The Spirit of Unforgiveness

There was story in the news recently, the details of which I will not go into for they are not the purpose of this post. But if you “Google” Josh Duggar, I’m certain you will come up with plenty of information about the situation. I discussed in a previous post that I believe that everyone has a Darth Vader, Anakin’s was after power and recognition, and mine was after control. You see, American discovered that Josh Duggar has a Darth Vader, and most people can now only see shining black armor and a red lightsaber.

I saw in (most of) the responses to this undeniably bad news, a lack of grace and unwillingness to forgive. People tossing statistics and hopes that Josh’s past will be daily rubbed in his face. Something that I did not see, a lot of, was the willingness to see that Josh has changed, he is not that person anymore. The Duggar’s chose to make this information public, knowing full well that the “boom” would be lowered on them with much more force and severity. Why? Because they are Christian family. And the general public expects Christians to be perfect rather than the broken, saved by grace people that we are. Imperfection requires forgiveness, which can be difficult because it goes against our human nature. Its easy to be angry and to hurl someone’s past in their face. But Jesus calls us to forgive, it says in Matthew 18:21-22, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

This begs the question. Why would Jesus call us to do something that can be so difficult? Because He knows that the unwillingness to forgive can be draining, that grudges get heavy, and that bitterness can steal our joy. To be clear, forgiveness does not mean that one should forget or to quote the popular phrase, “Sweep it under the rug.” But rather chose to recognize that the person has changed and/or to release your own spirit from the burden of carrying a grudge, which can lead to anger.

Obi-Wan also carried within him the spirit of unforgiveness, he believed that Anakin had been completely devoured by the dark side of the force. He could not see past Anakin’s mistakes (which yes they where HUGE mistakes) but, he also refused to even allow the possibility that Anakin could change or that any goodness could be left in him. According to the book, The Life and Legend of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Obi-Wan’s spirit was present (but unseen) during Luke’s battle with Darth Vader on the Death Star at the end of Return of the Jedi. And he was completely shocked that Anakin managed to fight his way back from the dark side.

“And suddenly Obi-Wan realized where he had failed. For unlike Luke, Obi-Wan
had not only believed that Anakin was completed consumed by the dark side,
but had actually refused to believe that any goodness could have remained within
Vader. And by refusing to allow that possibility, Obi-Wan had condemned not
only his former friend but his own capacity for hope.”

Jesus calls us to forgive because He knows that it will not only benefit us, but also has the potential to benefit the one who sinned against us. Luke’s willingness to forgive helped Anakin regain his true self and I’m sure that the Duggar family’s willingness to forgive did the same for Josh. And if God can forgive, then with the strength, humility, and peace that is gained by reaching for Him, we humans can forgive too.

If you are carrying the spirit of unforgiveness I encourage you to pray for the strength to forgive.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” -Colossians 3:13

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Doubt

To be honest I have struggling with some doubt lately, it’s a nasty little thing that likes to creep up on me every now and then. This doubt has effected not only how I see myself but also my testimony.

About two years ago, I wrote list of sixty things that made me, me because God needed me to see that it is important for me to confident in who I am, so that I can write with confidence. This list included things like: I have never broken a bone, I don’t like cherries, the fact that I think pennies are gross, and that my favorite movie is My Fellow Americans. God helped me to see that none of these “me-isms” are anything to be ashamed of and should be embraced. However, self-doubt can again strike at any time, and it did for me a couple of weeks ago. I got to thinking about my…favorite movie, for example, and why its not something like Gone with the Wind or The Sound of Music. Or that why my favorite Star Wars movie is not Episode VI or Episode IV like most people. Why do I think that pennies are gross? Pennies are just money…ugh…disgusting money.

Anyway.

This doubting session necessitated another list of things that make me, me. This one included that fact that I think that Tobey Maguire makes a better Spiderman than Andrew Garfield, that I don’t know how to make brownies (and I never intend to learn), that in the Iliad I like Hector better than Achilles, and I’m scared of Ferris Wheels. All things that make me, me, yet all things that I could easily keep to myself, out of fear that they are not “mainstream” enough.

This self-doubt also wormed its way into doubt in my testimony. Yesterday at Bible study, we discussed testimony and witness, some characteristics of each and what they look like. I left feeling a little deflated because my testimony is nothing like what was described. Its not the average Christian testimony of having a more mature believer come into your life, and speak words that are life changing. I had Christian influence and positive role models in my life. At the time that God got a hold my heart again, we going to a great Church and had wonderful Christian friends. But my faith still sat on the surface and could easily be whisked away at anytime.

What finally reached me and shook me to my core, was watching a talented young Jedi with so much to live for tear his life apart piece, by piece. I saw so much of myself in Anakin, I had pride, I was impatient, I had anger and fear. I was slowly building up walls between me and the people closest to me, just like he was, with out really realizing it. Because of that revelation, I finally recognized that I am second, and everything changed for the better. I love Anakin’s story, because of how it ends and, because of how much God has taught me through it. This testimony is not average, it is not one that is likely to get written on a white board, but it is what God chose for me. And I can’t imagine me without it. This journey has taught me so much about myself, and encouraged me to be more confident in who I am. I have also been shown God’s character, nature, and just how amazing He is, in a way that I had never realized before.

