The invitation in the mail came as somewhat of a shock to me.
I couldn’t have been more stunned if a one-legged hermit hobbled up to me, poked a finger in my eye and scurried away.
I wasn’t expecting to be invited to my father’s 71st birthday party. After all, my brother was the person orchestrating the entire event and lately, I had been persona non grata in his book, the thorn in his flesh that kept on giving.
I couldn’t help the way I felt. As the youngest of five siblings, I had learned at an early age to “go with the flow” like a good little guppy or else be dashed on the rocks, a hapless victim of an older sibling’s wrath.
Lately, that type of thinking had caused me some major spiritual setbacks.
So, in an effort to take better control of my life, I decided to confront issues head on instead of ducking my head in the sand, hoping that the storms of life would glance down, snort and say, “Don’t bother with that one“ and pass me by.
After experiencing a few lightning bolts to the buttocks , well, let’s just say that plan wasn’t working either.
One of the areas I decided to challenge was our family’s awful habit of criticizing each other. From the simplest of remarks to the slightest facial expression and all the way down to the choices made in the heat of the moment, all were viewed under the harsh microscope of my family’s eyes. “Live and let live” had been viciously scraped off our family crest. No, our motto went along the lines of: “Do something today and we’ll thoroughly dissect it tomorrow.”
My brother was the most vocal of them all, fully convinced it was his calling in life to point out all my errors. After three exasperating rounds of explanations, numerous pleadings, and yes, I’m embarrassed to say, a dash of flattery in an effort to butter him up, I decided to end our conversation with “I love you, bro, but please let me live my life the way I see fit.”
Since then, we had drifted into the flaccid waters of relationship stalemate, a place so awkward that I still scratch my head and wonder how we arrived there, which brings me back to my current dilemma: Should I go and face the firing squad like a good little martyr or should I forgo the pleasure of witnessing their naked disdain?
Believe it or not, I struggled with the decision. Go figure.
Fortunately, two very wise sisters reminded me of one very simple truth: That we are a light in darkness and sometimes the hardest thing to do is to broadcast your light when everyone around you is determined to snuff it out.
Jesus never promised us an easy ride in this life. In fact, he warned his followers there would be plenty of speed bumps to jar our happy cruise, and if we weren’t careful, these minor setbacks could steer us off course.
And if that wasn’t convicting enough, I had Mathew 18:21-22 to grapple with. In these verses, Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, how many times do I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
And Jesus responds, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Like a water balloon left out in the sun for far too log, I was deflated of all bitterness and hurt. Not that God ever allowed me to simmer in that place for very long, because when you really think about all the mistakes God forgave us for committing, the ones you harbor just pale in comparison. The more I thought and prayed on the matter, the more I realized that I needed to go and extend forgiveness, warranted or not.
One man summed it up nicely when he said, “Just do what is right and let God handle the rest.”
Words to live by.
The birthday celebration is only a few weeks away and I am scheduled to attend. The dread that once encompassed the thought of going is no longer there, because I’m learning that when you are acting on the principals of God’s word, Heaven backs you up with strength to see it through.
Just as every rainbow has its storm, every sweet action is released from a bitter beginning. I’ve determined to lay self aside and let the sweetness flow.
I know it’s going to be a good day.
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