Grace Conquers Bitterness

Back in the day, I owned a severely troubled automobile. It was my first car … which was dubbed “the turd” for more reasons than one.

That car was the bane of my existence, not only because it was old, rickety and an eyesore, but because it just did not seem to want to run no matter how much money I dumped into it. 

For an entire year I was in and out of different auto shops, moving from mechanic to mechanic, trying to find one who could successfully repair that thing. And each successive repair would only keep the car functional for a maximum of two months. I began to conclude that mechanics were worthless because they could not seem to do their jobs correctly. They could not fix my broken machine. 

Finally, I decided that enough was enough.I concluded that the only answer was to boycott the whole system. That was when I decided, without any knowledge of auto repair, that the only person that was going to fix my car was yours truly.

If you have ever met me you know this was perhaps the most galactically stupid idea ever made. Me fixing cars is like Keanu Reeves trying to do serious theater.

My first repair endeavor was a front brake job. I repacked the bearings and replaced the brake pads. I thought I had done a pretty decent job, too. So I did not bother to give it a test drive after the repair. 

The following morning, as I left for school, I did not give my brakes a second thought. I drove down my street at about forty MPH, approaching the same stoplight I passed through every morning. I began to apply pressure to the brake pedal. But as I did something terrifying and unbelievable happened. 

First, the brakes began to howl my name like an unholy banshee:

AAANNNDRRRRREEEEEWWWWWW.

Second, the vehicle slowed, but not by much.

Third, the steering wheel yanked the truck severely to the right.

I let out a yell like a terrified cheerleader in a horror film, and the truck was airborne. It jumped the curb, the sidewalk, and the grass on the other side. My sins, my mistakes, and all the people I had befriended and/or disappointed in my lifetime blipped in front of my vision. I was about to die.

Then the truck came crashing to the ground in a ditch. Sound returned to my world with fury upon impact. My chest ricocheted off the steering wheel. Water exploded all around me like a geyser.

I opened the door and stepped from my ride gingerly, shocked that I was uninjured and my head was still attached to my neck. I was left wondering how in the world I was going to get my truck out and running again …

***

There are many of us who currently parallel this true-life parable, not in automobile matters but in spiritual ones. 

We are exhausted from disappointments with other Christians. Tired of being let down, we have decided to go it alone and try to mend our wounds on our own, apart from the church. Our reasons for taking flight to our own, private islands are justified, or so we think:

Our pastor committed adultery. A brother or sister gossiped about us. A mentor got a divorce. A Christian celebrity that we adored came out of the closet. A friend deserted us in a time of need.

And instead of continuing to put ourselves out there to be disappointed again, we decide that our Sundays are better spent sleeping in.

But soon, many of us find ourselves with a frustrated, if not bitter attitude. Having lost faith in God’s vessels, we begin to question Him, as well. And it is hard to imagine finding a way back to healing, health and reattachment to not only the body of Christ, but God Himself. How can we do it with all that has happened?

I would like to submit to you that the way home is much simpler than you can imagine.  And even if you do not have a desire to return to fellowship at this point, what I am about to say may cast new light on past wounds.

I am going to suggest a simple, yet drastic decision to see life a different way. I am going to ask you, for just a moment, to put on a new pair of glasses.

They are the lenses of grace.

I want to walk though the process of finding this new perspective:

First, let’s ask ourselves a question: Why do the faults of other people affect us so severely? 

The answer is another question: Is it not because we are looking to those very people for something that only God can provide?

It’s so easy to forget that He is the only being that can make us whole. And likewise, it is very easy to allow people to take His place. Why? Because we can see and touch people. They are tangible. But once we begin looking to other humans to meet our needs for security, peace, wholeness and repair we will inevitably be let down.  

See Also

Broken people cannot mend broken people.

Knowing this is the first step to having grace for others.

Armed with this knowledge, we can then change our expectations. It is at that point we can also change how we react when they disappoint us. Once this happens, we will not feel so personally affected by the shortcomings of other believers, and forgiving them when they fall will be much easier. Soon we will feel much differently about inviting others to our island again.

But there is more:

Grace for other humans is the key to healing from our wounds, as well. It realigns our priorities, and puts people back in the proper place in our hearts. When we realize that humans  are not our providers, healers, or redeemers, then we are freed from much of our pain. The sting of hurt is disarmed. This is why grace for others is so important–it exists not only for the one receiving, but for the one giving. 

Accept that humans are just that—human. Accept that the church is flawed. And resist the urge to ever place people in higher regard than they deserve. In this, you will find empathy for the mistakes of others—others who are trying to find their way in this fallen world, just like you. 

So what about those who have wounded us so deeply that grace seems impossible?  For that, I will default to the words of Jesus: 

Forgive your brother seventy times seven times, for that is how many times your father in heaven forgives you.

A couple more notes about grace: It is not an excuse for the stupidity or selfishness of others. It does not absolve them from consequence. You are not “letting them off the hook,” because that fishing line does not belong to you to begin with. Releasing someone from your frustration does not mean they will not face repercussions, especially before God. Rest assured, these things have a way of coming back around in the end. You can feel good about having grace for others without feeling like a doormat.  In fact, the very act of having grace is empowering, not weak. Once you open the door to this idea, you will realize that life is so much lighter when you are not clinging to your wounds with a death grip. 

After the great crash of ’92 I realized that the mechanics weren’t the problem. The problem was that I was asking them to do the impossible—to fix a car that was beyond human repair. 

Finally, I stopped blaming the mechanics, and I stopped playing the mechanic myself. I accepted the fact that it was no one’s fault that my car was a piece of crap. I accepted that maybe, just maybe, it was time for me to change my viewpoint.

And then I was free to let that car go, along with all the problems that came with it—including my darkened outlook.

I left all of it in a junkyard, where it belonged.

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