Our spitting frog, Jackson as I decided to name him, has become especially endearing over the years. Some years, the pond has been home to real frogs. They seem to get a kick out of standing right next to our spitting frog. Birds of all types have discovered the pond, squirrels too, and many of them have figured out that if they stand on Jackson’s head, they can lean down quite handily and drink abundantly from the rainbow-curved stream emanating from the Jackson’s mouth.
But quite often, we notice Jackson’s stream becoming less abundant and vigorous. If left for a while in that state, it quickly gets to be an unimpressive dribble, before finally stopping altogether – often when mowed grass finds its way into the pond, or when twitters or leaves fall from the trees and scatter around in the pond. When this happens, some of the creatures that come to the pond have trouble getting water. The pond becomes stagnant, a breeding ground for mosquitos and algae. It gets a bit cloudy, and doesn’t seem to reflect the sun as brilliantly. David then, bless his heart, dutifully goes out to do the all-important job of unclogging the frog, restoring the bursting forth of flowing water once again.
In the same way as Jackson, the wellspring of our life has a tendency to get clogged. Sometimes, if we aren’t paying close attention, we may not even realize the flow has been compromised because it can happen so gradually.
All sorts of things come at us every day that can gunk up the works. Not grass or twitters or leaves. But maybe something has happened that caused disappointment or frustration. Maybe someone said something that was hurtful. Maybe we feel badly about the way we handled a situation. Perhaps feeling lonely, misunderstood, neglected or unappreciated has beaten us down.
If not dealt with, these things can lead to anger, resentment and even bitterness. It works like this: If, instead of letting hurt go, we choose to ruminate about it, in effect, we are clearing off a generous space in our hearts for it. It moves in, takes up residence in our hearts and become bitterness in our lives. And I have never met a bitter person who is not also a very miserable person. It’s amazing that people can carry this kind of heavy stuff around, sometimes not for hours or days or weeks, which is bad enough, but for decades, even for a lifetime. The mere mention or thought of that person who you feel did you wrong is enough to make your body tense up, and the bad feelings to rise up full force.
The rumination effect also comes in when we did something we shouldn’t have, or, didn’t do something we should have done. Instead of pointing outward at someone else, we point the condemning finger inward, to ourselves. So guilt rises up, and that is yet another burden that can weigh us down, choking off the wellspring of our lives, the flow of God’s spirit coursing through us.
God wants to pour abundant blessings into our hearts, and makes unfathomable grace and mercy available to us. This grace is a balm when we need healing, a fortress when we need protection, a new beginning when we need to embrace the present and have hope for the future. God stands ready to forgive us of anything we need forgiveness for, and to forget. This grace God stands ready to pours into our spirit to refresh, and revitalize our river of life, filling us with love to dwell in, and spread around to others. When God’s spirit moves in and through us easily and freely, life is very beautiful. We literally radiate God’s love in the way we speak and move in the world. Every living thing our lives touch receives a blessing. Our very life gives life.
There are many blessings waiting for each of us every day, no matter how old or young we are, no matter what our circumstances, no matter how we feel about our lives. God pours blessings into our heart, refreshing our wellspring, and we take these in with our senses. We take them in through wisdom God whispers to us. We take them in through the promises God makes to us through prayer and scripture.
Yet, picture a cup. A gorgeous, special gold chalice -- as your heart. If our hearts are filled with gunk, when God pours in the blessings, our cup may not be able to receive all the good stuff being poured in. What a shame. We might actually miss some great gifts God has in store for us. Blessings that build us up so we draw closer to God, and so we are equipped to care for others. Not to mention, a gorgeous special gold chalise all gunked up surely can’t be a very pretty site, to us, or to God who made us.
The way to keep the flow the life-giving Spirit offers us is to de-gunk often, on a daily basis. Don’t let the sun go down on your own guilt, or anger towards someone else. You may think, “that sounds reasonable, Lisa, but how exactly do I do it”? Well, here is a way I’ve found to be effective.
When you go to bed, before you fall asleep, start meditating on some of the many blessings you received from God that day – all of the ways the goodness of God has seeped into your life.
Then, think about anything you need to ask God to forgive you for, and ask for that forgiveness. It might be the way you reacted to something – with word or action, or it might be your attitude, your assumptions. It may seem little or big, but ask the Holy Spirit to examine your heart and call up everything that may not be perfect in God’s sight.
Then, take in God’s wisdom of how to do it differently going forward, and commit yourself to that different course of action.
If there is someone who has riled up hurt or anger in you, forgive them. Let it go. Say, “God, if you can forgive me for all the things I haven’t gotten right, surely I can forgive this person.” Then ask God to fill you with love for that person. And finally, pray for him or her. Bring to God help for the problems you know the person is experiencing or has experienced. Thank God for the gifts that person brings to the world, and name them specifically. Breathe deeply, and resume thanking God for your blessings.
You may be thinking, “Yes, Lisa, but they don’t deserve my forgiveness.” Do you and I deserve the forgiveness of God? No. Yet over and over and over again, God offers forgiveness to us when we don’t deserve it. Or, perhaps you are thinking, “I may be willing to forgive, but this person isn’t sorry he or she hurt me. Shouldn’t they at least have the decency to ask MY forgiveness, acknowledge THEIR wrong?” I’m telling you, maybe so, but IT DOESN’T MATTER. Because on the cross, Jesus said, “Forgive them, they know not what they do.” He didn’t wait for anyone to ask for forgiveness. And if you are waiting for justice, the Lord says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” No, we need to take the high road and de-clutter the rooms in our hearts by forgiving anyone and everyone who has offended us.
God says, “I will give you beauty for ashes.” We don’t need to keep on mourning about what went wrong, because the truth is that God can bring good out of everything – knowledge, wisdom, perspective we would not have had before, and new beginnings. God can enlarge your personal influence because of what you’ve been through and strengthen your ministry. God can use your testimony to give courage to another person, and set that person free. No bad circumstance you and I have been through can circumvent God’s good plans for our lives. No person who hurt us needs to poison our present and future. We are going to need an un-gunked cup to hold all of the incredible things God has in store for us.
So I invite you to do something very important. I invite you to look unafraid into your heart right now. Is there someone you need to forgive? Walking through life is challenging enough. We don’t need to hold a heavy suitcase in each hand filled with regret and unforgiveness from the past. Some of you know very specifically what I’m talking about. There is someone in your life that you need to forgive. Don’t leave today without doing it.
Then you will be able to walk out into the brightness of the day, light and not pulled down, living as God has asked us to live, ready to receive a full measure of abundant grace, and abundant blessings. And inside of you, there will be a fresh bubbling up, a river of life, flowing, unencumbered, spreading love that is both brilliant and beautiful. This is God’s will for each of you today.