I was spitting nails! She can’t order me around! Or can she? I was volunteering at an out-of-town conference one weekend a couple years ago, ready to serve, except that the woman leading us was bossy. The nerve!
We had a brief exchange where I pitched my suggestion for how we should do something. I was sure she would agree with me since I am obviously experienced and discerning. However, the conversation did not go as hoped, so eventually I relented as she was determined not to be swayed by my good reason.
Despite cooperating with her wishes, my exterior compliance disguised a heart full of spite. My idea was obviously better than hers, but she had to pull rank . . . “because she is so controlling,” I mused with disgruntled pride.
This conflict occurred a couple years ago, but only recently did it finally reach resolution in my heart. Here’s the history of my slog toward reconciliation.
My first step was the acknowledgement that I had reacted wrongly. I apologized to the leader the following day, asking her to forgive me. I went through the motions of repentance, and she went through the motions of forgiveness, but I sensed more tolerance than affection in our relationship.
I repented to God, and asked Him to cleanse me, but I sensed that I was not completely free. I still harbored bitterness against this sister. In the ensuing years, whenever I recalled the incident, I would feel that twinge of bitterness and would cry out, “Oh, for goodness sake, God, please help me to truly repent, forgive and forget!”
But I could not let go of the friction in my heart when I thought of this woman. What was going on?
As I pondered my plight, a Bible verse kept coming to mind, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1 Unity with others is a condition of heart that puts us in position for God’s blessing. So I would presume that disunity with others thwarts blessing. After all, loving God and loving others is the foundation of everything (Matthew 22).
(click on the image below to download scripture)
Now back to the issue at hand. How was I going to get rid of this prickly disunity?
An affliction of the heart is maddening – that irritating, scratching, sandpapery-feeling that rises up when offense is present. When I detect bitterness in my heart, I will not stop pursuing God until we reach resolution. I hate to be without peace. I despise how it feels in my heart. I loathe that it colors my interactions with others. I detest the division it creates in my family, in my friendships, and in the church.
Sure, I am tempted to explain away the initial thorn pricks by making someone else the scapegoat, blaming the circumstances, justifying myself, or distracting myself with other responsibilities. I have experienced, however, that God is faithful to “stand at the door and knock.” (Revelation 3:20)
And knock He did for several years. Each time I remembered the altercation with the woman at the conference, I would repeat my repentance and ask for Father to relieve me of the offense, but I did not receive lasting relief. I did not feel unreserved freedom and love when I thought of this woman who had offended me.
Finally, a couple weeks ago, I was planning for an important upcoming event, and as is my custom, I asked God if there was anything that could hinder Holy Spirit moving in our midst. Well, what do you know? This conflict popped into my mind! I threw up my hands and asked God what I should do.
First I thought of the persistent widow in Luke 18 who pesters Jesus until she gets justice. And so I petitioned God once again to do whatever was needed to bring full resolution to my heart. “Anything, God!” I breathed, “And I won’t stop seeking you until I am free.”
Then I remembered Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32. He would not let go until God blessed him. With some trepidation, I reached out to God in prayer and asked again for His intervention to release blessing and freedom into my heart, instinctively reaching to cover the socket of my hip!
I was so desperate, that I said, “OK, God, I really don’t want to blame her anymore nor do I want to protect myself. You are free to show me the condition of my own heart.”
I suspect that this is what God was waiting for. I was desperate to be free, eager to remove anything in me that would hinder Holy Spirit, and so I finally let Him into the dark shadows of my heart.
Abba kindly drew near, and I sensed that He put an arm around me as He spoke, “Mindy, your problem is that you are rebellious. You think more highly of your opinion than the opinion of others. You do not respect authority. Oh, and by the way, Sweetie, you are also arrogant.”
At long last. Here it was. The mysterious darkness in my heart that had kept me from freedom finally came into the light. From the mouth of God, I was told the truth, and the truth set me free! (John 8:32) The kindness of God led me to repentance! (Romans 2:4)
I experienced a rush of joy in my heart as I invited the surgeon’s scalpel to remove these sins. I perceived lightness of spirit as these outposts of darkness were removed.
When God removes sin, it is important to invite the opposite spirit to fill up the gap that remains. I welcomed a spirit of submission (Ephesians 5:21), valuing others more highly than myself (Philippians 2:3), respect for authority (Romans 13), and humility (James 4:10).
The resulting shift of attitude surprised me. I began to thank God for this sister who had offended me. She played a vital role in pushing my buttons so that my sins were revealed which prompted me to invite God in to restore me to health! God supernaturally adjusted my view of her from one of spite to one of gratitude. It took only a couple years to get here.
Are you wondering why this process took so long? Why didn’t God answer my prayers much earlier? One truth I have come to believe is that God’s ways are not my ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). I am not certain why it took so long, but I suspect that during the interim God was at work in my heart to enable me to trust Him, to know that He is good, to want His ways more than my own ways, and to get desperate enough to hear whatever I needed to hear, even if it implicated me.
I pray that my story encourages you to keep pressing in until you find the answers you’re looking for. May we not be those who shrink back, but may we have a spirit of perseverance (Hebrews 10:39). I pray that we would be filled with confidence, even if we have been struggling for years, to reach out one more time like the woman who had been bleeding for years (Luke 8) and the man who was sick for a lifetime (John 5).
Jesus asks us if we want to be well, and let us respond with an overwhelming, “Yes, Father, I want to find you. Help me to live in unity with You and with others. I want to walk in Your blessing.”