An Eye For An Eye – Vengeance Is Mine

Courtesy of Disney's Inside Out - Anger

Courtesy of Disney’s Inside Out – Anger

A few days ago I posted a legitimate question on one of my social networking pages. I asked how to respond realistically but biblically when someone continues to “slap” you. I even gave the scripture of turning the other cheek when someone slaps you (Matthew 5:38-39) because I know that’s the scripture one goes to when a question like that is asked.

Turning the other cheek sounds great and all, but in real life, I need to know what that looks like and what to do when constantly being slapped in the face by the same individual. I believe my words were something like, “What do you offer up when you’ve already had both cheeks, ears, eyes, nose, mouth, arms, legs, body, feet slapped many times over?”

Let’s Be Real Here

Am I the only one who struggles with wanting to retaliate when someone blatantly hurts me, most especially when it’s a constant thing? As much as I want to be the “good Christian woman”, I have a terrible time with the follow through part of that.  You know, the turning-the-other-cheek-and-offering-help-and-love-to-the-offender part. Why is that so difficult for me?

So here I am, yet another sleepless night, and I have a million things racing through my brain. The incident that provoked this question being one of them. After 3 hours of wide eyes, I decided to have some alone time with my Daddy God. Honestly, I had nothing specific in mind as far as what scripture to read, or if I would even read it, and I had no idea what I was going to pray. The funny thing is, God always knows what we need to hear, and he lead me to a story I’ve known forever but had not heard it the way I heard it from him tonight . . . or this morning – whatever it now is.

In Genesis 37 and Genesis 50, my answer was so clearly laid out. In short:

Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him. They plotted to kill him, which changed to them deciding to throw him in a cistern to die (so they weren’t technically the ones killing him), but then they decided to sell him as a slave to some passersby, and they sold him pretty cheap, too. They came back and let their dad believe Joseph was killed by a wild animal.

Those passersby who purchased Joseph, sold him to someone else. It turns out, the one who purchased him was the captain of the guard of Pharaoh. Through many wrongs being done to him, many slaps in the face, Joseph never complained about his circumstances. He never fought back. He didn’t blame his circumstances on his brothers when he very easily could have harbored hate and anger.

Instead, what we see from Joseph is that he took every opportunity to listen to God and obey whatever he told him, and he ended up being Pharaoh’s right hand man, so to speak. God blessed him in ways he couldn’t have even imagined had his circumstances been different.

Fast forward many years, and the brothers had to depend on Joseph for provision during a famine. He gave graciously to them rather than leaving them to die just as they had intended to do for him.

The part that hit me, though, was after his father died, and his brothers came back asking to be forgiven. Let me pause from the story to be completely up front with you. I am human, and more times than I would like to admit, my flesh wins in the battle between it and my Spirit. I look at my particular situation, and I hear the “I’m sorrys” from this person, but I don’t believe them, and I may or may not say they are forgiven, but even if I say “I forgive,” that anger is still there depending on what the action was. In Joseph’s situation, it would be very difficult not to hold on to that hurt and anger.

That’s not what he did, though.  Verses 19-21 say:

Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives . . .” (NIV)

The scripture goes on to say – get ready for this one – . . . And he spoke kindly to them.

OUCH. Joseph not only provided for them when they were in need, but he forgave them for selling him as a slave, AND he did it all while speaking KINDLY to them.

Wow. I’ve failed. I’ve not only failed, but I’ve failed over and over again.

This is what the scripture in Matthew means. Someone slaps you on your left cheek, so you offer up your right. You don’t seek revenge. You love, and you offer help to them even if it’s the shirt off your back. This story of Joseph tells us exactly what that looks like in real life. It tells us that God can use any situation to save others, and it tells us that he will protect us in all situations if we just allow him to. Are we really allowing him to protect us and utilize us if we are angry and yelling and constantly thinking about yet another way we were wronged by the same person?

How are we to reach people if that’s where we stay? How can we focus on others if we are constantly fighting that same battle with that same person – or any battle to defend ourselves against those who have wronged us, for that matter?

