When Women Break Out of Silence

 

The afternoon was exquisite as we rested on our beach towels and the kids paddled away in their kayaks.

Not everyone has an entire shed full of wet suits and water toys, along with the energy to share it all with numerous families all summer long. But my friend Julie was a generous host, and kept the door to her little lake house open much of the summer to eager kids and wet bodies dripping water over her floor as they headed to the bathroom.

I wondered who had the pleasure of scrubbing that toilet when the days were over. Most likely, her.

Her little place could have been quiet, still, orderly. All the better for no wear and tear, but here she was, handing out cold lemonade and letting everyone use her everything.

I loved hearing her talk about the studies she and her husband led on marriage and child training. This lady had a heart for the hearts of others, and it showed in every way.

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But my boy and his little friend fought a lot that day, and on the way home, my other friend and I demanded utter silence because our heads were ringing with unwanted conflict for most of the afternoon. We turned on the music and drove quietly—because sometimes, little boys happen on such a mood that if a single word escapes little lips, it is ugly.

Silence is better than ugly, but silence is not better than joy.

Psalm 93:17 says, “If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.”

As we drove in silence, I watched other ladies facing my car when we all paused at the red light. The first looked as if she’d been crying; the second, as if she knew the weight of the world would rest on her shoulders as soon as she reached her destination.

And I wondered, where was the joy—for all of us? Because life can silence us, but only God can release us into full joy.

Only the God soul knows the joy life.

If God had not released my own heart, I’d be in silence somewhere behind the bars of condemnation, guilt, and fear. But He said to me as He said to Lazarus that day, “Sara, come forth!” [John 11:43, NKJV]

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He broke my old Sara chains and called me out. Out of silence into giving life; out of guilt into freedom; out of fear into faith; out of despair into joy; out of co-dependence into confident living.

He calls you out, too.

Soul, what is gripping you? Of what are you afraid? What clutches at your neck each day, stopping the joy you want to inhale?

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If you think others are hindering that inhale of joy, you are wrong. Because the power of the cross is greater than another sinful human, and the breath you get to receive from the Spirit of Christ is a greater inhalation of life than the other finite lives you want to depend on.

Those lives have no power to give a single breath, the Other Life created each breath you breathe.

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I soaked it in at the noisy, happy place by the lake, grateful for a friend who shared her everything with us that day. And I knew beyond doubt that there’s an even Greater Friend Who is with me, sharing His everything each minute, each hour, each season.

The Life we get to breathe from is Infinite, not limited to finite humans who sin, just like us.

We only need to chose which air we breath. Breathe in the joy, and break your soul out of silence!

Why I Didn’t Help……Say, What?!

Is there a possibility that you could help with the deer tonight?” my husband asked.

I looked at him with hesitation. “I’m not sure,” I replied. “I’ll go get the girls and see what tonight looks like.”

I knew he understood because just a few weeks ago, I had asked him about taking a writing assignment from my publisher. When I told him I might not even be able to cook as many dinners, he still agreed that I should do it. Things are crowding in tightly this month, but we support each other!

I had been running all day with home school, getting flyers made, setting up a new bank account, and the fun-but-scary, new experience of walking into a radio office asking if they would air my new book before its launch. Getting my heart on paper to be published was vulnerable; sharing it with a complete stranger in a back room office was almost worse.

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My man had been up much of the night before picking up a freshly killed deer [yes, we harvest and eat road-kill] and hanging it. He stayed up later than needed, and slept much of the next day, then watched butchering videos while he drank his coffee before getting an after-dinner start on the processing. This was all great–he’s simply a natural, born-night owl! 

Because I’m a home school mom, my day begins early and  I had been buzzing around all day like a bee that’s just been mortally wounded. I was doing dinner dishes and needed to run out one more time to bring the girls home from dance. Both of them had their share of attitudes that day, and my brain was fried. Reading a story to the little guy felt like a huge chore, much less cutting up a deer late into the night, so guess what I did?

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I was brave enough to do what I needed to do before another day of home school. I stayed in a warm house, showered, and tucked little ones in bed.

Brat, or what? Pampering myself while my man cuts meat in the cold, dark night with our son?

My journey out of codependency led me to realize fully that I didn’t have to meet all the desires of another in order to be loved. Or to be a good wife and mother. Or to be a good woman. I’d spent many years trying all of it, and it exhausted me to the point of daydreaming about getting sick just so I could rest.

I was a worn-out pleaser in more ways than one. I didn’t know how to care for my own heart just as I didn’t know how to care for my own body. Emotionally exhausted, I performed for months while having emotional outbursts every few months due to the build up of pressure.

