Sometimes in moments of clarity I observe common sayings that I or other disciples are speaking and my heart wonders if what we are saying is really a decorative mask for an ugliness underneath. For example, the common phrase, “bless his/her heart.” I think we should all know by now that this phrase, while used with good intention on rare occasion, is mostly used to mask our true feelings of disapproval and/or judgmental thoughts. Whats more is that when using phrases like these it’s not just the hearers that we are lying to, it’s ourselves. I think this is why David writes in Psalms 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
The truth is, we hide our ugliness so well, that we ourselves don’t even know it’s there. In fact, others often see our ugliness before we do. Our deceitful masks are most affective on ourselves. That being said, I think I just had a moment of clarity while listening to the song “Bitter” by Andy Mineo. In one of the verses he writes:
Bitterness can make a heart numb,
but hope is like a star you don’t see it shine bright until the dark come.
So don’t just scoop the dust,
remove the rug.
If I got un-forgiveness in my heart,
Then there really ain’t no room for love
Plus it’s stupid cause,
I’ve been so forgiven,
That if I hold a grudge,
I don’t show He’s risen.
But I know my sins removed since Jesus came,
With no reason to forgive me,
but He did, so I do the same.
After hearing those words my mind turned to introspection. Recently I have used the phrase “healing” a number of times, and I think I have used this phrase to hide the truth of bitterness and un-forgiveness underneath. Here is the context.
My wife and I recently visited Chicago, the home town of my youth. We had a great time exploring the city on our first day, but on our second day I took her on a nostalgia tour through all my old stomping grounds. We went to the houses I lived in, the schools I attended, the places I worked, and the church I went to. Now, pulling up to the church stirred a number of emotions in my heart. The reason for this being that there were a number of people that showed a tremendous amount of love towards me during my time there, but there were also many who hurt me deeply. So deeply that in puling up to that church my heart felt eighteen again. I felt little. I felt unimportant. I felt like the futureless rebel that so many mistakenly saw me to be. Then, instead of driving through, my dad who was on the tour with us, suggested we go inside. Not wanting to spill my guts at that moment, I sucked it up and agreed. Upon walking in, I surprisingly saw some familiar faces. After nine years you never know who is still going to be around. I even had some encouraging conversation. Then, I was blindsided. In one short conversation someone asked what I was doing these days. After finding out I was in ministry their comment was this, “Correct me if I am wrong, but shouldn’t I be surprised to hear that.” That moment was in slow motion. How do you respond to that? I know what my flesh wanted to say, but I was not about to give it a voice. I simple said, “Full time ministry was my hope and passion the entire time I was here.” Then after navigating to a point in the discussion where goodbyes could be had, we left.
Since then, I have spoken and thought about “healing.” I have used it in these contexts:
“I thought I was healed.”
“I will have to heal again.”
And I know that recently I have used it in regard to other hurts in the contexts of:
“I am going to need to heal.”
“I will need a time of healing.”
What I think I have actually been meaning is, “I have not forgiven” or “I will need time to forgive.” Many of us disciples are guilty of the same. We have used the word “heal” to pretty up bitterness and resentment. Many people I know have left the church because they need “time to heal,” or excused their bad attitudes with, “Sorry, I am in a time of healing.” Now, I am not saying that everyone who has used this phrase is guilty of bitterness, but I know I am, and I would bet many others are as well. That being said, “healing,” or being bitter for a while because you need time to get over it, is not acceptable to God.
What we need to remember is that Jesus speaks very strongly on the topic of forgiveness. In Matthew 5:14-15 he says, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Those are heavy words. We should also remember Jesus’ words on the cross as he was being murdered in Luke 23:32, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Those putting Jesus to death accused Him of blasphemy. They thought He was a false prophet, a rebel. They thought God was a rebel! Which leads me to this conclusion:
So they didn’t support me. So they thought I was rebel. So they didn’t invest into me or love me. Get over it Breandan, they didn’t know what they were doing. As Andy Mineo said in his song, “But I know my sins removed since Jesus came, With no reason to forgive me, but He did, so I do the same,” and, “Plus it’s stupid cause, I’ve been so forgiven, that if I hold a grudge, I don’t show He’s risen.”
We should never need time to “heal” if that healing is a mask for forgiveness. Forgiveness should be something that happens immediately after others wrong us. We should be people that radiate forgiveness. Lest we forget, the debt we were forgiven of is far greater than anything anyone has done, will do, or even could do against us.
No, we can’t change the way we feel. We can’t magically remove the hurt. In fact we may still feel remnants or effects of that hurt even after nine years. However, we can choose how we act and what we say despite that hurt. We can choose to love when we are shown no love. We can choose to be kind, when we are afforded no kindness. We can choose to help, where there was and is no help. We can choose to speak well of those when our flesh wants only to slander, insult, and destroy.
So, to the reader who has used, or may be using this phrase as a mask right now: This was my confession, should it now be yours too? Is forgiveness something that needs to be offered up right now. Should we stop trying to heal and simply make the decision to forgive. Does the mask need to come off, and the ugliness dealt with. There is no finger pointing here, as I have no idea who will be reading this, the only response I am looking for is exactly what David asks for, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”