by Danielle Earle
Since the previous blog post went up, I have had some immensely encouraging conversations with many people, and one of the the main topics these conversations keep coming back to is that of offence. In fact, I had a conversation with one of my dearest friends today, and she reminded me of a simple but incredibly powerful truth:
Grace is not being easily offended.
Wow, let that sink in for a second….
I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot the last few months, and I was reminded of something that God used in my life years ago to illustrate this very issue.
First some backstory: I grew up as an only child to divorced parents, went to a private boarding school, and well, let’s just say I was both a little spoilt and a little lazy when it came to household chores. Fast forward to adulthood and getting married and, oh boy, was I in for a surprise. Chores? Housework? Laundry? Ain’t nobody got time for that! Mike is and always has been really, really helpful around the house, but you know, the poor guy just couldn’t do it all. Ha!
So, let’s get on to the mortifying story then, shall we?
Mike and I had just gotten married and I was well on my merry way (or so I thought), cooking and facing the many challenges of “domestication”. I was in total denial. I had created a little subconscious “challenge” with myself to see how long I could leave the dishes – either till Mike did them, or until they annoyed me enough to finally do it (mental note: apply same concept to laundry). Mike, as gracious as he is, realised that I was never going to learn the lesson if he just kept stepping in.
Cue the Showdown!
Mike didn’t do the dishes.
Neither did I.
And then… (drumroll please)… MAGGOTS!
Gag, gag, gaggity gag. Clearly there was lots of gagging. I am often struck how God uses our daily life experiences to teach us about our spiritual lives. This particular lesson has always reminded me of a verse in Song of Solomon 2:15:
“Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.”
Just like foxes will destroy vines that are blossoming, not dealing with the “maggots” in our lives will spoil us, and our relationships.
Although the “outside” lesson was simply about not being lazy and getting on with those chores (gasp!), the “inside” lesson was about not being lazy in my relationships – with God first and foremost, but also with others. To be actively fighting for the relationships around me, and protecting them fiercely. And to not be so easily offended, but rather, to be someone who extends grace. Over, and over, and over, and over again. Because that’s part of what grace looks like in our relationships – it is loving, and forgiving, and assuming the best, even (and especially!) when it is undeserved.
When we are lazy in our relationships and “let things go” without addressing them head on, they become a bigger, more gory issue, just like foxes who come and spoil our vines. Or maggots! Maggots are pretty disgusting. Our offenses are just like those tiny, almost invisible, fly eggs…
When we let them go, they grow.
They grow and grow and the problem is perpetuated. Because maggots become flies, and flies lay eggs, and eggs become maggots, that grow into flies. See what I’m saying?
We are currently working through a sermon series titled “Thriving in the City” (you can find that here). We’ve looked at friendship and stewardship and finding our purpose, and we’ve hashed those life lessons out in our LifeGroups. This series has been phenomenal for many reasons, including many people finding tremendous breakthrough and freedom in many areas of their lives (including me!).
However, in order to continue to change and grow we have to clear out the clutter and ruthlessly purge the offense which is taking up space in our hearts. The offenses that consume our time, thoughts and energies and leaves us feeling worse off than we started. We need to clear out the junk so that we can make space in our heart for people, for mission, and for the purposes for which we were created.
Matthew 18:15 tells us that we should go sort out our issues:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”
God’s plan has ALWAYS been for redemption: our own, yes, but also for our relationships!
Don’t learn the lesson the hard way like I had to, don’t leave your dirty dishes out. Wash them as frequently as you dirty them, (by this point I hope you realise I am not just talking about actual dishes), you will be surprised how good it feels to have the mental space and clarity to think without your grudges wriggling around like worms in the sink.
Practice “airing the dirty laundry”: talk about your problems and struggles. Take out the trash, the spiritual trash, and be ruthless in your pursuit of keeping the junk that clutters up your heart and mind out of your home. Address the offenses in your heart. Don’t let them fester. Confess them, work on them, and then leave them at the feet of Jesus where only His blood can wash them away.