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This might be an ideal topic for the beginning of a new year.
I could look back over my many years and mark the best years and the worst years. My rating scale wouldn’t be according to how much money I made. My income has been pretty steady. I’ve traveled to some wonderful places, but fun adventures only constitute a small portion of a year. Same thing with Cardinal World Series years. Fun, but it doesn’t make or break a whole twelve months.
It’s easy to identify the most difficult years from my past based on the state of relationships that were just not right. One measure of emotional wellbeing is the level of the love and care, or the lack of it, in a person’s life. It can upset your emotional life for months on end.
The Incarnation of Jesus is the key to good, healthy, loving, caring, grace-filled relationships.My worst years, looking back, were years where I spent a sizable portion of the year embroiled in stressful relationships. I think of my younger days, junior high and high school. That was for me, as for many people, a difficult time.
Congregational conflict marks a few other of my worst years from the past. Sometimes it was difficulties in team ministry. Sometimes it was disagreement with church leaders that wasn’t managed well. Sometimes I was caught in the middle of turmoil between factions of which I had no direct involvement, but got sucked into the anxiety.
There were always hurt feelings involved, mine specifically. Someone said or did (or didn’t do) something that I took in a personal way. Hurt feelings soon turn into bitterness toward the other party. I’ve felt that. If untended, it spirals downward into anger, harmful words, the desire for the other person to suffer. It’s the desire to win or to get even.
When a relationship deteriorates to that point, neither party has the capacity to mend the hurt. We get stuck. That’s where the gospel and the Incarnation of our Lord comes in.
Jesus had human to human relationships. He lived with people; family, friends, strangers, enemies. The first thing He did was live graciously among the people. He not only taught about turning the other cheek; He actually did it. His disciples disappointed Him often enough to cause plenty of hurt, but He kept forgiving and encouraging and blessing them.
And then, because we don’t know how to live graciously with others, He went to the cross so
that we might be forgiven. And even there on the cross He prayed for and blessed His enemies with forgiveness.
My bad years were turned to good years when I learned to confess my part in the brokenness and seek forgiveness, and also when I learned to forgive. Grace heals. It turns emotional distress into peace and joy.
Where is there a relationship that needs healing and restoration as you begin a new year?
Thanks for reading.
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