Grace, forgiveness and long suffering have depths to be plumbed. I know each of us to some degree have been on both sides of these forces. We have given them and received them. Each has an appreciation for these to various degrees.
Suffering in relationships helps us grow to value grace. But many of us wisely avoid relationships that exact forgiveness from us or require our humble confession. Relationships can be painful and natural to avoid. I do not like doing regrettable things and it can hurt deeply to be abused. Keeping a distance from people and avoiding organizational obligations is therefore necessary to insulate us from complications.
Here is some good advice, keep relationships short in duration and shallow in depth. Avoid sticky subjects. If you must have a relationships, stick to safe people. Evade others’ complicated lives. Minister by appointment with a start and end time. Avoid giving your phone number and address to needy people. Do not commit to a church body or get into its politics. While this is not an exhaustive list, it’ll suffice. These ideas can keep your personal worlds clean and safe. There is a downside. It can keep you from experiencing God.
It is prudent and economical to guard yourself. You won’t be up late at night. Irritation from others will be vacant. You won’t be mistreated. Chaotic conflicts won’t bombard your mind. No tough decisions will need to be made. No one will misunderstand you. You won’t be maligned. The temptation to talk bad about people will be beyond reach. No one will steal from you or hurt your family. You will be well liked. Yet this is at the cost of a meager love, an unfortunate distance from the One we love.
Heaven isn’t meant to be here. It is something you long for and not just to escape this horrid world. It is also to have unencumbered relationships. You will have all the benefits of good, deep, healthy relationships without the garbage there.
I live in a home that is complex and ever changing. We have families, singles, addicts, alcoholics, sex offenders, and reprobates. We all live on the same property. Some live in the house, some in a travel trailer, some in the shop and a bunk house.
We do not hunt for these people. They come because we say “yes” to anyone who wants help. So we get lots of referrals from the community, Department of Corrections, and the Church. We wish the Church would help us but I guess they think it’s our gift, calling, ministry or Purgatory.
A few days ago a friend who we have helped in the past called me to be a designated driver. He was already drunk and a 40 min drive away. I went to the bar and had an O’Douls-a non-alcoholic beer-to oversee my friend. He had been aggressive in the bar and he was about to be kicked out. I arrived and calmed the situation. Those at the bar felt better that he had a sober friend to keep him out of trouble.
I finally got him out of there. Yet not before he called a gal out to fight, proposed to the pretty bar maid, and said grotesque sexual comments to an elderly lady. It was pretty ugly.
While getting in the car, a competition arose over the front passenger seat between the passengers. They began pushing each other for who would rule the shotgun position. He ended up on his back on the ground which ignited laughter from the audience outside the bar.
We drove to our town. I was wasting time to sober him up. We went to fast food drive thru. I made him shut up by keeping him distracted so he would not assail the young window attendant at Jack-in-the Box.
We went home. I warned the household to ignore his language, verbal assaults and non-sense. We watched part of a movie while he railed. He said he was going to leave in his car. I told him if he did I would call the Cops and tell them that he was driving drunk. We stayed there an hour but then he wanted to leave.
A friend and I went out in front of the house to wait for him. While we waited he snuck out the back door and raced off in his car. I immediately called 911. I was disappointed to have to make the call. I had previously warned him that if he left in his car I would report him.
By the time I was off the phone he drove up. He was pretty mad that I called the police.
As we waited for the police to arrive he berated me. I avoided being close to him as he spoke because I didn’t want to fight. He assaulted me verbally for almost an hour. He talked about me as a husband and father. Cut down my guitar playing and singing. He reminded me of my past and that my son was in jail. He said he would call Child Protective services because he doesn’t like that we spank our kids. He railed against my wife who he spoke against in a sexually derogatory way. He said I was a cult leader and controlling people and my theology of Hell was invented by me.
I was not worried about him hurting me. I just tried not to get upset and say something I would regret. I wanted to help him.
I received a call from the police; I told them he was back and had driven away and ended up coming back. So after confirming everything was good, the police didn’t come out. My friend got really lucky.
I felt pretty bad about the whole thing. I wondered what the benefit of it was. A smack in the face, a friend lost, one more soul destined for Hell was all I could see.
I went home pretty grumpy. I snapped at one person; not typical for me. Another person wanted me to acknowledge their birthday: I made a weak attempt. I just needed to be left alone to lick my wounds.
The next day he texted me a couple of times but I didn’t respond. He finally called me and I picked it up. He apologized and was kicking himself for what he had done to me. I let it go. I didn’t like how he treated me, it stung. The things he said and years of other events with him have cost me greatly in a variety of ways.
He wants help and said he needs a better environment to live in. He decided the best thing was to move in with me.
Now think about it. He isn’t a safe person. He has been unfaithful and abusive. My household is in jeopardy just having him around. He doesn’t deserve to have our intimate care. He has been rejected by family and friends. No one wants to deal with him.
I think this makes it sound easy to give grace and forgiveness. It wasn’t. It hurt to go through this. Yet I will love him. I will determine to give him my best. It is an act of will; obedience. This doesn’t come naturally; it didn’t mystically flow from my quasi-divine nature.
But there is no hope for me or him without help. We need people to give us grace and we need to give it. In his case we are his only hope. Through us this grace is shown. And by this we understand in a more profound way what Jesus suffers and how he is willing to walk with the dirty and vile.
We will continue to explore the depths of grace and longsuffering. We need the pain, we need to be forgiven. It doesn’t come through fairy dust or an alter call. The greater the exposure to relationships, especially costly ones, the greater the potential is to experience His love. Through administering this grace we gain greater personal peace; the knowledge of God.