I crawl into bed with a book—the one I had just ordered off Amazon for a penny—and start reading. I grab my phone and text my husband goodnight, along with thanks for his care of us [even his night-owl deer processing], and my emoji is a smile.

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If I had stayed up with him, I’d have been exhausted both mentally and physically. I probably would have resented him for a late start and lots of sleep that day. I would have wanted to remind him how hard I’d been working all day, how much I was sacrificing to help him, and how early my day would begin the next morning.

In a pitiful attempt to love and be loved, I wouldn’t have loved much at all. Because when we string ourselves out to dry, we become brittle, and we crack easily.

Why is it that Christian women are so exhausted and busy? What are we trying to prove? That we are angels with no human need?

I wake the next morning to a warm house and a counter full of meat dishes. He shoots me a text, apologizing for it, and I’ll send him one, thanking him for his work and telling him I’ll gladly do them.

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Did you know that when we care for ourselves, we care for others better? If I push past my limits on a regular basis, I will resent those dishes and want to remind him [again], that if he started his work earlier in the day, he would have had time to do the dishes. I’d have wanted to remind him that we’d be going to bed together with a deer butchered [perhaps even together], and all the dishes done.

Being set free from co-dependence allows you to free your man to be himself because you no longer believe you have to be everything, for everyone, no matter what. You no longer believe that being a helper suitable to your man means being a needless servant for your man.

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I’m in my office this morning with God, because I need Him. Those dishes sit, because I need God more than I need a spotless kitchen at the wake of dawn. And He whispers to me, “This process is OK, and I’m in you and with you and will work through you.”

I accept His words, and I worship. He encompasses everything, and I don’t need to. I only need to be full of love, and love on those around me in the ways True Love prompts me to do—not the way codependency forces me to do so that I can be loved and approved.

Are you an exhausted pleaser? If so, please take a step back and learn how to be a positive pleaser! You can serve others even better when you begin to care for your heart, body, and soul right along with caring for those around you.

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Selfishness can also come in the form of over-doing it. You give until you break for your own reasons more than because you love others. If you find yourself exhausted, resentful, feeling like you’ll break—take a step back. Quit trying to do everything or you may soon be able to do nothing.

Sometimes, keeping things smooth for everyone is our pitiful attempt at keeping things smooth for ourselves.

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I took a step back for my physical needs. I found a mentor for my heart needs. I spill those places I don’t know how to get through on my own, and together we pray and talk our way through life. In accepting the fact that I need things just like those around me, I’m more fully alive than ever before. But I had to become more afraid of breaking than I was of not having approval of everyone around me.

Your life will become full when you accept the fact that you are fully human!

Face to Face with Raw Grace

I looked around, and I watched for joy.

It seemed more than finding joy, I found faces creased with worry-lines, etched deeper with each passing year until they became such a permanent part of countenances they no longer disappeared.

Even in laughter, sadness remains in the faces of those around us.

I hear their stories, and I weep. Life is cruel and unforgiving at times, early dreams gone to the wind as if they were never held tightly by young, hopeful hearts who had not yet learned that this planet is a wrecked place.

There will always be death.

There will always be infidelity.

There will always be hidden sins affecting the lives of those we love.

Because there will always and only be humans living on this earth, and we get to live right alongside them. Not only that, but we are human, too.

Human enough to mess up just like them. Human enough to be gripped by the failure of another until we make it our own, somehow believing life to be over unless another very fallible human begins to live a different life.

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I see them go under, then step out and up. Somehow, these strong people know that there’s more to life than what another human does—even if it’s done to them.

The person who wronged them never defined their worth. What they saw from the person’s visible actions didn’t match up with what they knew God’s heart saw when they were yet in invisible places in their mothers’ wombs.

In Psalm 110:1, David writes, “The Lord says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.’

The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies!”

If God asks Jesus to sit at His right hand until He {God} makes His {Jesus’} enemies His footstool, it seems to me we can do the same.

Ephesians 1:3 says, “Blessed me the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

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And in Ephesians 2:4-6, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ.”

See this—He has seated us with Himself. Who else gets to sit in warfare?

We are blessed in Christ. Blessings are free, and they are a gift.

He’s made us alive, when before we were dead.

He’s raised us up, above this planet where otherwise we would be destroyed.

Grace is unmerited favor. That means you get it when you don’t deserve it, and I dare say you receive it when all odds defy it.

You don’t work for it; it’s handed to you while you rest right in the center of your enemies.

