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Welcome Forgiveness

October 22, 2010

We were ministry leaders when our staff supervisor changed our structure. For no special reason, I was told first and asked to explain to Debbie*. She had been in our ministry longer than I had, and she was older than I was. Debbie listened quietly, but I could see her heart was not quiet.

In the next weeks, her quiet became deafening to me; I knew she was offended. At our meeting with our supervisor, Debbie’s husband came to help her work through the injury. The staff member tried to explain what happened, making it known the change did not come from me, but the damage was already done. Life in the church can be painful. When “Body parts” are moving, we can inflict damage on each other. I confessed my inadequate sensitivity; I asked for forgiveness.  It was denied.  I felt sick.

For months it weighed heavily on my heart. My Christian sister withdrew from ministry. I noticed she stopped coming to church.  Her husband looked sad. I felt responsible.

God was moving in my own family during these months, until He took us to Asia as full-time missionaries. I knew I was leaving behind a damaged sister in Christ, and I felt helpless. I prayed. I hoped. And ultimately I packed up my stuff and my concern, and I left. I never stopped praying God would work in the heart of my sister in Christ. Sadly, much pain in the Body of Christ comes from other Body members.  Though the Spirit lives in us, we often default to our flesh, and that causes pain.

Several years later God brought us back to our church for a time of transition. During those few months, I noticed the absence of my one time ministry co-laborer. I remembered how 2 women who once served alongside each other (Phil. 4:2-3) experienced conflict in church life. It didn’t seem right. I knew it didn’t honor God or His name. Perhaps that’s why Paul urged them to get along and “stand firm.” I knew what God wanted. It required crucifying my pride and taking up my cross (Luke 9:23).

Years had passed. I picked up the phone and called Debbie. At her door, I told her I knew I had hurt her years before, doing damage that drew her away from the Lord. I told her I knew she hadn’t been ready to accept my apology before, but I wanted to ask again for her forgiveness, so she and I could be free.  I waited.  I prayed. I braced myself.

She threw her arms around me and hugged me, tearfully telling me she had wished she had forgiven me and offered her apologies. She wanted to be free of the burden, but knew she had rejected me. She wondered if she would ever get another chance.  The Lord made sure she did.

When I left I felt the joy of being forgiven, the joy of reconciliation, and the joy of knowing a stain on the Body of Christ had been wiped clean. I love His name, and I don’t want anything I do to injure it.

Have you been hurt?  Have you hurt?  Has it been years?  Maybe it’s time to go prayerfully knock on that door and be set free!

*Name changed

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2010 6:44 am

    Oh Julie! Your heart and love for the Lord and for others is so evident in this post. What a challenge to each of us to be gracious and to allow others the space and grace they need to come to a point of forgiveness. And also how necessary it is for us to seek healing and restoration … even when it’s hard and takes a long time. Beautiful. Thank you.

    • Julie Sanders permalink
      October 22, 2010 8:32 am

      “Space and grace” – that’s a great way to say it. 🙂 Sometimes in my hurry to “feel better” and take care of something, I don’t want to wait, but I was so thankful that time and space brought genuine restoration.

      Julie Sanders http://www.comehaveapeace.blogspot.com

  2. stephanieshott permalink
    October 22, 2010 8:43 am

    Julie ~ What a beautiful picture of relentless love! What a sweet reminder of our need to seek restoration – even if it was rejected before – even if years have passed and circumstances have changed – the body still needs to be restored. Your love for God and His children is so evident and I’m so thankful you were willing to be so transparent in this post for the sake of His children and for His glory.

    • Julie Sanders permalink
      October 22, 2010 8:50 am

      It seems like for the church to really thrive, we have to set aside our pride, and that can hurt. It’s a real risk in some ways, but we can depend on God’s faithfulness and the power of His Word. When I stood on that porch that day, I was trying to concentrate on what God says to be true, not my feelings. I’m so glad that His Word is more faithful than I am!

      Julie Sanders http://www.comehaveapeace.blogspot.com

    • Julie Sanders permalink
      October 22, 2010 8:53 am

      It seems like for the church to really thrive, we have to set aside our pride, and that can hurt. It’s a real risk in some ways, but we can depend on God’s faithfulness and the power of His Word. When I stood on that porch that day, I was trying to concentrate on what God says to be true, not my feelings. I’m so glad that His Word is more faithful than I am!

      Julie Sanders http://www.comehaveapeace.blogspot.com

  3. October 22, 2010 10:07 am

    Julie, thank you for this testimony that so wonderfully demonstrates how the body of Christ should respond to each other when we act so human! This beautiful story shows that our relationships do not have to reflect the world and its ways, but Christ and His character! Even if it sometimes take a while!!

    • Julie Sanders permalink
      October 22, 2010 11:07 am

      To me time can seem to move so slowly, but to an eternal God, I know He is patient and still holding out opportunity to do right. I really learned not to talk myself out of pursuing peace just because of a few short years.

      Julie Sanders http://www.comehaveapeace.blogspot.com

  4. October 24, 2010 11:43 pm

    How beautiful! This line is so true: “Though the Spirit lives in us, we often default to our flesh, and that causes pain.”

    That thought shows the absolute need for constant renewal towards Him in our hearts and minds.

    Thank you for this post.

Trackbacks

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