Thanksgiving has come and gone, and now is the time for shifting gears and thinking about putting up the tree and decorating the house. This year I was the gravy maker at two family events. I came to realize not everyone knows how to make good gravy. I guess I never learned how to do it, I just simply did. It is really quite easy – put the turkey drippings in a sauce pan to warm, take some out and mix with cornstarch until smooth then put back in the pan, add some chicken broth and milk, stir in some salt and pepper, bring to a boil until thick then serve. Gravy making came easy for me; I do like to cook so maybe it is just one of those things that I never really had to think about.
We all have those tasks in life that are mindless, simple and easy to do. Cooking and baking and pitching in when help is needed are things I can do without thought. I enjoy helping out. I like to be in the kitchen. I thrive when given a task to complete. I love a good challenge. I feel productive and good about myself when I am needed and doing.
Yet, there is another side to my madness. A side that is not so organized and driven and productive. Because when I look deep down into the depth of my soul, into the corners of my heart, into the shady forgotten remnants of everything personal, there is a side of me that is critical and cynical. I excel at taking the proverbial two by four and whacking myself over the head repeatedly in a torturous manner. I simply do not let things slide. I do not let myself forget every word I have harshly spoken and tone just a bit too sharp.
I am forever saying unforgiveness breeds discontent. It is the summer weed choking out the beauty of the lush garden. It comes to steal joy and wash away the color of contentment. I pride myself in forgiving others and moving on. In pouring out grace to the repentant heart and walking away from the past wrong. In setting free the chains of bitterness. Yet in my own heart, in my personal life story, I buck and fight and rebel from giving myself the same grace I so quickly lay in the hand of another. The gift of grace is freely given to others but forgotten within my private sanctuary.
Just recently, I opened up to someone as I often too quickly do then later looked back in wonder of how I was received. I am notorious in my transparency to spill my heart’s contents all over the person in my presence. And in that trait, in the action of being open and honest and forthright, I often look back with regret and question over whether or not I was received with grace. Whether or not my words and my heart were well understood. Whether or not the person will gently take my tenderness and guard it with sincerity and thoughtfulness. And at the end of the day, I often look back with regret for being the open book, for not guarding my heart a little more closely. I question God as to why He would create such transparency in the genetic make up of all that makes me who I am.
That critical, cynical self comes out to play. It breeds doubt and negativity. It spreads disease though the garden of self worth and wreaks havoc on the produce of a well tended heart. For in my ability to forgive and accept others comes a lack of grace for myself. Being hard on me is as easy as tying shoes, as mindless as brushing teeth, as simple as sorting laundry. It has become a daily chore, a thoughtless task.
Just as Christ forgives us, we are expected to forgive others. He says it Himself – we are to forgive seventy times seven. I can easily extend that grace to others and have said to my children and husband numerous times – if we accept God’s forgiveness and grace for our own sins, how can we not extend that same grace and kindness to others? We cannot receive the gift of freedom yet not hand out that same forgiveness to others.
In my preaching of grace, in my reminding of selfless forgiveness even when it is hard and can feel forced, I forget about my own heart. I neglect forgiving myself. I stray from letting myself off the hook. Remember that time you shared your heart and later doubted the receiver’s acceptance and understanding? Three whacks from the proverbial two by four. Remember when you spoke harshly and said the wrong thing causing hurt feelings but recognized it and asked for forgiveness? Two more strikes, feel the pain. Remember when you miscommunicated causing confusion and frustration? It all worked out in the end, but five more strikes for not being perfect, for screwing up. Remember when you should have guarded your heart and held things in so you would not have felt vulnerable? Another strike for being foolish.
I am the queen of killing my self worth, of bashing my value and destroying the good in my heart. And when I look back in wonder, when I sit and ponder why I am so hard on myself, when I search for the origin of my messy, so-not-true statements to self, I see a woman who longs for peace. I see a teenager who struggled with fitting in and being accepted. I see a mom of littles who was too hard on herself and tried to be a bit too perfect. I see an adult who put up walls of protection when she perceived others feeling sorry for the life she was handed. I see a child of God who is broken.
Because at the end of the day, Satan comes to steal and destroy. Our Heavenly Father says so Himself in John 10:10 – The thief comes only in order to steal, kill and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness. In my self destruction, in my negativity, in my unwillingness to forgive self, I do nothing but please the one who loves to destroy me. I want life in its fullness. I desire peace and joy. I long for truth and a mind set on positive thoughts.
I have had enough of the self bashing. I am tired of the self deprivation. I am exasperated with the doubting of others acceptance of the good in me. Jesus came to give me life. Me. He came just for me. I can hardly accept He loves me enough to come and bear my pain, to take away my personal beatings, to wash me in the blood of forgiveness. And in that acceptance of everything worthy of Christ, my role is to also accept everything worthy of myself. My role is to relish relationships. My role is to walk in thanksgiving for people who care enough to listen and connect. My role is to forgive myself when I say the wrong thing or doubt someone’s intentions. My role is to love myself so I can adequately and genuinely pass that humble love onto others.
It is not enough to simply accept God’s grace then deliver that same grace to others. We must take it a step farther and extend the hand of grace to ourselves. The God who placed every star in the endless sky is the same God who deeply loves and passionately forgives.
Take a look inside your own heart. In what areas do you struggle with forgiveness? Where do you need to learn to live life to the fullest? How can you extend the hand of grace to yourself and others?