Friday, January 9, 2009

I will Gather No More of Your Bitter Fruit

"(Heb 12:15) watching diligently that not any lack from the grace of God, that "no root of bitterness growing up" may crowd "in on you", and through this many be defiled;" LITV
Yesterday I was in an "e-conversation" with some folks and the topic arose about a certain judge here in Nashville who hears all the divorce cases, but who shall remain nameless. She also heard my divorce 9 years ago and all the motions hence. She is retiring after 30 years on the bench. I'm not going to comment on Her Honor except to say she is certainly a polarizing figure and she has certainly left her indelible mark on the lives of thousands of folks through the years. Each one of those people would tell you a very different tale I am sure. Some love her, the truth is most do not. I am neutral, at least right now. I have a life to live and 7 more years under the regulation of that court and I don't need to put myself in danger of tainting future decisions by saying the wrong things.
I was reading some comments online last night at the website of a local "scene" newspaper and the topic was this judge. The bitterness was palpable and the stories were very sad. Lots of people, men and women, who she had ruled against, were venting their frustrations and anger with her perceived wrongs in their respective cases. Someone I was communicating with asked me via e-mail why he was more angry about this stuff than I was and he had never been divorced, nor been in her courtroom. I didn't have an answer for him except that I wanted to be careful what I said in the public domain because Nashville is a small town and you never know who might cut and paste.
But the truth is that, while I have often been bewildered at some of her rulings, and her most recent one all but ruined my life for a while, I am not bitter and I don't hate her. Maybe I should. Lord knows I've gotten the wrong end of a lot of her decisions. but through the 9 years since my divorce, I have had to be careful about crossing the line between wounded and hurting...and bitterness.
Bitterness is that thing that gets inside you and sets up a job trailer as it starts construction on a castle. Bitterness needs to even the score and right every perceived wrong immediately. Bitterness overlooks my faults and failures because I am so angry at yours.
I love the LITV interpretation of that verse above, the image of the root of bitterness growing up, and crowding in on you in the process. If you let it, bitterness will take every square inch of your heart. The end result is those tragic men we see who show up at the home or workplace of their estranged ex wife and kill her, then the kids, then themselves. Is that automatically your lot if you stay bitter? No. Of course not. But I am certain that tragic ending has it's beginning in a bitter root left unpulled. The more likely scenario is we begin to become more outwardly bitter as all the internal room is used up. Our speech, our temperament, our actions, our social skills. They all begin to ooze a palpable bitterness that isolates us further and further from others at a time when others are exactly who we need. If you let this go on and on it becomes ugly to our friends and our kids. Lots of kids don't want any sort of a relationship with one or both of their parents after a while because there is so much visible, tangible bitterness. Dad has become "the grumpy mean old man down the street" and they don't really want to see him anymore. We can end up losing that one precious thing we love above all else...our children.
So what is the secret? I guess I had it and didn't even know it. That sounds pious, so let me explain further. I certainly wrestled with bitterness almost on a daily basis. I still do. The verse, upon closer examination, doesn't say there shouldn't be any bitterness, it warns against letting the root of the bitterness grow unchecked. My ex does things on a weekly basis that throw fertilizer on that root. If not for the first part of that verse I'd be over the edge by now. believe me, I've come close. But read the opening line of that verse.
"watching diligently that not any lack from the grace of God,". It's the Grace of God! God's grace is my only defense against the bitter root that wants to run wild in my heart and choke out the fruit of the Spirit. Left to my own devices, I'd be a nut in a clock tower with an assault rifle. If not literally than at least figuratively. So the answer to my friend, as to why this judge is not in my "cross hairs" of hatred and bitterness is simply that God's grace is sufficient. I don't know how. God knows my temper is incendiary at times. I think part of His grace was letting me see how I need to surrender the hurt to Him and let Him make something beautiful from it. It was a harder choice than it sounds. I didn't like letting go of my anger and bitterness. The high road isn't very satisfying if revenge is your goal.
Listen dads...I know there are a lot of you out there who have been deeply wounded by your ex wife, her boyfriend, the way she tries to turn the kids on you, and especially the inequities of the family court system. "Disenfranchised Father Syndrome" is real and it hurts everyone. But your choice is either deal with the bitter root by applying the grace of a loving God...or give it room to grow and watch everything else eventually die in it's place. God does care! He hurts along with you. All I can tell you is what worked for me...take responsibility for whatever your portion of the marital failure was, don't expect your ex to take responsibility for hers because you don't need that to happen in order to move on (no matter what your heart tells you). Forgive yourself! That's the hard one. I wrestled with that for years. Both parties sinned against each other...unless yours is an extreme circumstance. Then ask God to apply His grace generously. Be honest with Him about your hurts and watch the change begin to take place. Your kids are watching you, Dad. They will deal with future setbacks and disappointments exactly the way you do now. Show them a mature, forgiving, gracious father who overcomes and rises above. Show them Jesus and his Grace.
Have a great day dads!

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