How To Steal from God

There is something of God’s that is easy to steal. So easy that God issued a strong warning against taking it:  “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19 NASB).

Even Jesus respected His Father’s rightful ownership of revenge and did not touch it:  “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23 NIV).

No matter how much we want revenge or eye getting it as justifiable, God says, “That’s Mine. All of it. Keep your hands off!”

9781490808949_COVER.indd

Elusive Forgiveness

“It’s a story of love and forgiveness,” wrote Amy on January 14, 2014. I didn’t know her from Eve before she posted the Amazon review of Before the Door Closes: A Daughter’s Journey with Her Alcoholic Father. Going forward, that evaluation remains the single hinge of our relationship. She could not know that one of her words wearied my mind. Was it true? Is my memoir really, as she described, “a story of love and forgiveness”?

Love, I agreed, comes through, but I could not get a handle on forgiveness. Where was forgiveness? The word is mentioned only once in the book, and that is in a passing reference to my mother. Like an annoying fly stubbornly buzzing around my head, the conundrum nagged me. For a year I swatted at it.

Why would I forgive my father? What was there to forgive? What had he done? That abusive, depriving alcoholic in our family was not my real father. He was what my mother had dissected:

Mama once told me as she looked through the window at my father staggering to the front door, “He is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

That’s how she mentally sectioned her life. If Daddy was drunk, he was Mr. Hyde, embodying all that was wrong, evil, sinful. If Daddy was sober, he was Dr. Jekyll, goodness and peace and healing. While hating Mr. Hyde, Mama knew at the end of her endurance, he would metamorphose again into Dr. Jekyll. (p. 75 of Before the Door Closes)

Preserving my mother’s coping effort, I compartmentalized my father. That took care of Mr. Hyde. But what about forgiveness when my father was sober? When he was “Dr. Jekyll”?

True, he was not beating my mother, and there was more money for food then. But emotionally, I still tiptoed around him for fear I would trigger an unpredictable explosion. Weren’t there things to forgive during the sober sprees? Like “putting me in my place” when I was thirteen and was so excited I would soon have my own room and no longer have to share a bedroom with three brothers.

Following Daddy from bare room to bare room while he inspected the newly built house, I was surprised to be greeted by a pink shower curtain hanging up in the only bathroom. “Oh,” I spontaneously said, “how nice of them to give us that.” Hitting me like a thunderbolt, my father’s voice boomed, “Nobody gave me anything! I paid for everything you see. There’s nothing here that was given to me.”

Had I forgiven him for the times he made me feel what I thought was wrong? Did not have value? Should be shuttered? There was no red-letter day proclaiming I had said to myself or him, “Daddy, I forgive you for all that you did and said and didn’t do and say that hurt my feelings.”

Amy, though, had read forgiveness in Before the Door Closes. If indeed I had forgiven my father, how could I know? Last month I heard how on a CD.

“If you are seeking revenge–vengeance is yours, and you are seeking to pay back–forgiveness has not occurred,” Dr. Tony Evans said in his message “The Detours of Pardon.” He went on to explain that forgiveness didn’t mean I had justified what went wrong or excused it or ignored it or pretended that it didn’t happen.

Finally, I had a grasp on how Amy could think I had written a story of forgiveness. Revenge is not in the book.

Had I forgiven and forgotten? Obviously not! The book’s flashbacks attest that my memory of past hurts was intact, but I neither wanted nor attempted to pay my father back or get even. As his caregiver for the last two years of his life, I used all my energies and resources to ward off neglect and abuse.

No revenge. That’s what God meant when he made His sweeping promise:  “I, even I, am He Who blots out and cancels your transgressions, for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25 AMP). Isn’t that an oxymoron? How can Omniscience not remember our sins?

God does not forget our sins but treats us as if they are forgotten in that He is not out to get even–to pay us back. There is no revenge in God’s forgiveness. He forgives 100 percent. And there’s nothing elusive about that!

