I have this Rembrandt print, “Return of the Prodigal Son” hanging in my hallway to remind me of the grace God has given me. I need to look at it often and remember how He has embraced me despite the ways I have hurt Him again and again. Truly, I am not worthy to be called His daughter — but His daughter I am — forever and forever.
Two years ago a woman who was doing some work for me stole the jewelry my late husband Steve had given me, as well as my mother’s ring, selling it all at a truck stop.When she eventually confessed to me and saw my tears, she was broken. Truly, part of me didn’t want to forgive, for the jewelry held precious meaning to me.
At the moment she confessed, the Lord brought a scene to my from Les Miserables (a movie worth renting). In it, Jean Valjean steals candlesticks from a kind priest who had allowed him to sleep in his home — but when he is caught, and dragged back by the police, the priest covers for him. Jean Valjean is so touched by this grace he comes to Christ.
So I forgave (at least to the best of my ability — I know I have had to keep doing it — but I think I truly have) and I asked her to look at the above painting. I used it to share the good news that if she was truly repentant the Lord would forgive her. She has evidenced some true repentance — at least she has been going to church regularly. And I know my husband would tell me that her salvation is of much greater worth than the jewels he gave me.
1. Share a terrible apology and why it is terrible.
2. Contemplate on Rembrant’s painting above, “The Return of the the Prodigal.” Henry Nouwen spent days in front of it, said it changed his life, and wrote an amazing book by the same title. He saw so much in this painting. See what you can see — and I’ll tell you what he saw by the end of the week.
3. Slowly read the planned apology of the younger son in Luke 15:18-19.
A. I will arise and go to my father (Why is face to face usually best? Why is e-mail TERRIBLE? )
B. When he said, “I’ve sinned against heaven” he meant he had not only sinned against his father, but against God. Explain why, when we injure a person, we also injure God.
C. Then he said, “And against you.” List the reasons he brought great pain to his father.
D. When someone hurts me, it really helps me if they tell me why they know what they did is painful. I also find that when I have to express this, it helps me truly repent. When our dog killed a neighbor’s homing pigeons, I thought about all the ways this had to be painful for him. It wasn’t just money and training — he loved those birds, as did his children. Expressing it really brought me to contrition. Have you had a time when you have done this or had someone do it? Share, please.
4. Write down the principles of effective apology that you see in this parable.
5. Challenge. Pretend you are the woman who stole from me and tell me what an effective apology would be, based upon the above principles. (Or, choose something truer to home — a way you have really hurt someone.) What would you say and do?
6. Is there a wall between you and a friend or relative? Can you own any of the blame? If so, be still before the Lord and ask Him what you could do to promote healing. If you tell us, we will pray for wisdom and favor!
7. Meditate on the Father’s response. Go slowly. If a phrase leaps out at you — that’s the Holy Spirit. Share what you see.
8, How will you apply this lesson?
I would like to ask you, if it’s not too personal… you mentioned spending time at a Battered Womens Shelter. Were you there during your marriage to your ex-husband? Why I am asking is, you have told us that you have forgiven your ex, and you are living out the principles of love and forgiveness towards him, even spending time with him. Has he ever asked you to forgive him for his behavior? You may have already told us, but I don’t remember. Is he a “safe” person to be around now, or do you have any issues of trust in being around him?
In this issue of forgiveness, I struggle with forgiving someone (I have a person in mind), but not trusting this person, because she cant be trusted and most of what she tells me I find out later is complete fabrications – lies. I’m not talking exaggeration here, it’s lying.
I don’t feel “safe” around her, and I know better than to share anything personal with her. Truthfully, she is not a person I would say, allow my young daughter to stay with her. I guess I’m wondering, how far does God expect us to go in reaching out and spending time with a person like this?
No I don’t mind you asking about my stay at Fair Haven. It is another part of my incredible story of God’s protection over my life. I was there not because my ex had beaten me but because he came home one night and told me ‘I had to go’ and he was going to put me out of the window (which was on the second floor). To be honest at that time I did not take the threat seriously. I was working on a Bible study and my reply was “Go ahead’. Looking back I know now the threat was a warning sign and I needed to take it seriously. In fact I had been wanting to leave for a while (in hopes that it would ‘wake him up to change’) Now, I know why he issued his threat. He had a secret (his legal marriage to another woman) he couldn’t afford for me to find out which, as we all know now, I eventually did. To answer your question no he is not a safe person but neither is anyone who belongs to the kingdom of darkness. None of us are safe people unless Christ is ruling our hearts. Forgive my ex yes. Trust him no. Had he physically harmed me I would not ever want to be in his presence and I believe God would not call me to do so.
I believe God calls us to be kind to those who hurt us. If you see someone is not trustworthy then you are discerning wisely in not trusting such a person with your child. I think we human creatures have such a hard time believing another person is capable of such evil and meaness. But, as I heard Dr. Chuck Swindoll say once we should never be surprised when even a believer sins against us. I think we all need to be wise and emotionally distance ourselves from those who habitually emotionally harm us. As I’ve stated before I have family members who can be emotionally cruel. I can’t cut them off just because they choose to be mean to me. If they I have a legitimate need and I can help them then I will and pray for them of course.
