It wasn’t going to budge.
The orange, gooey glob was stuck in place. No matter how much I compressed the sides of the plastic, honey container, the honey remained fixed and secure.
It’s winter in South Africa. On some mornings, I exhale and see evidence of the chilled environment with my breath. My finger tips are frigid. Most mornings, you’ll find me bundled up in my Bear Trap Ranch hoodie as I attempt to retain my body heat.
Because we do not have heat inside the house, it’s cold. My honey solidifies. It takes work to get even a drop from the container. But since I like a drop of honey in my tea, I doggedly worked the sides of that honey jar until two orange drops slugged into my tea cup. It wasn’t much, but just enough for victory!
The symbolism of this moment was not lost upon me. You see, earlier this week, I allowed myself to be offended. Some one hurt my family. Their inconsideration vexed me. For two or three days, I stewed about it and allowed my heart to grow cold just like my solidified honey.
You’d think that after the events of last week with my cancer stuff, I’d have a different perspective on life. I would keep the main thing, ‘the main thing.’ I wouldn’t let an offense clog my heart with the destructive attitude of bitterness. But I did; because this wasn’t the first time. There have been a series of offenses over the years and I confess I was just plain, tired of it.
However, I have learned in my life that anger and bitterness are not attitudes I want to embrace for any length of time. They are not good for me. They’re certainly not beneficial for others in my sphere of influence either.
It says in Colossians, “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other since you have taken off your old self with its practice and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in the knowledge in the image of the Creator,” New International Version, Colossians 3:8-10.
You see, what Paul says about anger and bitterness?
The time is now to rid such destructive attitudes from our lives. They don’t help me and they don’t help you. In fact, if I am not careful, the flow of my heart has the potential to be frozen into a sticky, murky, unforgiving mess. Recently, many of you were concerned about my recent visits to the doctor and the uncertainty of what some new indeterminent tissue might be. It certainly is a concern as a cancer survivor. However, the cancer of bitterness and anger has the potential to be just as deadly and just as destructive in my life. It not only could destroy my joy in life, but bitterness and anger if left to grow and stick in my heart, damage the relationships I hold dear in my life as well.
Chris Tiegreen wrote, “Ingratitude drives a wedge into relationships.”
That’s how I felt.
I was stung and paralyzed for a time by the lack of appreciation, consideration and care of my family.
Not any more though.
I worked my heart free. Through prayers, through talking things through with John, reading Colossians, and dogged determination, the bitterness in my heart broke free and was sent crashing into the steaming hot and purifying water inside my tea cup. I am not responsible for some one else’s behavior. However, I can choose how I will respond and go forward. I don’t want to remain angry and bitter. Today, I choose to forgive.
Now, I embrace these words:
Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with one another and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity,” New International Version, Colossians 3:12-14.
I know I’ll probably be offended by some one in the future. I’m sure I’ll witness my family hurt by some one’s lack of consideration. I know we’ll be taken for granted again. It happens. However, how I choose to respond to these offenses will make all the difference. Anger, rage, malice, slander, and lack of consideration are relationship-breakers. On the flip side, the compassion, forgiveness and love of Christ build and strengthen relationships. And that’s what I want my life to be about!
Having a visual reminder of frigidly cold honey in my honey jar is a great example of how the compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience of my heart could get stuck if I choose to remain angry and bitter. That’s not me.
And hopefully, that’s not you either. I don’t know if you have been offended recently, like me. So, here’s my exhortation to us both. Let’s not allow any offense to stick to the sides of our heart and take root. You see, the longer we let the gooey mess of hurt, bitterness, pride, and offense stick, the more difficult it will be to work it free.
Let us instead choose to be grateful for the blessings and good in our lives. And even when adversity, hardship, or offenses take place, we can still choose to allow the compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and love of Christ to flow in, through, and out of our hearts. We want to be relationship-builders, right?
Let’s do it!
How about now?