We can’t.

I don’t know if the story of Joseph speaks to you in the way it spoke to me, but I hope this speaks to someone out there who might feel like they’ve been kicked down too many times and are at a loss for how to defend themselves. Our society today so quickly jumps at the opportunity to cause an uproar when they feel they are being wronged. I’m guilty of it. I won’t pretend I’m above that. None of us want to be wronged, and it seems unrealistic to “turn the other cheek.”

Step with me outside of society’s way of thinking, and let’s give it a try. Don’t hang on to it. Don’t talk about it constantly. Don’t let your mind drift back to it throughout the day. And . . . speak kindly each time you speak to that person. Let’s see how life changes for us. I’m ready. How about you?

9.11.01: A Bird’s Eye View

Just like it happened yesterday, I remember exactly how that morning played out for me.  I was at our campus ministry building catching some extra moments of sleep before going to my Spanish class when a fellow student came in and asked if I heard what just happened.  We turned on the news wondering what in the would could have gone wrong for a plane to hit one of the World Trade Center Towers.  Then, we saw the 2nd plane crash into the South Tower, and we watched in horror as the rest of the day unfolded.  I was inundated with news, which was my only source for information on what was happening.

I tried imagining what people were feeling and thinking — people who were there in the middle of the chaos, and people who weren’t but had family or close friends who were.  My brain couldn’t fathom what was seen first hand.

Do you remember that day?

A Bird’s Eye View

I know I’ve said before that I have amazingly talented students who walk through my door.  This year is no exception, and I am seeing creativity in most of my students that I’ve never seen before.  After reading a paper recently written by one of my students, I felt it necessary to post it today (with her permission, of course).  Somehow this student came up with an idea that I consider incredibly creative, and through that idea she was able to capture a few moments of that horrific day in a different way than you have probably ever heard it, sprinkle in bits of humor (yes that’s what I said), all while keeping the integrity of what we stop to remember each year on September 11.

The assignment was simply to write a story from the point of view of an animal.  That was it.  I gave no other directions, and this is what she wrote.  I hope you take the time to read it and see the gift this girl has.

Taken from myfilmstories.com

Photo from myfilmstories.com

 

Bird’s Eye View

by Kelsey H.

“So I said to her, I said, ‘Gretchen! Leave that fry where it is. The five second rule doesn’t apply here; in New York everything’s covered in-” The pigeon was stopped mid-story by a rumble in the ground. A loud crash was heard milliseconds after the rumble.  A blast of smoke darkened the sky. The pigeon and his crow friend exchanged perplexed looks.

“Let’s go see what’s going on.” They both glided into the air.

As the pigeon and crow flew up to a tall roof, they almost fell out of the air when they saw what had happened. A plane crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The crow flew away in the opposite direction of the intensive damage, but the pigeon was paralyzed with fear. After a moment of awe and shock washed over him, he started looking around for help. He was relieved when he saw first responders, but his mind still raced. How many people were hurt; how many people were dead?

He flew directly through the smoke to assess the damage. The firemen wouldn’t be able to get to the 98th floor without using vital time. As his toes landed on a burning hot piece of rubble, he heard another crash. He looked south and made out what seemed like another fire through the smoke. He quickly helped whomever he could see from under piles of rubble by lifting or pushing anything away that trapped a soul and made his way toward the inferno.

Another plane had crashed into the South Tower. This wasn’t an accident. Somebody was attacking New York. Who would do such a thing? The World Trade Center wasn’t only a place of employment for government officials. There were innocent citizens in the building. The pigeon landed on a much lower level in the South Tower and saw everything aflame. He panicked. He was so small, how could he have helped?

The sounds of people’s screams seemed to flood into his head through his ears, and the world spun around him. Through the devastation he tried to think. As he found a reasonable answer, he ripped through the flames and wreckage and headed to the Hudson. He found a flock of herons, the ones that normally lounge in the north cove marina, squawking in terror and running around like a chicken with… well there was no time to dwell on that. He flew around them, circling, while giving authoritative instructions on how to help.

