When 70 x 7 Adds Up In a Hurry

Seventy times seven, Jesus said. On the one hand, a figurative number. A digit on the scoreboard that will never be needed. A number that makes me feel magnanimous as I engage in the various relationships of my mostly like-and-be-liked life. On the other hand, the couple of relationships that make me question why Jesus didn’t use a higher number for his example, the grievances add up so fast. Relationships that have somehow become slow cookers of resentment, confrontation being out of the question for one reason or another. Relationships that grate upon the most sensitive nerves I have with ease and regularity. Relationships that have fueled a slow-burning anger, the depth of which I had no idea I was capable.

As I have grappled with these relationships, I have earnestly sought to understand how to let go. To forgive. For selfish reasons, mostly. I don’t derive any enjoyment from the grudges; they are the cloud in my sunshine, depriving me of peace of mind and even the occasional good night’s rest (why yes, I do sometimes tell people off in my sleep). I also know what a spiritual hindrance they have become. I do not like to face my natural ungodliness in this form, and it is far too easy to blame others for rousing these passions rather than dealing with what lurks in my own heart. I am grieved, profoundly, to see that I wish far more heartily for justice than for mercy; to know that I would prefer to be right, and be known to be right, than to be reconciled. And still it is a burden I cannot seem to shed.

A friend just recently shared a powerful, hit-you-between-the-eyes quote from C.H. Spurgeon: “He who speaks with an ill tongue about his neighbor has an ill heart; rest assured of that. Let us engage in our Christian career with the full assurance that we will have a great deal to forgive in other people, but there will be a great deal more to be forgiven in ourselves. Let us count on having to exercise gentleness, and needing its exercise from others. ‘Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.'” Little wonder that I have been overwhelmed by trying to “manage” or “overcome” my feelings; they are symptoms and not the disease. I’ve spent far too much time sizing up the wrong set of offenses. How can I open my heart to Christ in fellowship while closing it to others in resentment? Oh God, help me see past the “great deal” to the difference between it and the “great deal more”…


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