You know Susan I have learned that living in reality is very hard and can only be done with the strength of Christ. My ex keeps hoping I’ll change my mind and marry him again but that’s not going to happen. When someone tells you they are never going to follow God’s ways you don’t ‘jump back into the fire’. But, I’m not giving up praying for him to bow to the authority of Christ. Eternity is only a second away.
No, my ex has never asked for forgiveness. He has told me he knew it was wrong to have married me but he didn’t want to tell me the truth because he knew he would lose me. His only concern has been that his little world was upset.
It’s very hard and sad to watch someone ‘walk the wide road of destruction’.
“None of us are safe people unless Christ is ruling our hearts”. That was so good, Tammy!
6. My post to Tammy describes the person there is a wall between me and her. My part of the blame may be that I have withdrawn to a safe distance. I limit my contact with her. It’s hard, because for many years, at different times, she has acted hatefully towards me. She has done a few things that were purposefully meant to hurt my daughter, including being verbally cruel to her. Okay, this person is my one sister. A few things go way back to when I was a young girl.
Then for awhile, we had a good relationship. Then she had kids, and then I started my family, and that’s when problems started. It was like she was jealous and wanted her children to be first with our parents. She is not a nice person, and has done some really awful things to people I love. It’s hard to think of us ever enjoying a close relationship.
Susan, I would be surprised if the Lord is calling you to a close relationship with your sister. I think there is a difference between keeping the relationship open and being close. If He is calling you to minister to her He will make it clear how you are to do that. I would pray for her and let God lead in what you should do. I have often erred in doing something because I think I should.
Anne and Tammy, I agree with you both.
Susan, I think it is wise to forgive and pray for your sister as you have done. If you can have an open relationship, great, but You have to trust him with leading in every step in regard to boundaries-It sounds like you are doing that though. He is so faithful in leading us and giving us red flags and the green flags to go ahead, isn’t He?!
Christian counselor Dr. Leslie Vernick shared in her Facebook notes that she knew she would never have the mother/daughter relationship God intended with her mother. She shared that she came to understand that whatever she did for her mom would be ministry. She had the privilege of seeing her mom come to Christ a few weeks before her death. I encourage to read her book ‘The Emotionally Destructive Relationship’.
I am glad you shared your struggles with your sister. It helps to know I am not the only one with family relations struggles. I have tried many times to reach out to my sister but how can one grow in relationship with another when you only hear from them once a year, if that, and always by card. I called her on her birthday this year but she let the answering machine pick up the call. I’ve come to accept that, no I may never have the sister/sister fellowship, but Christ may give me the opportunity to minister to her.
This discussion is stirring me up. It has me thinking about some differences I have with how the youth have been taught at my church. I think perhaps now I can put my feelings to a thought process.
I think I shared that my 14 year old almost got into some serious trouble trying to convert an atheist. He had been encouraged to do this in his youth group. My take on the whole thing is that these kids are being groomed to preach at the expense of relationship. I want him to learn to love God in a way that he cannot help but share his passion. For this to happen they have to experience love in their mentoring relationships.
When I was a very young adult I was involved with a ministry that was all evangelism. Because of my failure in this ministry I find evangelism difficult to this day. It took me years to come back to the Lord after that experience.
In my former church we had some teaching about ‘relationship evangelism’ and that rang true with me. You can’t give someone truth along with a lot of rules and not have a relationship that earns the right to be heard.
More later. Going for a ride in Al’s new car 🙂
Great thoughts!! Can you post pics of Al’s new car somehow? Have fun!!
Thank you for your very personal sharing. It was really helpful. I think Leslie Vernick also hits the nail on the head by my realizing that I may never have the sister/sister relationship that God intends, unless she knows the Savior. So I’ll keep praying.
It’s very hard because she is the mother of the nephew I lost last year, and I often feel guilty because I can’t reach out to her in the way that I would want to, with a sister with whom I was really close to. I loved my nephew and loved to spend time with him, and I also love my niece. It’s hard for me to understand, for example, why she does mean things to my daughter, like when she plans for a birthday luncheon for my mom; just mom, her 3 daughters, and my niece, but she purposefully leaves my daughter out. (I brought her anyway!)
But I appreciate all of your helpful counsel. Anne, that was helpful in what you said about doing something because you think you should.
You all will never guess – in church this morning, our pastor referred to the older son in the parable in Luke and put up a picture of Rembrandt’s painting on the big screen!
I had to keep myself from raising my hand and saying, “Do you notice the difference in the hands?” “Did you know…….”
Susan, NO WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Is that TOTALLY FROM GOD OR WHAT!!! He is so amazing! Talk about God’s beautiful extravagance!
You are to be commended, I would have raised my hand and opened my big mouth. haha! ;~)
I’m grinning as I read this. . . visualizing what would happen if you would have done that 🙂
What a great story!
And we move on!