“Find the biggest trash containers you can lift, fill them with water, and bring them to the World Trade Center! The South tower is up in flames, we need to extinguish them in as little time as possible!”

His directions seemed to give most of the birds a sense of order and purpose. They nodded and started off immediately in search of garbage pails and containers. The pigeon flew back to the North Tower to continue helping the injured or trapped. He felt his emotions climb up his throat. Grief, rage, despair, helplessness and other emotions of differing intensities all threatened to surge out of his eyes and quench the fire themselves, but his determination prevailed. He asked all of his flying brethren to help him lift the office equipment that had fallen and trapped workers. He was helping an ashen woman out from under a fallen beam as he heard more crashes and felt more rumbles.

Tears swelled up in his eyes when his thought process jumped to yet another attack. When he dared to look outside, he was more devastated than if he had been right. The South Tower was imploding; walls and entire floors were collapsing and the entire building fell to a massive pile of debris. The pigeon saw people jumping out from windows that were crumbling beneath them. He let out a scream that harmonized with every single falling angel and mirrored their descent. He swarmed toward one flyer in a suit and motioned to other birds nearby to help the pigeon keep the man from becoming concrete art. They all grabbed him with their talons; his shirt, his arms, his hair, there were at least 10 birds pulling toward the sky with all their might, and the most they did was slow the fall down. The birds couldn’t stop the man’s fall, and to make matters worse, more and more people were falling. The vermin of New York were outnumbered. Though every living thing tried their best to stop this disaster from becoming a catastrophe, their beloved city was falling to pieces right in front of their eyes.

The pigeon sat on the edge of the wreckage on the 92nd floor, and his eyes glassed over. It was useless. He wasn’t able to save one life, not to mention the lives of thousands of others. Powerlessness drowned him. He felt numb, dismembered. Then he felt the floor beneath him start to creak and become unstable. He got out from under the damaged roof merely seconds before the North Tower started to fall, too. As he was treading air, he watched the entire North Tower join its brother in the streets below. His desperate concern simply turned to petrified horror. He lowered himself to the ground and just stood there, staring into the dust and debris watching the firemen and police try to save the thousands of people who worked in the Twin Towers. It was hopeless; how does a pigeon not even a whole pound in weight help thousands of heavy humans? The pigeon backed away from the wreckage until he hit a wall. He sat down, not noticing the people running from all directions, and he stared at the disaster that had happened before his eyes. How could somebody do this?

His world was in shock; the people around him were in shock. He later learned that there were more attacks that turned out to be unsuccessful. The news reporters were having a frenzy, blaming it on an Islamic hate group, but it didn’t matter to the pigeon. What was done, was done. People were dead for no justifiable reason, and families across the nation lost loved ones.

After the eleventh of September 2001, people became fearful of their normal surroundings. A memorial was built in what was named “Ground Zero” to commemorate the 3,000 people who died. The pigeon visited the memorial and on every Tuesday, the day the event happened, he dropped flowers to honor the fallen.

I Surprised Even Myself Today. . .

First Step is the Hardest

 

He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:29-30

 

Today began with several firsts for me.  I fell into a rut a little more than a year ago, and my motivation to eat right and stay active kind of went down the drain.  This week I’ve been working on my motivation.  The past two days, though, I did nothing to stay active.  I was so tired that I just came home and did the absolute necessities and then crashed.

My goal was to sleep in today since it’s something I just don’t get to do.  I woke up a little before 8 and felt rested and refreshed even though I didn’t get to sleep until around 1:30 AM.  Yes that is sleeping in for me.

The first thing I did that surprised even me was that I didn’t sit in bed and turn the tv on.  I got up. . . and. . . I ran!  I know some of you enjoy it.  I know some of you are eager to do it and may even get in a bad mood if you miss a day of it.  But for me, I absolutely hate running.  It’s not fun, and I can’t figure out how to breathe, and my head feels like it’s going to explode, and I just don’t like it.  However, I can feel that it works every part of my body, and I’m able to set goals for myself, and it’s actually the one and only type of exercise I do that makes me  feel like I’ve accomplished something every time I do it.

