Be the One. at Christmas
"Okay, this is just what I needed to hear," she said over the phone. "I know I have needed to forgive for a long time, but just did not know how to go about it... the mechanics ... but I got those in "Give yourself a Christmas Present.1"
Then she called me back. "Christine, here's the thing-I really believe God is helping me forgive my sisters for how they behaved... things they have said, things they have done, how much I've been hurt. I'm ready to let them go, I believe. However, I am to see them on Christmas; everything that has hurt me will be present, probably in my face, you know. So, what do I do about that?"
->Therein lies perhaps the biggest challenge: moving to a place of forgiveness, all the while knowing that the person who has hurt you will likely do it again. And again.
What to do? I am suggesting you be the one who is different.
Let's take the sisters mentioned above ... be the one who decides it is time to stop playing the same old tapes. Come different.
Some awareness is in order:
-do not expect they (those who hurt you, even regularly) will have changed.
-without some due diligence on your part, you will not have changed either.
Let's practice that due diligence and strategize how to make the holiday a great time. Perhaps it is Christmas dinner at Mom's house - right? How can we be the one(s) to make it different?
Some practical things to do:
1. Arm yourself. That is, pray before you go.
Pray that God will give you compassion for whatever caused the other to offend.
Pray that you will not easily take offense, for whatever reason you are easily offended!
2. Personalize these words of Paul: "Since God chose me to be the holy person he loves, I must clothe myself with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. I willmake allowance for others' faults, and forgive anyone who offends me. I will remember the Lord forgave me, so I must forgive others. Above all, I will clothe myself with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony."2
3. If you cannot say something of value around the table (or around the kitchen island or stove), BE STILL. Let your words be few3, particularly if speaking might mean a sharp comeback to a baiting remark. I love what Richard Foster wrote, "Let the Lord be your justifier."4 You know, sometimes silence cannot be improved upon.
4. Wherever you celebrate with your family and/or difficult ones/those you are trying to forgive ~ look around and silently give God 'thanks' for what you are able--food, freedom, God's strength, the birth of Jesus, his sacrifice, etc. ... I mean, really-gain some perspective!
'Had to search to find the words that ran through my mind as I wrote: "Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone."5
And then I fell once again into the lines around these precious words - "Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them... [including those who hurt you] Bless those who persecute you. Don't curse them; pray that God will bless them [including those who have hurt you!]...Live in harmony with each other. Never pay back evil with more evil."6
God's word is always apt, perfect for situation, fitting for our various circumstances.
So you survived Christmas dinner with difficult folk ... way to go! You have driven away, and you are left with nothing but your thoughts, impressions and feelings.
Time to debrief. Ask God to help you carry no hard feelings or ill will, to walk in forgiveness! There ought be no roots of things said or done which will cause bitter roots.
Be the one who walks away believing the best and hoping the best for your loved one, and for your next encounter.
You and I, my friends, having received grace, must be the ones who trade in grace. Let's be the ones who make Christmas different this year!
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
Romans 12.18, New King James Version
Be the One.
2 - Colossians 3.12-14, NLT, personalized
3 - Ecclesiastes 5.2
4 - Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster
5 - Romans 12.18, NLT
6 - from Romans 12