I have that happening right now.
I have been reading Philip Yancey's book "What's So Amazing About Grace?" Interested in God taking you places that you're not sure you want to go? This book might do it for you, just as it has for me. (I'll bet everyone's raising their hand and jumping up and down in their seat saying "Ooo, Ooo ... I want that book, I want to go there, pick me Lord, pick me!" for that one, eh? Who was the student on "Welcome Back Kotter" who did that and always thought he knew the answers? Was it Horshack?")
Anyway, I have digressed ... chased a rabbit trail ... sought a red herring ... we tend to do that when God is bringing us to those difficult places of some gut-wrenching soul-stirring, don't we? At least I do. And it's not a "tend" thing ... I will do just about anything to avoid that kind of stuff.
In his book, Yancey does an incredible job of talking about the grace that God offers and His call for us to extend that type of grace to others. He has many stories of real-life examples of grace that can almost seem incomprehensible ... yet Yancey explains how they are exactly the kind of aggressive and lived-out grace that we are called to.
"And forgive us our trepasses ... as we forgive those who trespass against us." This book has really caused me to think about that line which Jesus taught us to pray. The ordering of the sentence is certainly thouyght-provoking. I do not think that Jesus was saying that we had to extend grace in order to receive His father's grace but there is a clear connection between the two. It's not right of me to accept God's grace for the things I have done if I don't offer grace to others.
How can I truly allow God's love to flow through me if I have not truly extended and granted grace to everyone I have ever encountered?
You want to know the really funny part of all of this? As I started reading this book, I thought of others in my life who could really benefit from reading it! Yes,, why maybe I'd just buy a copy of it for them! I am chuckling now at how that is pretty ludicrous. But, just the same, I am seeing how, in my immediate family (before Lisa and Evan), unforgiveness ... a lack of grace extended no matter how it is received ... a lack of grace extended no matter whether it is reciprocated ... a lack of grace given no matter whether the relationship is saved ... has impacted things.
And when I think of those family relationships, it's easy for me to think of myself as the peacemaker ... the one who carries no grudges ... the voice of reason ... the picture of grace. You see, generally, I think that most people would agree that I am a fairly easy going guy. I let things roll off my back easily. I move forward without regrets ... I realize that the past is past. I have written about that before. It's part of my DNA.
Yet, look at my word choice in that last paragraph ... "I let things roll off my back easily." Wow. Interesting. I may let them roll off my back ... I may show the external signs of forgiveness and grace but do I let things roll off my soul and out of my heart? How often do I let them roll off my back ... to try to avoid conflict ... to try to make peace ... but yet still harbor things in my heart? Is there a surface level and a deeper level to this grace and forgiveness thing? Could I be getting the surface level but not the deeper level?
I don't have the answer to that yet. I am doing a lot of praying about it. Certainly I realize that I do not carry full responsibility for broken relationships in my family. But the thing I am wondering about is this ... is my heart really where it needs to be in order to facilitate the mending of those relationships altogether? It's wrong of me to sit back and point fingers ... hoping and praying that others will get their acts together (maybe even buy them a book!) as well as I so smugly feel that I have. My smugness ... my working to get along with all of the others perhaps just so I feel better about myself ... that is not doing anything to bring about grace and forgiveness all around. Perhaps it is happening because I am not yet where I need to be in terms of grace and forgiveness. Perhaps I need to be someplace entirely different in all of this but my "self" is pulling me back to a visible but yet perhaps superficial forgiveness?
See, I told you ... God's taking me to places that I am not sure I want to go. But I must. Because His son went to places where He didn't want to go ... He bore horrible pain and cruelty and yet offered grace up to the very end ... and, difficult though it may seem ... as impossible as it may sound ... that is what He calls us to do as well.
Go. Forgive. Love.