A friend recently told me that he just couldn’t deal any longer with a relative and had drawn a boundary so that their paths would never cross. And then he said this, “I know it’s not right, but I just love to hate her!” I could not get over that conversation and only later, during my quiet time of prayer – where honesty with God is sort of a requirement, wouldn’t you agree? – did I figure out why those words had lingered in my brain. I realized that I had been perseverating on The Merton Prayer’s “nor do I really know myself,” which allowed me to honestly ask myself, “Is there someone in my life I love to hate?”
When the clear and powerful answer came back “Yes, you know there are such people in your life,” I blinked, took a deep breath, and asked myself “Why would I ever choose to hold onto that attitude, almost like it’s a covenant that I cannot break away from?” The image surely fits here of a person drinking a cup of rat poison, hoping that their enemy, “that stinking rat,” will die! There is only one person who gets sick in that scenario and it’s the person drinking the cup of rat poison! Rat poison consequences are many and well known: internal unrest of the soul; constant replaying on the screen of my brain how awful I was treated by that “stinking rat”; unauthentic prayers by me for the “stinking rat” to “mend her ways, repent, and seek reconciliation with me”; and total denial by me of the fact that my “stinking rat” is a person filled with the imago Dei.
But how does God expect us to let go of the pain caused by hurtful actions/words of others, which can grip us for years, for decades, or even for our entire lifetime? With two people in my life I have constructed boundaries, as my friend did, which keep these folks out of my sight, never likely to cross my path with even a conversation starter, “How are you Steven?”
I believe that folks reading this blog take very seriously the words of Jesus about the rat poison consequences of our behavior when it comes to forgiveness. Jesus, immediately after teaching his disciples how to pray with what we call The Lord’s Prayer, or The Our Father, said this:
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sin.” (Matthew 6:14-15; NLT)
Hanging onto my hurt not only will eat me up on the insides while here on earth, it will guarantee for me eternal damnation! I’d say that one is the biggest of the rat poison consequences. Even though that rat poison tastes so good while I am savoring the flavors as I watch for my “stinking rat” to get sick and die! Instead, my “stinking rat” seems unaffected by my drinking this poison! And I get sicker and sicker, further and further from the will of my heavenly Father. Lord, help me and all readers of this blog take steps to heal the broken relationships in our lives, starting with true and honest forgiveness of the painful hurts inflicted on us by our “stinking rats.”
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