far from us, we enjoyed the carefree country life. Walking along the dirt roads to visit distant neighbors, talking to the horses and catching fireflies, filled our day.
One day we went to visit some kinfolk down the road from Madear, Grandma’s mother. On the way back, I asked Granny if I could drive. It was just a short distance straight up the road and I figured I wouldn’t hurt anything. My six year old sister, Elonda chimed in from the back seat. “Grandma, Karen can drive. Let Karen drive.” Madear did not say a word as Grandma contemplated whether or not she would give her eleven year old granddaughter control of the wheel. With me begging in the front seat and Elonda, cheering me on from the backseat, Granny stopped the car and we exchanged places.
It was exciting. I held onto the steering wheel with steady hands and tried to mimic everything I had seen the grownups do. I eased off of the brake and gently pressed on the gas. The four door carriage obeyed my command and escorted the four of us home without incident until… I hit a dip in the road. I pressed my foot on the gas pedal, but the wheels just spinned – making the ditch deeper.
Grandma tried to coach me out of the ditch from the passenger seat, but by this time emotional opposition had arisen from the rear. My most vocal supporter had retracted her vote of confidence. Her enthusiastic support in the beginning was no match for the tear stained pleas she was now making. “Grandma, Karen can’t drive. Make her stop, Grandma. She can’t drive.” Finally, even Madear, asked Grandma to take the control once again.
The memory still causes me to laugh as I reflect on my sister’s purest intention of endorsement morphing into a confession of opposition as the dirt flew out from under the car. And in truth, the story from her point of view, is even more hysterical (i.e her life flashing before her eyes, etc.). There is much more drama, indeed!
The experience, however reminds me of conversations / relationships that go awry. In the beginning, we are cheerful and optimistic. As we encounter rough roads, the conversations become more difficult. Like driving on gravel, the offenses layer our interactions and the ride becomes more precarious. Invariably as life happens, we end up in a ditch and dirty confessions are released as fear and anger infuses the atmosphere. “You never…” “You always…” “You should have known… “
Misunderstandings, hurts, and disappointments tinged with bitter root fill the air, where once the purest of intentions fragrantly bloomed. This season calls for us to: stop spinning the dirty confessions of our fears, “get out of the ditch” and take responsibility for our own responses to the experiences of life.
Take the time to get back to your purest of intentions no matter how muddy the waters are or how eroded the roads have become. If we focus on our purest of intentions for an individual(s) or for a situation, those intentions that serve the purpose of G-d, we will find ourselves co-partnering with our Creator to restore and/or uncover the original beauty and potential of those lives, we touch.
James 3:17-18 (The Message Bible) | Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
20 ELUL 5769
STEP TWO: REGRET YOUR SIN
I was visiting the deep heart of Texas one summer with my sister and our grandparents. As my sister and I were walking up the dirt road that led back to madear’s home we came across a colony of red ants. The ants had created a hole in the dirt and the dirt pile encamped around the hole. My eleven year old mind thought it would be fun to kick the dirt and scatter it across the road.
Regret filled my heart when I saw the ants move quickly to rebuild what I had torn down. What had taken me less than five seconds to destroy would take the ants hours upon hours to rebuild. I was so convicted, I began moving the sandy granules of dirt back to the original location. I regretted what I had done and I have never forgotten that feeling of remorse. To this day, I remind my children not to disrupt or destroy bug life unnecessarily.
Regret is healthy if it leads us to change our behavior. It can be debilitating if there is no hope for change and redemption. Healthy regret is good for the soul; it is the portal to rebuilding what we purposely or thoughtlessly destroyed.
We all need a good dose of healthy regret. It will keep us honest about our imperfections and provide the much needed motivation to change those bitter, toxic rough roads within.
James 4:9-10 (NLT) | 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.