I’m sitting with my Abba, here, laying out the pain I’m feeling after so much fell apart! I had thought my words right on, only pointing out the truth. But they were heard as harsh put-downs, and their heart slammed its door on me! How could they push me away so hard and tell me to just shut my mouth? Abba listens. He lifts my eyes to look into his, and quietly asks, “Were they right? Did you speak in a way that did shut them down? Were you fondling your grudge when you took them to task? Were you showing the kind of love to them that you’d like them to show to you?” Ah! I see things now from his point of view. The wounds (the stabs, the power grabs) have sliced my sensitivities and I have let them fester there, infection that has made it hard to even want to reconcile or try to understand their side. My inner eyes are now aware That I have sidelined making peace. Instead, “revenge” has displaced “care.” “Forgive me, please!” Then comes release. I feel my Abba wipe out pus, the rank disgust that has distorted what I see. Now I’m free to understand what caused their hurt and those hard words. I’ll find a place that will feel safe, where I can ask them to forgive my thoughtless jumping to conclusions. Abba will clean up this mess!
I remember several days when I felt like that, when conflict sent me to a solitary place to cry out to God for relief. What I did not expect was when what the Lord said was that I should stop focusing on my hurt and on the fault of the other person involved. Instead, what had I done that had sounded judgmental to them? How had I put them down, or pushed them away?
That was not easy to take. After all, I had thought that the person needed to be corrected for their own good or the good of the community we were in. Are we not supposed to challenge wrongdoing?
Those times, what was pointed out to me was that I had not spoken with gentleness. And I had responded to their reaction in a way that only made them feel more rejected. I needed to let them know that I cared about their well-being. I needed to say that I was sorry for choosing hurtful words, or the wrong time and place.
What I needed was first of all to ask the Lord for his forgiveness. That always brings a sense of unexpected peace—I think it is like being hugged and comforted. Then what is needed is to figure out what Abba is saying about how I might reach out and make things right with that other person.
There is a verse that is extremely applicable to this situation:
Brothers and sisters, if a person is discovered in some sin,you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness.Pay close attention to yourselves, so that you are not tempted too. (Gal. 6:1 NET)
“Pay close attention to yourselves!” When correcting someone it is so easy to become judgmental in such a way that they feel condemned instead of encouraged to change. This is usually because we are so convinced that we are right and they are wrong that we do not take the time to examine ourselves first, to become aware of any way in which we are ignoring our own propensity to react in anger, for instance, instead of showing loving concern.
Jesus talked about this very thing in his Sermon on the Mount:
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive. 3 Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to seethe beam of wood in your own? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? 5 You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matt. 7:1-5 NET)
If I cannot see clearly because my own vision is messed up and even blocked, then it would not be possible to help someone get a speck of something out of their eye. I am near-sighted, and if I am not wearing my glasses I would only hurt the person whose eye I was trying to clean out. Self-examination in the presence of the Father is a way to avoid doing this, a way to see the whole situation with accurate vision and be able to get that speck out. Kind of like putting on corrective lenses!
Paul followed up on Jesus’ teaching in his letter to the Galatians, urging them to take a careful look at themselves. He said “pay close attention to yourselves” in order to not fall into sin as well. What kind of sin? It could be this: not showing the gentleness required. It could be leaping to conclusions without listening first, which is judgmental. It could be rejecting them instead of recognizing one’s own tendency to stumble, and lovingly drawing them in. It is easy to wear blinders that we are not even aware of.
There is a spiritual practice that is essential for avoiding this trap: “confession and self-examination.” As Adele Ahlberg Calhoun explains, this is about opening ourselves up to the Holy Spirit in a posture of trust in our loving God. We can come to him without fearing censure that will have the goal of shaming us. Instead we know he longs to forgive us when we admit our wrongs and desire transformation. These are some of the “God-given fruit” one can expect as a result:
- “Keeping company with Jesus as he helps you with how much or how little you change
- Being transformed into Christ-likeness
- Thinking of yourself with sober judgment, awareness of your blind spots
- Gaining insight into your temptations and God’s work in your life
- Having compassion toward others in their faults
- Seeing yourself as God’s loved and forgiven child no matter what you have done
- Living in thankfulness for God’s work in your life
“We invite God to come right in and look at our sin with us. . . we hand over the pretense, image management, manipulation, control and self-obsession . . .We lay down our ability to change by the power of the self. We turn to Jesus and seek forgiveness.”
I can affirm that the process is worth it. There have been times when reconciliation and better mutual understanding happened in a follow-up effort on my part. There were also times when there was still bitter resistance, too. You cannot be in control of the other person’s response. But it sure is worth it to be breathing the comfort of being God’s loved and forgiven child, having done the right thing in accordance with his leading.
Here is a sampling of Calhoun’s wise recommendations for moving forward in self-examination—I recommend her book for incredible help with spiritual growth:
- Name sins, don’t cover them up with generalization
- What experiences have affected your ability to give and receive forgiveness?
- When have you experienced the joy of forgiveness?
- Ask God to show you what you need to confess.
- How have you hurt someone? Ask for forgiveness and the grace to forgive them.
- Pray through Ps 32 or 51. How can you relate to David’s confession?
- What motivates anger, other strong emotions in you? Confess any sin related to those.
- Practice this self-examination and develop a habit of immediate confession.
In the beatitudes at the beginning of the Sermon, Jesus pointed out that those who are gentle and self-controlled (meek), who show mercy, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and who seek peace and pursue it, these would all be “blessed.” They would be in a state of well-being in the Kingdom. This is what we desire—let’s work on it!
 Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us (InterVarsity Press, 2005), 91-92.
 Ibid., 93-94.
2 thoughts on “Distorted Vision”
Thanks. Linn; this one brought me to tears. It still is sometimes difficult for me to picture Abba forgiving and consoling me when I am disappointed in myself or when my heart is breaking, even though I know He forgives me. The picture you so often create of Abba comforting us as we can comfort our children when they are small is such a healing image. Thank you again so much!!
It is deeply comforting to me, too — I know what you mean!