It is amazing how much more eagerly I recognize the sins of others than I do my own. The sins of my children, my wife, my fellow church members, my employer, and my coworkers I can identify with remarkable perception. Mine? Not so much. I had no difficulty discerning with marvelous insight the offenses that had been committed against my daughter and me in the incident related in last week’s newsletter, but I was completely blind to the murder and bitterness that I harbored in my own heart for 15 years!
Without the intervention of God to open the eyes of my heart I will continue in blindness and ignorance because my flesh desperately wants to always be right, continue to live, and not go to the cross and die. I am like the king who wore no clothes, naked before all those with whom I relate, who can see my sin clearly because they have no vested interest in keeping my sinful flesh alive as I do. As one good friend candidly said when I told him about the revelation I had just had concerning my unconscious attempts to control the lives of my married children–“You should have asked me; I could have told you!”
Today I want to explore another example of what the results can be when we pray Essential Parenting Prayer #1 (“Open the eyes of my heart”) and, then when He does, prayer #2 (“ Oh God, I repent for this sin that You have shown me”).
Some years ago a young man and his wife began to come to our church. They seemed to fit in well and began to attend meetings regularly, the husband even playing on the worship team. We accepted them as a part of our church family, helping them move to a new home and standing with them as they went through a miscarriage, sending meals to help them as they suffered through their grief.
As they settled into church life, the young man mentioned to me that he felt he had been given the unique ministry of being a burr under the saddle of church leadership. As time went by, he suggested books he felt I needed to read and would summarize men’s meetings with his analysis of what we needed to do in order to properly handle whatever situation we were discussing.
He gave the general impression, at least to me, that he felt the church needed to go in a different direction—one that he could readily show us. After being with us for a year, and being a regular participant in the church, he had neither officially identified with us, nor given any tithes or offerings to the church. Neither I nor the other elders were particularly eager to listen to or follow the suggestions of this young man.
Finally, he requested a luncheon meeting with the elders.
One of his first comments was, not verbatim, but as I remember, along the lines of, “Why don’t you seem to pay any attention to my suggestions and my input at men’s meetings?” We were all too happy to tell him exactly what I related above without being remotely concerned about him.
We told him that he appeared to want to be only a teacher and was not at all eager to be a learner. We suggested that we were probably much more open to the input of those who had joined with us and put their shoulders to the plow in this place, both in terms of time and finances, than to those who were simply critical onlookers without a commitment. He and his wife promptly left the church with little good to say about their experience there.
Some 18 years later I was speaking at a weekend conference for homeschooling parents when this young man, now a middle-aged father of two teen-agers, walked in the door. I recognized him immediately and felt the dagger of the Holy Spirit cutting open my heart again: “Robert, do you now ‘see’ the arrogance with which you treated this child of mine?”
I went directly to him, greeted him and then immediately repented to him for the way I had treated him 18 years earlier. “Oh, we just had theological differences,” was the reason he gave for leaving the church.
“No we didn’t,” I said. “If I had loved you, listened to you and treated you with respect you would have stayed, wouldn’t you?”
After a brief pause, his response was, “Yes, we would have.”
After I spoke, He came to my book table and bought each of my books with the comment, “I can tell you really have changed.” And he was right. I now knew I was a real, live sinner, not just a theological one. Was he without sin 18 years earlier? Of course not. He was a typical young man, growing in the Lord with all the warts that we all have as young men, needing older men to love him and stick with him as he matures. Sadly, I had not been one of those mature, loving, older men for him.
I was also seeing clearly that I too was still a child in Daddy’s family. With illumined eyes, on a daily basis, I was seeing, ever more clearly, the depths of the wickedness in my own heart, and the surpassing love, mercy and grace extended to me by my Heavenly Father to forgive all that sin!
Over the next two years we met for lunch together on a regular basis, sharing the gospel together, our struggles and our victories. He is now himself a solid, mature older brother in the Lord, and I never failed to leave those lunches greatly encouraged and built up by his life. Today I count him as a dear friend and a like-minded brother. He is on the Two Edges of the Sword mailing list and receives these postings. The power of the repentance that God gives to heal relationships is unfathomable.