My goal is always 3  miles, and I compete against myself – the shortest time I’ve run it before.  I haven’t run since 1 time in January, and that was the first time I ran since February LAST year!  My goal was just not to go over my longest time.  🙂

At a half mile, I almost gave up because for the first time ever in my exercising life, I was about to vomit.  Too hot? I don’t know.  Heart rate too high? I don’t know.  I decided to walk and if it was going to happen it was going to happen, but I was going to keep going anyway.

WHAT?!?!  Let me just say, if you know me at any capacity, you know I’m a complainer when I’m not comfortable.  The fact that I changed my thinking from I’m stopping 5 minutes in because I’m about to be sick to I’m going to be sick right here in the bushes, and then I’m going to keep going is just not normal for me.

Luckily I hadn’t eaten yet, so I was able to control it and didn’t physically get sick.  I picked up my pace and started running again.  I did have a moment around 1.5 miles where I started feeling it again, but I pushed through.  However, I was ready to stop when I hit 2 miles, but I still hadn’t made it back home.  My new goal was 2.5 miles and then jump in the pool fully clothed because it was too darn hot.

I hit 2.5 miles, but I was at 33 minutes. I don’t know if it’s my OCD, and 33 minutes didn’t work for me, or if it was my competitive nature, but something sent an extra burst of determination through me.  I knew when I ran my very first 5K several years ago, I hit 37 minutes.  I told myself it’s just a half a mile more, and surely I could do that in under 40 minutes.  I would not hit 40 minutes.  I ran as fast as my hurting, tired legs would allow me, and then I just knew it.  I knew I was going to finally be sick, but I would not stop before reaching 3 miles, and I would not hit the 40 minute mark.  I’ve never taken 40 minutes, and I wasn’t about to start now.  I was at 2.95 miles and somewhere above 38 minutes.  My eyes watered down my cheeks from controlling my stomach, but I reached 3 miles, and I did it under 40 minutes!

Oh, and I did not get sick!  Yes, this was my slowest time by far, and honestly I’m kicking myself for not going ahead and running the next 10th of a mile to hit the 5K, but I’m so proud of myself for pushing so hard and accomplishing what I originally wanted to accomplish in the first place.  I didn’t do it for anyone.  I didn’t do it for a race.  I did it for me.  I prayed.  I know it sounds crazy, but I prayed at the half mile when I felt sick, and I prayed at that 2.5 mile and again when I was so close to 3 miles but didn’t know if I could do it.

God did not have to allow me to finish what I had set in my head to do, but he did.  God doesn’t want us to just come to him when we need something, and he doesn’t want us to just talk to him about “serious matters.”  God wants to be our friend.  I told him what my goal was.  I talked to him about wanting to stop when I felt sick and again when my lungs hurt and again when my legs were tired.  He didn’t let me quit.  Instead, he told me, “No.  You’re not stopping when you just started.  You can do this.  Keep going.  You can do it!”  And I did.  He told me at 2.5 miles, “It’s just a half mile more.  You have 7 minutes, you can do it!”

Understand that God cares about the little things and wants you to push yourself outside of your comfort zone.  It doesn’t necessarily have to mean in an exercise but in life.  Push yourself.  Talk to him.  Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).  That doesn’t mean you have to do everything right and perfect in order to “delight” yourself in him.  It means spend time with him, talk to him, love on him, and let him love on you.  Just like when you spend time with your friends, even when you two are doing nothing, that’s what God wants.  You enjoy spending time with friends; that’s delight, and spending time with God brings him delight.

You aren’t going to get everything you ask for, but God will do simple little things for you to show you he loves that you’ve been spending time with him.  Talk to him about the desires of your heart.  See what he does for you.  See if you might surprise yourself today.