Today’s guest post is by Elyse Fitzpatrick, author of the new book Found in Him. Fitzpatrick has authored more than 15 books and has been a women’s counselor since 1989.
Let’s face it—it’s utterly impossible to be in a relationship with anyone, no matter how responsible they are, without, at some point, finding yourself holding the bag for their mistakes. You know what I mean: a family member or very close friend is about to make a terrible decision and although you warn and plead with them, and try to paint a picture of how life will be impacted by their foolishness, they go ahead with the decision. And then when your prediction occurs, you find yourself having to clean up their mess.
When I suspect that the proverbial bag is headed towards me, everything within me screams, “It’s not fair! It’s simply not fair that their stubborn foolishness is leaving me with mud on my face or a hole in my wallet.”
And it’s at those moments when I see again—and to my shame—what a moralist I remain. My heart is still very much bent in on the rules. Here’s how my thinking goes: I’ve been good. I’ve worked hard. I’ve said “no” to foolishness. I deserve a life free of bad consequences. It’s not fair! I warned them. They made their bed; they should sleep in it. Why should my reputation be ruined for their sake?
And then, when it becomes apparent that I have to pull their covers up over my miserable head, I complain and complain and complain. There is a price to be paid for every little drop of blood that they squeeze out of this turnip heart of mine, and the price is my kindness and love. OK, I’ll cover for you again . . . but you’re going to pay. I’m going to take care of this debt you owe, but you owe me now.
It’s not that I mind helping people who are victims of disaster or injustice. It’s that I have a hard time holding the bag for people who I see as victims of their own stupidity. It’s not fair!
And then thankfully, by God’s grace, I remember. I remember how many times he pulled my covers up over his head and wrapped himself in my guilt and shame. I remember that he is not ashamed to call me his child. Think of that. For 33 years he actually lived perfectly—a fact I so frequently dismiss. He had a perfect reputation. He never sinned. He never made a foolish decision. But he submitted to his Father’s will and allowed his perfect reputation to be ruined for me. He says, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Wait a moment—do I really not know what I’m doing when I sin, or might I have my own areas of stubborn foolishness?
But he loves and keeps on loving. Not just once or every six months or only when our problem is not our fault, but over and over every moment of every day. And he never cries, “It’s not fair!” In fact, I’m pretty convinced that those three words probably ought to be expunged from my vocabulary.
And only this thought—that he stood in my place, that he was left there on Calvary holding the bag for me—has the power to make me lay down all my complaints and proclamations of “But it’s not fair!” and say, “Here I am Lord, a sinner standing in need of your mercy. Please help be me be merciful as well.”