In a get-to-school rush, I was preparing to drop off kids at school when I got surprised. I asked our toddler to find his shoes as he is often able to find them. He ran off with exuberance. And I was impressed with his focus.
As I came around the corner, I could see a bunch of papers and books thrown on the floor. My first thought was "Why'd you do that?" (It sounds much softer in writing than in my head.) As I approached him more and began to pick up the books hurriedly, I looked at the shelf where I was putting books.
There, in the back, were his shoes.
Why "Books on the Floor"
In the Thanksgiving/Christmas season, we often run into hard feelings. Memories of being wronged by family or friends casts clouds of darkness in a usually sunny season. How do we begin to come to peace in this season?
Many times we, or others, will not fully see the big picture on what is occurring. The "books on the floor" comes in many forms: angry responses, cold words, biting insults, apathetic efforts, rolling eyes...
It might be a spouse, co-worker, friend, ministry team member, or any one.
Most often, whatever their "books on the floor", it is coming from part of their story. It might be an indirect result of something else. A person's not showing up comes from a tragedy that has just occurred. The anger that bursts into flame is an echo of the anger that caused them to shrivel before a parent in their childhood. Their difficulty in being generous comes from years of "being without" that they have not been able to break and trust God as a provider.
How to Deal with It
Sometimes we personalize these interactions too much, forgetting that all have sinned and fall short...and those who are committing these offenses now are partly due to the ongoing brokenness from the sin and fallenness of others.
One of the realizations in forgiveness is to realize how much we have been forgiven by God. A second is to realize this person has a condition...that you share with them. It can be helpful to pause to realize what's in the background, such as the motivation or purpose that drives the choice. Sometimes it comes from a broken place in a person. Sometimes it is acting from the flesh. Other times it is the devil's team rearing their head in someone else's life.
As followers of Christ, our example to the world is to humbly realize that these are often behind the difficulties of many people. It does not excuse sins or wrongs but, as Christ's followers, we will persevere, even forgive, when we realize such things come from difficult places.* We can offer the extra grace, the extra mercy God has offered us, rather than a knee-jerk reaction that Christ would never have shown.
Jesus did this when he said about those who were crucifying Him "Father, forgive them, for they know do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
And, you know what, he wasn't just saying it for them...he said it for you. With Christ's life in us, let's see if we can do that for each other and those around us.
May the difficult areas of your life in this Advent season be well lit by the Light of the World, Jesus Christ.
*Please note that we are not discussing life-threatening situations here. If you find yourself in a difficult situation, do not hesitate to seek the counsel of others.