There are two sides to every story…
It’s true. Any time there is more than one person involved, you will have at least two versions of what happened, two views of the same experience.
It’s no different with my marriage and divorce. Recently, I was confronted with a situation that brought me face-to-face with “the other side of the story.” I had often heard whispers of my ex-husband’s version, but never had it slapped me in the face as it did this time. I had often speculated about accusations of being controlling, unsupportive, critical. I can reconcile those accusations easily knowing my side of the story.
But, what I never dreamed was that apparently I had two affairs of my own. Those people who know me will know how laughable this accusation is. They know how hard I fought to forgive, to keep my marriage together. They saw the agony I went through as I tried to keep my focus on God and begged Him to save my marriage. They know the hurt and pain I endured and the struggle I had in deciding to finally walk away.
And, they know the opportunity I had in those final months of my marriage to have an affair of my own. And, they know how after a week of sneaking around to talk to and text this man I came to my senses and walked away. And, they know how his wife (who had multiple affairs) used me as an excuse to end their marriage. And, they know how AFTER my husband was out of the house I found myself running to this man for comfort and security. And, they know how God called me to return to Him for my security. And, they know how I finally surrendered to the One who relentlessly pursued me. And, they know how I have never looked back.
When this accusation was brought to my attention, I realized just how much bitterness is still tucked deep within my heart. Despite my efforts to forgive and get rid of the anger and bitterness, I realize that these accusations have uncovered the true condition of my heart.
And, it’s not pretty.
As I struggled to fight the anger and pain inflicted by these accusations, I happened across Hebrews 12:14-15—a verse that I’ve known for many years:
Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.
I really strive to live at peace with all people. I don’t like conflict, and I will do whatever I can to resolve it. I desire to live a holy life, and I try never to set any wicked thing before my eyes. I long to see the Lord, so I strive to live a life set apart for my Savior! I do my best to encourage others because I want the world to know God’s redeeming love and power.
So far, so good…right?
Suddenly, the author begins to step on my toes. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you.
Ouch! That one hurts!
It seems as if the author is saying that we can do everything right, but we can be derailed by a root of bitterness. Outwardly, we are living the perfect life; inwardly, bitterness is eating away, causing our life to decay.
A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart… What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45
Why is it that God always goes back to the heart? It would be so much easier to deal with my outward actions.
God wants my heart more than my actions. The Old Testament says don’t commit adultery; Jesus says don’t look at a woman lustfully or you have committed adultery in the heart. The Old Testament says do not murder; Jesus says don’t even be angry with your brother. The law says love your neighbor; Jesus says love your enemies.
Ugh! I want to pull my hair out!
Is it really necessary to get rid of every ounce of anger and bitterness?
If I’m honest, I know it is best. I have seen the result of anger in my life, how I find myself in bondage to that bitterness. I have seen how the enemy steals, kills, and destroys life when I allow bitterness to eat at my heart.
And, I have experienced the freedom—the abundant life—that comes as a result of forgiveness. I want to walk in freedom, so I must desire to let go of the bitterness.
But, I thought I was free. I thought I had forgiven. I thought I had released the bitterness.
Apparently, there’s still a little root that continues to dig in and refuse to die. I know that I must get rid of every drop of bitterness because if I leave any of it, it will just continue to grow. I have to find a way to dig that root out so that it doesn’t find some fertile soil the next time I am offended.
But the ultimate question remains: How do I remove the root of bitterness?
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36
Is this a key? Do I have a vision problem? Jesus looked at the crowds—crowds of religious folk, liars, adulterers, murderers. He looked at a crowd of people, many who were trying to trap Him and persecute Him. He looked at a crowd that He knew would eventually crucify him.
And He had compassion on them. He saw them as harassed and helpless. He longed to be a shepherd to those sheep wandering aimlessly.
So, am I supposed to have compassion on the man who betrayed me in the deepest and most intimate way possible? Am I supposed to see the man who is maliciously spreading lies about me as a helpless and harassed sheep? Am I supposed to extend grace and mercy to the man who rejected me—even though I dedicated my entire life to being a helpmate to him?
Yes, I am.
I realize I’m not there yet. I realize that in and of myself, I am completely incapable of this type of vision. I recognize that again God will have to step up and do a mighty work in me. It is something only God can do. And, I’m begging Him to again do a mighty work in my heart.
Lord Jesus, I realize that there is a root of bitterness still in my heart. I want it out! I want to see my ex-husband with your eyes—as a harassed, helpless sheep in need of your mercy and grace. I want to be an instrument of your love. Only you can give me the vision to see him in this way. Only you can change my heart. Let me see him through your eyes.