Christ died once for our sins.
An innocent person died
    for those who are guilty.
Christ did this
    to bring you to God,
when his body
    was put to death
and his spirit
    was made alive.
(1 Peter 3:18 CEV)

9781490808949_COVER.indd

To Regret Or Not To Regret

No more Mr. Nice Guy! He’d been pushed too far. Who did that tycoon think he was? Not an ounce of appreciation. No show of hospitality or even common courtesy. What a selfish ingrate!

How many times had he ordered his men to protect that ungrateful magnate’s shepherds and flocks from roaming bandits? Too many, apparently. Any time at the snap of his finger, his own motley band of malcontents and discontents would have plundered them. Why, if it hadn’t been for his kindness and skillful leadership, there would be nothing for that imbecile to party about–or with–at Carmel!

Did that arrogant aristocrat think, because he was running for his life, he was hobbled? No way. He’d been on the run for almost a decade, and the king hadn’t killed him yet. He knew how to survive. Besides, God was on his side.

It wasn’t like he was asking permission for them to attend the annual whoop-de-do but merely a fair share of the feast. The gall of that bloated ego to laugh at his young envoys’ request with “Who is David, the son of Jesse?” How dare the rascal insult him like that! The cheat knew he was the David who had eaten regularly at the king’s table! Maybe this scumbag thought the king’s son-in-law wasn’t the same valiant warrior he once was when his name had been cheered and sung at victory parades. He’d show him–the dirty dog!

“Suit up!” David ordered his ragtag army. “You’ll get to wield your swords and spears soon. I free you from all restraint. You are no longer wall-to-wall protection for Nabal’s shepherds. That fool will get what’s coming to him for denying us our due. He’s going to pay, all right. No male–man or boy–in that household will be alive at daybreak.”

David slapped on his sword and led his four hundred men down the mountain pass. Beginning the descent, he was surprised by a train of donkeys laden with bread, wine, ready-to-eat sheep, roasted grain, and hundreds of raisin and fig cakes.

Ha! So the scoundrel changed his mind. Well, he’s a day late and a dollar short. I’ve drawn my battle lines.

David waved his arm for his men to keep pace. Turning in the bend, his eyes locked with those of a breathtakingly beautiful woman.

Who’s that? She’s too well dressed to be another servant, and she possesses a regal bearing. I must have scared her. She can’t wait to dismount from that donkey. Why is she falling down at my feet? She doesn’t even lift her head to look at me and talks like this is all her fault. She’s asking me to let her bear the blame.

Oh, I get it. She’s that nincompoop’s wife. This catered meal is her idea. She’s shrewd–very shrewd. She thought her ploy would soften me and get me to change my mind, but I’m smarter than–hold on. I’d better listen to this. She’s starting to make sense.

When the LORD does for my lord all the good He promised and appoints you ruler over Israel, there will not be remorse or a troubled conscience for my lord because of needless bloodshed or my lord’s revenge. And when the LORD does good things for my lord, may you remember me your servant.
(1 Samuel 25:30-31 HCSB)

She’s got a point. I hadn’t thought about it like that. I’ve been anointed the next king, and one day I will sit on the throne. If I take this revenge, will I live to regret it? Will it become a dark cloud on my future monarchy? Will I look back and think it was beneath me? That I had lost faith in God? This woman has made me stop and think and remember that vengeance belongs to the Almighty.

Then David said to Abigail, “Praise to the LORD God of Israel, who sent you to meet me today! Your discernment is blessed, and you are blessed. Today you kept me from participating in bloodshed and avenging myself by my own hand.
(1 Samuel 25:32-33 HCSB)

Three Things Come Not Back

Remember, three things come not back:
The arrow sent upon its track —
It will not swerve, it will not stay
Its speed; it flies to wound or slay.

The spoken word, so soon forgot
By thee; but it has perished not.
In other hearts ’tis living still
And doing work for good or ill.

And the lost opportunity
That cometh back no more to thee.
In vain thou weepest, in vain dost yearn.
Those three will nevermore return.
(an Arabic saying)

9781490808949_COVER.indd