This means before they’ve gone away. You can rest in the middle of warfare because you’re seated with Christ in heavenly places—and we all know that evil can’t get close to God and the heavenlies.

Our warfare is fought in our rest. Grace has only to be received.

But what is this grace? If we must receive it, doesn’t such a gift merit a true understanding of its attributes? For what if we are offered a counterfeit, and we receive it without being aware that it’s a replacement, wrapped in packaging so close to the original but designed to trick us?

We need real gold to purchase real things. In the same way, we need true grace to inherit real salvation. Settling for cheap grace when there is true grace is the worst dilemma that could occur to you on this planet.

Cheap grace doesn’t save you, either from your own sin or that of others. True grace always delivers.

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Cheap grace lures you into a counterfeit “peace” while you continue in sin; true grace sets you free from the bondage of your sin. {“For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” 2 Peter 2:19b}

I wonder how we are more concerned with setting people free from working slavery than we are with setting them free from soul slavery.

My friend looked at me the other day in bewilderment when she said, “I know so many Godly men who are living in sexual sin, and have no qualms about it.”

Godly?” I queried. “How does one profess to walk with Jesus when they purposefully choose to walk in the same sin as a lifestyle choice?”

Falling into sin, then getting back up because you know saving grace is one thing. Deliberate choice for a lifestyle of ongoing sin is quite another—and we can’t profess to walk with Jesus without receiving His grace that saves us from those sins.

My children can’t choose a daily lifestyle of rebellion to their father without losing the peace they enjoy with him. Just as the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of {our} wisdom” {Psalm 9:10, ESV}, so a healthy fear of their father is the beginning of their joyful relationship with him.

Grace sets us free to walk in life; it does not give us a ticket to continue in death.

As Shane Beeson says, “Just because we’re not under law doesn’t mean we have no law.”

The law is our greatest tool of teaching us how impossible it is to live righteously. We are set free from the law because the Spirit of Christ can do what the law could never do.

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Under the law, we know what we should do, and we don’t do it.

We know what we shouldn’t do, and we do it anyway.

God wants us to feel this sting. He gave us the law of righteousness so that we would know our inability to live righteously without His Presence. He wants us to know the need for His own Spirit to indwell us, because He wants to be center of our hearts.

As darkness is dispelled by a strong beam of light, so the power of sin loses its force when the light of true grace is known in our otherwise dark hearts.

If you were to hold a flashlight with no batteries, darkness would remain when you pushed the on button. In the same way, when you know only cheap grace, your life will not change.

Just as a flashlight must be charged by batteries in order to work, so your soul must be full of the Spirit in order to change. Just as it is not enough to go camping with a flashlight full of dead batteries, so it is not enough to claim grace that is not truly saving you from the power of sin.

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You can hold that flashlight all night long, but it will do you no good. Likewise, you can name the name of Christ all day long but it will do you no good unless you allow Him to dwell in you and change your life from the inside out.

A joyless life stems both from a lack of deliverance from our own sin and that of the sins of others. We are meant to be overcome by neither. We are meant to be seated with Christ in heavenly places, to rest in the center of our enemies, to know what it means to be set free from sin rather than be overtaken by it.

We must first understand true grace, then choose to receive it. When we do, the Spirit of God will indwell us with a Presence not our own, and will lead us to a continual and fuller awareness of His saving grace.

The world will know you, not by your words, but by your fruit. They must see the affects of your grace in order to believe in the truth of your grace.

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They must see light turn on when you hold the flashlight,or they will never take the trouble to carry it—and they will want you to toss it as well. Just as they are better off without the burden of carrying the non-working flashlight, so they feel better off without the burden of a religion that doesn’t change a life.

They know more than we think they know, for darkness is felt more than seen, and light shines more than we are even aware.

And no matter what, they must see that the grace you profess to know can keep you in the peace they so desperately desire to know.

The hard in your life need not create hardness in your heart. As you receive this saving Grace for your sin, may you also receive it for the sins committed to you, and allow God to seat you, even still, in heavenly places with Him.

Because nothing beneath God will ever rise above God. He has you, and He holds you—because His grace saves you.

Love, Dimples, and Age

My man was gone for the weekend, so I took our dimple cheeked daughter out on a date. She is miss drama herself so there was plenty to talk about as her brown eyes looked soulishly into mine in expression of her thoughts and feelings.

There’s this boy……” .

What? Her, already?

I listened in amusement. And as I listened, I looked around. People, I love people.

Talk about the guy, girl situation, and there are lots of observations. Middle aged couples sat, seemingly a tad bored, guys on their i-phones while the ladies looked a bit wistful or sat quietly.

