Father God, watch over those who watch over us.
– Kara Hunt
The careless words of others can wound deeply. If we’re unprepared for the unkind words of others, we can be shocked by those closest to us. Unkind speech finds us all, but we have the privilege of responding in love.
Picture this: an individual says something unkind, sees your response, and feigns innocence at the reaction their words garnered. Do you recognize the following defensive tactics?
“What?” As in, What did I say that you don’t like? or What are you so upset about? Before you react negatively, remember, you don’t know the exact translation of her “What?” but she’s given you a perfect opportunity to respond in love. Answer her truthfully. Kindly explain why her words offended you.
“You’re too sensitive.” This is a classic response from someone who doesn’t want to take responsibility for his words. This person would rather choke to death than let an apology cross his lips. Unfortunately, there are those who think apologizing is a sign of weakness. Show him that’s not the case. “I’m sorry you feel that way, but you need to know, your words really hurt me.”
Regardless of how others use their words, you are responsible for your speech and actions. Scripture says if you’ve been offended, go to your brother and tell him. Make it a priority. Don’t let your hurts fester.
Finally, forgive. We need forgiveness for our many tresspasses, so we must be quick to forgive to those who offend us.
A mother woke up early one morning, feeling rested and refreshed. She started the laundry, dusted the furniture, washed the floor, had her devotions—and all before the kids woke up. She felt great. That feeling continued as no one fought at the breakfast table or cried into their cereal. The rest of the morning went smoothly, lunch was as peaceful as breakfast had been, and all the laundry was folded and put away before supper rolled around.
And she knew it. She’d finally gotten the hang of being a good wife and mother. She went to bed that night with a smile on her face.
The next morning, this same mother woke up ten minutes before school was to start—and to loud noises coming from the kitchen pantry. She skipped brushing her teeth and raced down the hall to find one child eating chocolate while the other two were still in the pantry, fighting over the last cookie. Breakfast was chaotic (no one wanted eggs for dessert), she forgot about laundry until lunch, didn’t have lunch planned so they had breakfast all over again, and quiet time afterward was anything but.
And she knew it. She was a failure as a wife and mother. She went to bed that night realizing she still hadn’t brushed her teeth.
It’s easy to measure one’s worth as a wife or mother by the things we have—or haven’t—accomplished. It’s with a thankful heart that I’m reminded that God’s love for us isn’t based on what kind of day we’re having, but on who He is. His love is unconditional, His mercies new each morning, and His grace sufficient always.
So if your kids had chocolate for breakfast this morning instead of eggs, have no fear. The scales are still tipped in your favor.
My five year old daughter is usually enthusiastic about helping around the house and her frequent response when asked to do something is, “A job? I love jobs!”
The other day, I asked her to pick up the last block from the floor and put it in the toy box. She looked down at the block for a moment and this time her little face was void of any enthusiasm.
“I don’t want to,” she said. “I’m tired.”
“It’s only one block,” I replied. “You’re not that tired.”
To show her I had complete faith in her abilities, I walked into the kitchen as though she’d already completed the task. I waited to see what she’d do, and not more than a minute later, I saw her walking toward the toy box. She was holding the block in her cupped hands, repeating to herself, “I don’t have to do this. I don’t have to do this.”
There are times when I’ve felt God put something on my heart, some prompting within to do a specific thing, to accomplish a certain task, and I’ve responded with, “I can’t do this. I’m not sure I even want to try. I don’t have the strength or the energy. I’m tired.”
Often the things I’ve viewed as monumental and impossible have turned out to be simple blocks. God won’t give us these “blocks” unless He also provides the means and the strength to carry them. We can ignore the blocks or we can pick them up reluctantly, all the while telling ourselves we don’t really have to do this. Me, I’m praying for the strength to embrace whatever God places in my path, for it’s likely He’s building something wonderful with all those blocks.
