I had a particularly difficult season in business last year. In a co-worker’s own hurt of perhaps not being admired any longer, listened to, or valued, she became insolent — to the point of saying slanderous and untrue words. She had left the company and had moved on to another one, but the way she kept flame throwing to burn our businesses down felt purposefully mean-spirited. Especially if you thought you were friends!
I have walked through betrayal before, believe me. I know how deep betrayal feels in marriage and I know the work it takes to forgive. But for some reason, this felt different. I knew there wasn’t reconciliation on the other side, I didn’t want it. And she certainly didn’t either. There were too many bridges burned. And so I left it alone.
Well, sort of . . .
Any time her name came up, I would prickle. I would sometimes even wish she failed in her new endeavor, that the weight of her sin would give her what she was owed. My prayers were more like, “Bring her justice!” And under the guise of Scripture, it felt sort of holy. It didn’t feel like sin. After all, she was in the wrong.
Every day, I walk on nearby trails for about 5.5 miles, which takes me about an hour and a half. This gives me a lot of time to think. Unfortunately, at the start of one particular walk, I was ruminating on the latest flame hurled over the fence by this same gal. “Relentless! She must be so miserable and…” But my passionate thoughts were interrupted by another thought: Pray for her.
This was not my leaning, nor was it from my brain (obviously), this was God breaking through.
Pray for HER? Oh, come on!
But speaking of relentless, God wouldn’t let up. I couldn’t enjoy my jazz for autumn playlist. I couldn’t say hi to all my dog friends. This new thought demanded my attention. Fine! I thought, like a toddler fighting over a toy who gets the toy stolen is asked to apologize to the one who stole it. In this scenario, the victim may or may not have given the offender a little bop on the shoulder. “She stole my firetruck! SO, I had no choice over what I did with my hand!”
Hmmm mmm hmmm, I cleared my throat. And quickly prayed. Lord, umm . . . please help HER today. Be with her. Show her Your presence. Be near to her and her family.
I started to soften, but was still uncomfortable praying for someone I considered my enemy. And then the voice again, Now bless her.
I pursed my lips. I wanted to say no. My heart was resistant. I paused, buckling under my desire to be obedient more than my desire to bless my adversary. So I prayed, “God would you please bless her. Bless her family, Bless her… business.” That last one was the hardest of all, knowing what she had caused in mine. I exhaled. I realized that in my cloak of holiness, I had been harboring bitterness.
Funny thing, several weeks later, her name came up, and I didn’t have one bad thought about her. I didn’t have anything to say in the conversation, nor did I want to. I wasn’t going to her social media to see what lies she was spewing today. I was released from that heavy weight of vengeance, of retribution, of being the judge. It felt so good.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1 (NIV)
Bitterness is heavy. And you know what else we’re warned against along with bitterness? Slander.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
(Ironically, this is the same verse God used to help me forgive my husband after his affair.)
I was just as guilty as my former coworker in living out of my sin. And God, in His kindness, refused to let me stay in this slavery, this heaviness, anymore. He didn’t do it by changing her, He did it by changing me. He did it gently, but He did it swiftly. And not because I changed my own heart, but because He asked me to pray a prayer of obedience.
I didn’t trust that I would forgive her, but I did trust the One who asked me to forgive. And He was faithful to accomplish that good work inside of me.
This is such good news. We can be free!