But in the corner sat a wrinkled old man, seemingly enthralled with his lady who was wrinkled and old as well. He held her hand, cupped into his, as she shared her heart. The attention he gave her was blissful, the desire for her was obvious.

People joke about men not needing to communicate, but I’ve seen enough men in love to know that they have amazing capacity to dig right into a woman’s heart and get her to be vulnerable with her deepest feelings. The wrinkled old man with his wrinkled old lady, well, he had her leaning forward while he gazed into her face and cupped her hand in his.

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It was the sweetest picture I saw all day. And I saw a lot of sweet ones today.

I saw a one year old digging into his first piece of cake, chubby cheeks smothered in frosting. Pure sweetness.

I saw large, soulish brown eyes looking into my face while dimpled cheeks filled with cotton candy ice cream. I heard her dump her heart. It was sweetness itself.

I saw my nine year old son walk up to the woods with my four year old, dog in tow. The four year old turns and says, “Mama, we will be OK. Don’t worry, Mama.” My heart melted at the sight of them.

I saw a husband bring his wife a plate, then ask if there was anything more she wanted. Sweet thoughtfulness.

But none trumps the comparison of those two middle aged men, bored and preoccupied while sitting with their ladies, and the wrinkled elderly couple who were so in love.

If love grows with age, if wrinkles are a sign of long years together, if old-age love successfully defies the lie that to be loved you must be beautiful, then, well, I guess I’m ready to be old. And I’m thankful that age is not to be feared by Christian women who know that true beauty comes from aligning our hearts with the purposes of God.

The brown eyed, dimple-cheeked daughter may grow older with her worth aligned to truth, that the true essence of a woman is the soul–not the skin.

That true beauty is as beauty does–not as beauty looks.

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That cultivating one’s appearance is healthy while fretting over an appearance you don’t have, is not.

That every woman has beauty to offer, regardless of age or appearance, and we have only to cultivate what has been given us.

That the day of one’s birth has been planned, just as the day of one’s death—and every single day in between is beautiful.

Let her know, just as she does now, that true love grows better, not worse, with years.

Join Me in Shedding Light?

I carefully placed another lamp on the side table, and worked the extension cord over.

Purchasing a large home with not enough light had me roaming the isles of Goodwill in search of lamps, and that day, I was happy to find two matching ones for the living room.

Goodwill boasts of less than beautiful décor, though, so I set them in the garage and painted them lavishly with metallic spray paint. God bless whoever invented the stuff, because it has saved my day!

I pulled at the extension and plugged it in. The lamps burst into a beautiful, soft glow over the living room area, and I was satisfied. Next time we had guests over, I wouldn’t feel like I sat them in the dark.

This week, I’ve been feeling a bit gloomy. Like perhaps my own atmosphere needs a little more light to shed on those around me.

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I’ve been to a conference, and the faces of the staff were healing just to watch. I rarely see joy and clarity light up faces as I saw on the lovely people of Joann Moody’s team. I was mesmerized, struck, drawn in.

I couldn’t wait to be prayed over. Eyes clear as day looked into mine, and life poured out of lips. Life-giving words, confirming words, words that could be known only by the spirit of Christ giving knowledge for someone he didn’t even know.

I came home, all lit up as if my heart was ablaze. And we went back for more.

Something about the Spirit of God had even the kids in tears. The girls don’t usually sit in their chairs at a church service with tears pushing from their eyes. People don’t usually receive words so vital to their lives, so personally tailored to their own lives from someone who has no idea who they are except as he prays by the Spirit of God.

These people pray in the airports; they pray on the streets, they pray everywhere and all the time. And, they love it. There is no duty-bound, guilt-ridden sense of obligation—only a love relationship with the Infinite God Who created the finite world, and holds it all in His hands.

Jesus says to us, people of God, that we are “the light of the world.” He says that when we light a lamp, we don’t put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, so that it lights up the house.

“In the same way,” He says, “Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father Who is in heaven.” [Matthew 5:14-16, ESV]

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He also tells us that we are the salt of the earth, but if our salt has lost its flavor, it’s not good for much except to be thrown out and walked on. [verse 13]

Wow! Thrown out and walked over?

His words echo my heart when I see the name of Christ being claimed while His life isn’t lived, and I see the world turn away in disgust.

Or when someone who claims to be “extra spiritual” goes about hurting others, giving off a distinct sense of self more than casting the light of the person of Jesus Christ to hearts needing a touch of something more than they know.

