Where Do We Get Our Wedding Clothes?
It all started one day when I heard someone say with some resentment, “I guess I will have to repent for that too.”
This statement really sent me asking the Lord what it was that could create such an attitude. I pondered this over the next few weeks as I went about my daily activities.
One morning I was playing a song on the guitar and singing the lyrics:
“Who is there like you, and who else would give their life for me? Who could repay you…” At this I stopped and got a bit teary. I asked the Lord, “how could we even think of repaying what you did for us?” I began to muse about what it was that the Lord would desire from us as recompense for what he did to save us.
Suddenly a phrase came back to my memory. It was what Jim Elliot was heard shouting as he was pulling away from the dock to go share the gospel with people who had never heard. He raised his arm and said, “May the Lamb who was slain receive the reward of his suffering.”
Considering this phrase, my heart was pierced. Of course, our precious savior gets his reward whenever we appropriate what he bought for us on the cross. Over the next few days and weeks, I mused on these matters.
It was during this time that I had an interaction with a friend that the Lord used to really show me that He was interested in hearing what our hearts feel when we are wounded.
After having made tentative plans for a trip with this person, I later found out that those plans were forgotten, and other plans had been made that did not include me. My heart was wounded. I felt very pained and began rehearsing how I could cause pain in return, namely by disconnecting and perhaps throwing a few not so veiled bitter comments their way.
The Lord, in his kindness, brought me to the recognition that I was not walking in love. So, to fix this, I determined to “be thankful in all things”.
But soon I had to say, “This is not working Lord. I am trying to be thankful, but I don’t feel thankful.”
He asked me, “What do you feel?”
Crying, I admitted that I felt rejected, unappreciated, unloved, and not pursued. He agreed with me, “Yes, it hurts.”
Now I had a choice. Do I ignore my misery and just push it aside, leaving feelings of bitterness lurking below the surface of my thoughts? Or do I recognize the judgements and unforgiveness that I heard myself confess to the Lord and take it all to Him?
I already knew that there is a place to take all my misery (praise God!), but what was new was that I allowed my heart to feel and expressed my heart’s feelings to the Lord. Being honest with Him allowed me to hear myself speak the bitterness and judgements out to Him. When I was busy “Thanking God” earlier, I recognized that it was a form of “stuffing” or striving, and not recognizing the actual sin of judgement against this person. This was sin that separated me from God and those around me.
So, I repented and asked forgiveness for judging this person and I chose to forgive. Suddenly genuine thankfulness filled my heart. Also, I was able to really rejoice at my friend’s new plans, without undercurrents of anger and bitterness (i.e. passive aggression). I could bless and encourage the new plan as a wonderful memory making trip this person would have with their family.
All this was so beautifully laid out by the Lord to help me to know that He longs to hear our misery. He wants us to know we are angry and to “sin not”.
So I begin to recognize that being angry gives us an ability to feel our heart and express it to our Father who wants to hear all. The sinning part is to hold that anger and not to give it to Him through repenting and releasing forgiveness.
There it is again, repent. And why should we be bitter that we have to repent. Isn’t repentance a gift?
I also recognized that this kind of situation happens all the time, where we feel missed, or rejected, or demanded, or mistreated. At the store, on the freeway, at school, at home. Anywhere we are bumping up against others. We are continually imputing motive to others and judging them for those motives.
What do we do? Do we ignore them, or say to ourselves that we shouldn’t feel that way? Or can we just give a shallow forgiveness (perhaps minimizing and excusing) leaving our judgements in place?
“Why would we leave all that unresolved?”, I asked the Lord. He whispered to me that ongoing recognition and repentance are our wedding clothes, which we have been freely given, at great expense, to attend the wedding feast. And they will ask, as in Jesus’ parable “Why haven’t you put on your wedding clothes?” (Matt. 22).