I DID IT

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.  Psalms 51:4

 

It was a visit I did not relish.  I’d discovered that one of my colleagues had been “unmasked,” and it was necessary to learn the truth.  In my work, calling and integrity are characteristics critical to effective ministry, and the integrity of my friend was being called into question.

There were numbers of troubling factors to consider.  The events had occurred several years ago, but they were just coming to light.  My charismatic friend readily charmed everyone she met.  There seemed no reason to doubt her veracity and professions of repentance.

Here were some things we had to process:  my friend’s confession occurred after the egregious wrong was discovered.  As we talked, I was told that the problems were being exacerbated because “someone was out to get her.”  And then there was the finger-pointing and self-pity.

It was easy enough to find a case with some relevance.  King David lustfully took what wasn’t his when he saw beautiful Bathsheba bathing on the roof of her house.  David was told that she was married but violated her and then sent her home.  When she notified David that she was pregnant, he sent for her husband, one of his outstanding warriors. Faithful Uriah refused to go home to his wife while the armies of Israel were still out in the field.  Finally, David plotted to have Uriah killed and gave Uriah the message that would lead to his own death.

God was angry with David reminding him of all he’d done in and for him.  As the prophet Nathan spoke to him, David was crushed and confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord” (II Samuel 12:13).  David went on to compose the 51st Psalm in which he writes, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge…  Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow…  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from your presence and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.”

David didn’t blame anyone for his sin; he didn’t make excuses; he didn’t point fingers; and he didn’t try to justify himself.  He accepted responsibility for his behavior and understood the grief his sin had caused God who loved him most.  David repented.  Perhaps he had felt remorse before God’s Spirit confronted him through the prophet, but when faced with truth, David knew he was guilty.

My friend hasn’t yet learned the difference between remorse and repentance.  She is sorry she was caught, but she hasn’t recognized the pride that blocks true confession—“I have sinned against the Lord.”  She doesn’t yet weep over her sin. She weeps over the cost of her “unmasking.”  Until she is able to grieve for her sin, she can’t move forward into truth and freedom.  And there will be no deep healing.

There will continue to be anger at those who exposed her rather than the joy of receiving God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace.  But God who is willing to forgive will wait and will possibly send friends like me to love and walk with her until she is ready to take responsibility for her sin.  God is good; he can make a way; and he is remarkable in his ability to restore.

 

Father, how much we all need your Spirit to guide us and to convict us when we sin.  Thank you that you are able to keep us from falling.  Help us to live and move and have our being in you so that we walk consistently in your righteousness and bring you glory.  And help my friend; give her understanding and a willing heart.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

ABOUT GRACE

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  II Corinthians 12:9

 

 

When my blonde friend Bea was asked by her bishop to go to a Latin American country for a mission project, she did not hesitate.  It didn’t matter that she had limited Spanish or that she’d never traveled to that part of the world.  She had a willing heart.  (And she was ignorant of the possible difficulties.)

The bishop told her to go to a certain place, and she would be told how to proceed.  Bea bought her plane ticket, boarded the plane, and took a taxi to the regional bishop’s office for further directions.  There she understood that the next day the bishop’s secretary would drive her to her destination.

The following morning, Bea once again went to the bishop’s office, and, instead of taking her to the location of the project, the secretary took her to the local bus station.  She handed Bea a ticket for the next leg of the journey and assured her she would be met by her co-worker, a tall, red-haired woman.  And then she left.

All was well until Bea saw the hundreds of people, some in groups and others in lines, waiting for their buses.  She carefully made her way from person to person showing her ticket and indicating that she was looking for her bus.  Eventually, she made it to a long line of people waiting for the bus’s arrival.

Somewhat disconcerted at the unfamiliarity of people carrying caged chickens, food for the journey, and various pieces of household paraphernalia, Bea climbed onto the indicated bus and looked around for a place to sit.  She had no clue as to how long the ride would be, when she would get off, or where she was supposed to sit.  As she peered through the rows of people already packed into place, she saw on the very last seat at the back of the bus a wiry little gentleman who was vigorously waving at her.  He called out, “Señora, señora,” and indicated that he had a seat beside him.

Bea moved gingerly through the aisle to the rear of the bus and gratefully sat down next to the kindly man.  They both began communicating with their few words of Spanish and English and generous waving of hands and arms.  The man looked down at Bea’s gold watch and indicated that she should remove it and put it in her purse, which she did.  And then they compared tickets.  “Oh, no,” she sighed.  It looked like he would be getting off the bus in another place and at a different time.

Through the hot, dusty hours Bea and her new friend continued to talk, and at a certain stop in the road, the man leaned over and said goodbye.  He was leaving.  Even though she’d known him only a short while, Bea suddenly felt bereft.  In a country where she was alone and didn’t speak the language, her only friend was leaving her.  She watched him go down the aisle and move out the door.  She turned her head so as not to see him walking away.  She looked again to see who else might be boarding, and, to her surprise, her little friend was returning.  He had come back to sit with her and gestured that he would go with her to her destination.

After many more stops and another long ride, they reach the place where Bea was to meet her mission contact.  Everyone began to exit, and her friend walked ahead of her signaling that she was to keep close to him.  They departed the bus into the large mass of jostling people coming and going and looking for loved ones.  Bea knew she’d be met by a tall, red-headed woman—in a crowd of glossy black waves.  She and her friend looked and walked through the sea of strange faces, and suddenly the way seemed to open as the tall, red-headed woman walked toward them with open arms.  “You must be Bea,” she said.  “I am Grace.”

Bea turned around to introduce Grace to her friend, but he had disappeared.  He was nowhere to be seen.  Bea will always be convinced that the sweet man was an angel sent by God to watch over a blond gringa who had stepped out by faith not knowing where she was going but trusting God to guide her.  And when she reached her destination, she was met by Grace.

 

Father, your angels are ministering spirits who help us on our way, and we are constantly accompanied by your grace.  Thank you that you give us everything we need to serve you faithfully.  AMEN.

TIME TO ASK

…ye have not, because ye ask not.  James 4:2  (KJV)

 

Someone has owed me money for a while, and I have been in a quandary about what I should do.  This person is a sweet friend, and I didn’t want to offend or to damage our relationship.  I prayed that God would remind him of his debt so that I wouldn’t have to.  I imagined various creative ways I could approach the issue.

Days passed, and God didn’t seem to be interested in jogging the memory of my friend.  Finally, I bit the bullet and sent a “gentle reminder” hoping my I-phone wouldn’t explode when the response arrived.  How foolish.  In milliseconds, the answer was in my hand, and the next morning the payment was at my door.  My friend has just forgotten.

I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage:  God will do what we cannot, but he won’t do what we can.  I wonder how many times I (and you) have waited for God to intervene in a situation when he wants us to use our common sense and move forward.  Most of the concerns that niggle at us are not complicated, but we let them build up until they become mountains.  Mountains that we’ve constructed with our own imaginations and assumptions.

While common sense seems not to be too common nowadays, God has given us an intellect that he expects us to use for his glory and our well-being.  I’m still in a sense of awe that something I dreaded worked out so smoothly.  I didn’t lose a friend.  He wasn’t offended, and I am learning that it’s essential that I participate in God’s answers as much as I can.

What about you?

 

Father, strengthen me when I’m reticent to speak out in a matter just because it concerns my personal business.  Remind me that in reaching out, opportunities for honest communication are provided.  Thank you for your patience.  AMEN.