Could it be worse to claim the name of Christ but not cast the light of Christ, than it is to not claim Him at all?

A false representation of God’s glory is the chiefest cause of people not believing in the glory of God at all.

If we claim the name of Christ, we are to be salt, flavor, light. We are to bring about the better and good in our homes and cities. We are not only to speak life, but to give life.

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Hear this—we are not asked to give rules, but asked to give life. When we give life, those who are touched by that life will be changed by the Life-Giver.

More than ordering your life perfectly, make certain your heart is ablaze with a Presence greater than your own. Make certain His love is pouring out to those around you. Make certain you are changing the atmosphere in which you live, and that, when you enter a room, you cast off light and warmth.

Allow the Spirit of God to dwell in you mightily, and shy not away from bringing His presence with you in your home, at work, in the airports, and on the streets.

If He is truly in you, He will shine His light on all those around you as they look at your countenance and enjoy your presence.

As the lamps shed warmth and light in my living room, so I am to shed light in my atmosphere today. I am to live out the gifts He’s put in. I am to be light, salt, and flavor. I am to touch lives in ways they dare not hope for, because Christ in me is the Giver of Hope.

Friends, join me in shedding light today?

How to Love the Offender But Hate the Offense

What about another person’s sin?

My mind has struggled to grasp how to forgive another while being entirely at odds with what he or she did. And I hear people say, forgiveness doesn’t mean you need to be OK with what happened; forgiveness means you release what happened, and move on.

Forgiveness means we can be entirely not ok with what occurred. We can forgive another without being in relationship with another. We can forgive someone without approving of someone’s actions. We can be entirely upset by the sin, but have a heart of love for the sinner.

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Loving someone doesn’t always mean you’re in relationship with someone. I’ve seen some of the best women need to walk away from relationships because they were destructive in the worst kind of way.

Well-meaning Christians [or the wrong-doer him/herself] imply that if you’d only forgive, everything would be fine. People forget that forgiveness for the offended can happen without the offender changing at all, and if forgiveness means we put ourselves in harm’s way again, we may have a wrong understanding of it for our particular situation.

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Forgiveness is wise.
Forgiveness is safe.
Forgiveness is freeing.

The freedom of forgiveness means you walk in life. If your version of it takes you right back to death, perhaps Christ would want to give you His version instead?

Forgiveness doesn’t imply hiding abuse. Like the one mother who had hidden for her abuser since childhood and was now struggling to know whether her version of forgiveness was the right one, I encouraged her that true love brings things to light so that he has a greater chance of forgiveness before his death.

In the name of forgiveness, she was allowing a child offender to go free—and who knows how many other children were abused because of her willingness to “forgive.”

When we hide for another, we make the sin of another more possible.

Does your version of forgiveness bring you freedom or keep you in fear?

Jesus died for the sin of the entire human race. He forgave, but He still hated the sin so much that He died publicly for it. Sin demands an answer.

Galatians 6: 1-2 says, “If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”

See this—God never asks us to ignore the sin; He asks us to restore the sinner.

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We can be entirely hard on the sin without being unloving toward the sinner. You can be merciless toward the act itself while showing mercy toward the one who committed the act. In this way, sin is dealt with while the soul is loved on. Was not that what Christ did?

Realize that the sin toward yourself is a symptom of great need in another. Rather than react toward the person who failed you, look into his/her life and try to understand the why behind it. Learn to pull out roots more than chop off plants.

When roots are pulled out, the plants don’t grow again. But chopping off the plant while leaving the root cause only ensures the same old plant will sprout back. Many times, those who fail us need us to stick in there and walk back to life with them.

There’s another side as well. Remember Jesus, when He entered the temple and threw the money tables over while demanding everyone get out? This wasn’t so gentle. There are sins that demand firm aggression and an absolute denial of access into our lives.

The Gentle One became strong.
The Meek One became as bold as a lion.
The Loving One refused to tolerate.
And the One Who knows all things didn’t cover for them.

He is the epitome of Love. Look to Him for an example of how to show love, and how to forgive. Realize that even the Son of God didn’t allow sin to pass by unchecked, and for people to benefit from His offer of reconciliation, they must also accept His offer to help them change.

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Forgive another, and walk with them to healing—but know that, when you need to, you can also forgive and never walk with them again. For one sinner, Jesus walked, talked, and graciously continued relationship; for another, He overthrew tables and demanded them to leave.

Neither one had Him locked in bitterness. The Son of Man walks free regardless of what happens around Him, and so can you. Simply know His heart for each person and each situation, and He will show you what you need to do.

Simply know this—in either case, you are free.