Wednesday, April 9, 2008


But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart
and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
1 Timothy 1:5

I posted that verse a couple of weeks ago after a post about some negative feelings I was working through--fear and hatred if I must name them. And I must for something happens in the naming; those things named lose their power over me in the Truth.

I like to think myself above things like hatred. I like to think that I am mature enough in my faith to no longer feel hatred toward another person. I like to think that I have surrendered my heart to my Father and so have the hatred removed. I like to think that I am willing to accept another's trespasses and forgive them as I have been forgiven. I like to think that I understand the wickedness in my heart that has been forgiven. I like to think those things.

But they are all lies! Not little, harmless lies that increase my self-esteem, but dangerous lies that damage my heart and my witness.

My struggles came with our neighbors. We live in a house that has a detached two-car garage and little house on the property. Too close to be neighbors, especially when the neighbors are hard to love. But that is where we find ourselves. The family is headed by an older man who is often imbibing alcohol and an older woman (not married) who is always drinking. There are three children between the ages of nine and five who belong to the woman's son but because he is in prison are in her care.

Oh, I was so excited when we moved in. What a little field, I thought. How I can care for them and show them love and let God be glorified. That was September. In the intervening months, the adults have yelled profanity at one another and the children, the children have thrown all sorts of food wrappers all over the yard and sidewalk and stolen Abigail's toys, and the son didn't go to jail in October as promised.

It began. I got aggravated that Grandma sent the kids to me after-school when she was drunk. I became irritated when the kids were bussed to church while the grandparents did whatever they did. I was agitated when picking up their trash. I was incensed when I would see Dad coming to visit. I felt abused when the kids would come to visit and would not thank us for playing with them or feeding them. I was hurt when Abigail's toys came up missing. I became angry when they weren't returned. I couldn't see consequences for their behavior and I couldn't bring myself to forgiveness. Not well liked in the neighborhood, they were fodder for talking. I talked.

The transformation was complete. I couldn't see them without bitterness and anger welling up inside me. I searched my vocabulary for a word other than hate to use, but I couldn't find one.

When that became my word--the naming had occurred, I could pray. Not for them, but for me. This was serious; I am a murderer. I need forgiveness before I can forgive. I needed to taste God's grace, His mercy, before I could extend grace and mercy. My heart was so dark!

And, but for His grace and His mercy, I would still be living in the dark. But there was that verse--pure heart, good conscience, sincere faith--and there was the time--Dad went to prison. Just when the children said he would. He wasn't living on the outside, bench warrant issued. He was living on the outside till his room was ready.

Grandma and the children walked passed me last Tuesday all in tears. My aunt asked why the kids weren't in school. "Because their dad went to prison, today."

I wanted to do something, but I was still wearing the guilt of my sin. I had behaved badly. I was judgmental and self-righteous, I was unforgiving, and I was proud. I was insensitive to the situation they were in. I had been unkind preferring to pretend they didn't exist or giving minimal consideration to their feelings.

What was I to do? Take them a meal or even desert. That seemed trite and really worthless in this situation. What if I was Grandma and Abigail had gone to prison? What would I most want? I made some cards, put them in a pretty box, and delivered them to Grandma. I had a speech all written in my head about how I needed to apologize and how I want to be friends. But none of that came out. I think maybe she heard some of it anyway.

And I heard, too. Because of the grace of God, I am who I am. God loves me and waits for me and pursues me when I am unlovely. And all that I am learning about God is to come to fruition in love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.


  1. This is the stuff we all need to learn time and time again. i am glad you were open enough to listen.

  2. Wow, what a sad situation. And very hard on everyone involved. I worry about profanity my kids here at the park, let alone coming from neighbors!!
    But you acted better than I would have, it is a lesson that I need to learn as well. Forgiveness and acceptance is essential.

  3. Great wisdom. What a step of growth and faith. I pray I could be as forgiving and open to Gods leading. I will pray for Gods healing hand on this family and your's. Gillien is right this is stuff we all need to learn and be listening to Gods leading. God will bless this relationship is time.

  4. Wow. That is a sad sad situation. You showed a lot of maturity in your actions and reactions and yes, we all struggle with our emotions and feelings. But God works with us no matter where we are. Thank you for sharing your beautiful heart.