We had to have our shower re-tiled, because it was leaking, and mold was beginning to form. As long as we were doing the shower, we figured we’d go ahead do the floors, and getting new floors led to new vanities, countertops, sinks, cabinet doors, and light fixtures. It’s the old “If you give a mouse a cookie…” approach to home improvement. Expensive, but we’d been planning it for a while. We had the money.
And then in late December, the hot water heater went kaput. These things happen. The house was built in ’78. The hot water heater had never been replaced. No problem.
Then on Super Bowl Sunday, I smelled something funny, something…chemically. I called the gas company, and they sent someone out. Not natural gas, he said. Carbon monoxide. My heat and air guy confirmed our worst fears. The thirty-seven-year-old furnace needed to be replaced. And of course, if you’re going to do the furnace, you should go ahead and replace the antique air conditioner, too. That would be the “if you give a mouse a cookie…” approach to home comfort solutions. Or maybe it was my heat and air guy’s approach to his kids’ college fund. In any event, if you’re keeping track, since December first, we’ve purchased: new tile, new vanities, new countertops, new light fixtures, new cabinet doors, new hot water heater, new furnace, and new air conditioner. Oh, and then there was the trip home to New Hampshire for Christmas and all those pesky gifts.
We are blessed, and my husband is pretty savvy, and so we still managed to stay out of debt. They say put away six months’ worth of income for a rainy day, and it was pouring at our house this winter. But just because we don’t owe the tiler or the heat and air guy doesn’t mean we don’t carry debt.
Paul tells us in Romans 13:8: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”
I find it funny that Paul refers to this as a “debt.” When you go into debt, you’ve received something that you haven’t paid for. You sign the mortgage, you move into the house, and then you pay it off. You sign the loan papers, you drive away with the car and an envelope filled with helpful little tickets to mail with your payment every month. So what did we receive that we haven’t paid for?
How about eternal salvation? According to Ephesians 2, I was dead, and now I’m alive, and I did nothing to make that happen. It was a gift, but apparently, it was a gift with strings attached, because the same author who wrote Ephesians tells me in Romans that I owe love to the world, even to the folks who don’t love me back.
No matter how much money we have in the bank, we’ll always be in debt, because the God who saved us asks to love His children, whoever and wherever they are.
A little cash for heat and hot water, a chunk of change for mold-free bathrooms. A fair trade. Offering the love that was first given to me by God in exchange for peace, joy, and salvation? That’s a no-brainer.
Robin Patchen lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, with her husband and three teenagers. She is the author of two books, Faith House and One Christmas Eve, both Christmas stories, and a freelance editor at Robins Red Pen. Read excerpts and find out more at her website.
A few weeks ago, a group of friends and I were talking with one of the older women at our church. We listened in awe as she told the story of how she and her husband (who was with her) had been married for 34 years, divorced for 20, and re-married again for two months. As she relayed some of what happened, we couldn’t help but wonder how she made it through it all. As a result of what she’s been through, she’s been able to inspire women from our church and others. When I mentioned that she should write a book about everything she went through and how God brought her through it, she laughed and intimated that it would be a very short book. I asked her why. She said the only thing she could put in a book, would be this:
“Pray. Have Faith. Praise the LORD.”
Being a writer, her short, confident and simple reply struck me. The simplicity of it was astounding but the truth of it was life-changing. And endless pages of flowery words and intellectual prose couldn’t have said it better or guaranteed a better outcome. Her brief answer covered everything from marriage issues to job loss. When hope is deferred, God loves us too much to let us handle it all on our own. All we have to do is give him the key.
Kara loves to read and write supernatural suspense thrillers and is an ACFW Genesis 2013 Finalist in the Mystery/Suspense/Thriller category. But Kara also loves to share stories about God’s love, mercy and faithfulness. One of Kara’s favorite non-fiction quotes comes from noted author Corrie Ten Boom, “It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, a former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.
Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I prayed, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”