This battle has been raging within me for years - a constant source of frustration, and a constant catalyst to put me on my knees in front of the One who knows me inside and out.
The frustration comes from not having full control - because the battle involves another human.
And as we all know, we cannot control others. We cannot determine their responses, their attitudes, or their emotions. We can only control our own.
Which is why I always ask myself the same question when involved in a difficult relationship:
When I stand before the Lord and He asks me, "Michelle, did you do EVERYTHING you could to show love and respect to this person, and live at peace with them? Is there anything else you could have done to show them My love? My forgiveness? My grace?"
If the answer is, "No, Lord. I have not done everything I could." then I know I have work to do.
And I really hate giving that answer because it means I am about to be tossed into a very hot fire so the Lord can purge the selfishness, disobedience, and unwillingness to love my enemy out of me. It is always painful and uncomfortable, and feels like I am NEVER going to be released from the heat of the flames.
But He does pull me out - when He sees that I no longer look like myself, but reflect His image instead.
I hate giving the answer, "No, Lord, I have not done everything I could," because I want to stand blameless before Him. Not guilty or ashamed.
But I will never be able to stand blameless before a holy God because of anything I have done. My greatest efforts and any success in righteous living will fall short. I can show love, offer forgiveness, live at peace, be kind, show mercy, extend grace, and speak kindly all the live-long day - yet none of them erase my frailty, my weakness, or my sin.
You see, I have been striving for the wrong thing!
I forgot what I already know!
The Lord knows I can't obey Him perfectly every day. He knows how weak my flesh is, how often I serve self, refusing to surrender to Him. He see my efforts, hears my prayers, and knows my pain. He knows I want to do what is right. He knows I want to stand in Him COMPLETE.
And that is the part I forgot! I already DO!
I will not stand blameless before the God of heaven and earth because I did everything I could to obey Him and live in harmony with others.
I will stand blameless because of the blood of Jesus Christ that was willingly and wonderfully shed for me. For my sins. Upon a cross.
At that very moment - when the weight of every sin pressed down upon His shoulders - I was forgiven! Set free! No longer condemned!
And the day I accepted the free gift of salvation from a God who did not have to give me anything, I became an heir to all of His promises. And you know what? The very thing I have wanted for so long, the thing I was striving for in every difficult relationship when I had to check myself - it was already mine!
Standing before the Lord,
Not because of me - but because of HIM.
Oh, brothers and sisters ... what an encouragement this is! What JOY! What mercy! What LOVE!
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude :24
He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I Corinthians 1:8,9
Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. I Thessalonians 3:13
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it. I Thessalonians 5:23,24