It was a cozy, fall night around our backyard picnic table. Some of our closest friends were over, and we were doing the things that close friends do: eating burgers and checking-in on each other. Knowing I had recently navigated a significant conflict with someone, one of my friends asked, “How are you doing with [the situation]?”
At the mention of [the situation], my heart beat faster, and I felt a familiar anxiety rise in my gut. In that sacred space with my beloved friends, I unleashed a scorched-earth-critique of the other person involved which could have withered the sturdiest daisy with a glance.
There was a long, quiet pause as five sets of kind eyes assessed the mess that was my heart position. My friend gently responded, “Sounds like they are winning.” I felt white-hot conviction settle in my bones. I know this bitter road well.
Even on my best days, I bend towards a critical spirit. As a natural skeptic and lover of all things logical, my temptation, over and over again, is to confuse critical thinking with a critical spirit. For years, I’ve repeated the mantra: “I will practice patience and peace until my gentle answers turn away even my own wrath.”
Because Jesus has a better way. He longs to set me free from my own critical spirit, my own wrath. As someone with an overdeveloped sense of justice, cultivating a sense of hopefulness and curiosity is a daily practice for me. It is holy ground. This practice, this horrible, gut-wrenching practice of letting go of vengeance and cherished hostility has been the battle ground of my freedom time and time again. I’ve wrestled through it with God, and although I walk with a limp, I know the way I’m called to go is for my good and freedom.
And so the next morning, with conviction, I rolled out of bed for my morning prayers. I lit a candle, determined to pray a blessing over the person who had hurt me. That first day, like a child, I prayed, “Jesus, please don’t let their house burn down today.” It was the best I could do. Honestly. Truly. I felt like one of those commercials trying to convince kids to stop smoking. You know the ones: “This is your liver. This is your liver on drugs!” Jesus offered me a clear picture: “This is your heart. This is your heart on cherished hostility.”
Should you be concerned for my salvation, dear reader, you’ll be happy to know that my prayers rapidly gained compassion and depth in the following days. What a faithful friend we have in Jesus. With these meager daily offerings, He began the hard work of softening my heart. The yeast spreads throughout the whole dough, doesn’t it? Before long, my hurt was replaced with peace and my anger was replaced with curiosity. I felt genuine warmth and hopefulness when I thought of the person and the situation. Jesus taught me how to remove the milestone from around my own neck. How to step out of the cage of my own making.
And when I saw my yoda-friend a couple of weeks later, and she tried again with, “How is [the situation]?” I was able to smile and reply simply, “I am free.”
Take a minute to reflect on someone who has hurt or wronged you. Does your heart beat faster? Do you feel that gut-wrenching bitterness? That cherished hostility? Imagine a world where you could think of that person and feel compassion and peace. What would it mean for you to be free?
Listen, sometimes it takes a set of kind eyes to get you on the path of freedom and wholeness. We were not designed to go it alone. Call 319-366-4673 today to set up an appointment with one of our professional therapists. They are waiting to help you navigate some of life’s toughest stuff.