Are you having doubts? If so, let me encourage you to trust in God, His ways and His timing. God doesn’t make mistakes. If you have a testimony be proud of it, because it is what God chose for you. If you don’t have a testimony yet, and your still figuring out this “Jesus thing”. It is my prayer that your heart will be soft and your mind open to the voice of the Spirit, because you never know what He may use to bring you to Him. It says in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

True Friendship….a Revisit

I just finished reading (for the forth or fifth time), The Rise and Fall of Darth Vader. I know what you may be thinking and yes it is 211 pages of awesome. But that is beside the point, I came upon a passage that was a conversation between Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. I mentioned in my previous post about friendship, the fact that Palpatine calls Vader/Anakin “friend” 4 times. This bugs me because the last thing that Palpatine ever was to Anakin or Vader was a friend. According to the book this conservation had occurred several times and started with the same taunting question:

Palpatine: “Are you afraid of death, Lord Vader?”
Darth Vader: “No, Master.”
“Then why do you go on living?”
“To learn to become more powerful, Master.”
“Do you seek such power so you might try to strike me down?”
“You are my path to power, Master. I need you.”
“Yes, my apprentice. Remember, your place, and that you have much to learn.”

Now compare this conservation with the last talk that Obi Wan had with Anakin before he turned to the dark side. Obi Wan was about to leave on his mission to find General Grievious, and Anakin took this opportunity to apologize for his recent behavior. In response Obi Wan said, “Anakin, you are strong and wise and I am very proud of you. I have trained you since you were a small boy. I have taught you everything I know and you are far greater Jedi than I could ever hope to become. But be patient Anakin, it will not be long before the council makes you a Jedi Master.”

The way that each of these men talk to Anakin is very different, one seeks tear him down and the other, to lift him up. One really was a true friend, one other was only using Anakin in his own quest for glory and power. One loved Anakin, and the other, most certainly did not.

People flow in and out of our lives, probably more often than one may notice. Most are trustworthy and honest, although few may use us for their own selfish needs, whether it be attention, money, or time. Much like Palpatine (although not nearly as severe), these “friends” are not going to look out for the needs of the other person. And will probably move on to someone else, when a better opportunity presents itself. It is important to know who your true friends are, they will tell you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear. They won’t push you into something that you are not ready for, and will value your happiness and well-being. The Bible teaches about love in several places and in 1 John 4:7 it states, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” Love, is important, from it flows, hope, trust, patience, understanding, and forgiveness. Without love it’s difficult to be true friend. For if you love someone, regardless of how much, a friendship will surely blossom.

Friendship is not always easy, and it certainly wasn’t for Anakin and Obi Wan, but love (that is the love that Luke had for Anakin) is what brought him back. And Obi Wan, well, he was ready to forgive Anakin, and welcome him back as a friend.

He is ALWAYS there

There is a new song by Colton Dixon called “Through All of It”, it is about God and how He is always there no matter what. It doesn’t matter how far we fall or how many times we stumble. Now that can sometimes be a difficult concept to wrap your head around, because humans, frankly, are not always awesome. We lie, cheat, we’re selfish, we say/do things that we shouldn’t have, and can hurt our fellow man. Yet, God never leaves. How do we know this? Because the very instant, we realize our faults and ask for forgiveness, God’s love, grace and mercy are there to greet us every time. And let’s be honest, this scenario has and will play itself out more than once in one’s life time.

In a previous post I wrote about grace and how it’s enough for Darth Vader and then some. In that post I quoted John 1:16 which reads, “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.” This means that God gives us ALL grace, and then some more, and then some. And thankfully so, because we humans need it.

This morning my kids and I watched “Return of the Jedi” because tomorrow is Star Wars Day. (May the 4th be with you!) While watching Darth Vader continue to do his well, Vader stuff, it got me thinking about the light side of the force, and how it stayed with Anakin the whole time he was following the dark side. Many, to include Yoda and Obi Wan, felt that Anakin was a lost cause, that turning to the dark side was something that he could not turn back from. This may seem a little harsh, but these two saw first hand Anakin’s initial actions as Darth Vader, and Obi Wan had to fight Darth Vader. He certainly felt his anger. So you can’t really blame them for seeing Anakin in this light. But because they felt this so strongly, they refused to acknowledge someone else’s, hint Luke’s, feelings about Anakin. After all Luke was Anakin’s son, and had a much different connection to him, then Obi Wan or Yoda. Of course in the end, Luke was right because Anakin managed to fight his way back from dark side.

The closing scene, or next to the closing scene, shows Anakin reunited not only with Yoda and Obi Wan, but also with the light side of the force. Now how could this have happened so quickly? Because the light side never left him. Through all of his Vader foolishness, the light side never once left his side.

In the same way God, with His grace, His love, His mercy, and His blessings, are there to greet us as soon as we turn back and return to who we were created to be. Amazing isn’t? To have a God who loves us in this fashion, is an incredible blessing. He is our rock, and He will never give up. A love like this deserves every praise we can muster, and He accepts them no matter where it is we just returned from.

His grace will catch you every time you fall, it’s enough for Darth Vader and then some.