Welcome to our Christmas Holiday edition.
For those of you who follow our monthly writings, thank you. Your readership means a lot to me. As you know, each month we have been talking about the challenges we face as landscapers in converting our client’s yard into something that is uniquely theirs and uniquely beautiful. It takes time, thought, questions, and creativity, but by not hurrying the process, the end result are the pictures that I have been pleased to show you. Life is like that. It takes time to raise a child, to be a good spouse, and to develop your skills at work. Also, it takes an act of one’s will to keep moving forward in life and not become trapped in negative emotions.
This year’s Christmas article was a personal challenge for me; not in writing it, but whether to write on a new topic, or because of all the responses from last year, to allow The Gift that Heals to run again. The topic of the article deals with the harder side of life, which is an area that is always difficult, and knowing several people who are right now dealing with this, my decision became clearer. So, allow this article to be like a “diagnostic test” for you to check the health of your soul, for this is one area that can cripple us and rob us of any joy or peace or love of life we might have. And I would prefer us to enjoy the holidays to the fullest and not be hindered. Also, I would invite you to read Part II of this article, Heaven’s Hope, Grace Unmeasured, by going to our website and clicking on publications. Scroll to December and click on Part II. I promise you it will be more than worth the read.
Now let’s get started. As a landscaper, it has been my privilege to build relationships with our clients and their families. Over the course of a project, I am blessed to become a friend, at times a counselor or an encourager, and in some cases even “Uncle Arthur” to the children. That is how I come to you today, not as a professional, but as a friend. We will not talk about the gardens we plant but rather the “garden of our soul.” I will be sharing my faith with you—the beliefs that guide my life.
Like a garden, our souls need tending. We can get weeds (attitudes), we need pruning (character development), and we all like water and fertilizer (love and encouragement). Today, I want to talk about a weed that can devastate our relationships, be it spouse-to-spouse, parent-to-child, friend-to-friend, neighbor-to-neighbor, or coworker-tocoworker. In agricultural terms, it would be classified as a “noxious weed,” which means that it is so incredibly invasive and hard to control that it must be eradicated at all cost. It is a weed that if left unchecked could ruin the whole crop. One of the most “noxious soul weeds” is the weed of resentment.
Resentment has one face, but it can be sown into our soul through many means. The “seed” is a personal offense—someone has offended me in speech or action. It could be someone close to me, like a family member or friend or a coworker or neighbor— but in one form or another “my rights” were violated. Something was taken that was not given or injured and not made right. Sometimes people are not even aware that they have offended us. In other cases, the wound is inflicted more purposefully. Either way, we can seek to “pull the weed” or let it spread. In medical terms, we can “treat the wound” or let it fester. A festering wound is the soil in which resentment becomes a noxious weed.
Webster offers several definitions to describe resentment, including, “exhibiting intense animosity” and “rawness.” If these deeply intense feelings were physical weights on one’s shoulders, it would be like trying to carry ten pieces of fullypacked luggage on our backs and under our arms for the whole of our life! How inhibiting and emotionally exhausting that would be, and we definitely would be rubbed raw. At times, we may even wonder how the situation got so out of hand. Well, just like in gardening, to be inactive is to allow the weeds to be active. Unkindness breeds unkindness and resentment breeds resentment; bitterness breeds bitterness and hatred breeds hatred, and there is no end to it. It is a poison that runs deep and contaminates much beyond the borders of two people. It even affects “nontarget relationships” (an agricultural term describing damage done outside the target area). In other words, our resentment hurts others not directly related to the situation, bringing more injury to ourselves and creating barriers to other meaningful relationships. If you are honest with yourself, you know this to be true. Resentment is always there, only a thought away. It makes us snappy, impatient, angry, and in general a pain to be around. We become a burden, instead of a burden lifter; our presence alone becomes a weight to others. Some of us learn to compartmentalize our hurts, and as long as we stay away from that person or from thoughts of them, we do alright. At least that’s what we think. In reality, it’s like running a complex software program while working in another; it weighs down the overall performance of the computer. Our souls are no different; emotional energy is being expended.
As “unworthy” a person may be of forgiveness, to not forgive and contaminate or potentially ruin other relationships that could bring you happiness and enjoyment is not wise. Regardless of whether the offender has asked for forgiveness, forgive for your sake. Let the bitterness and resentment stay in the past. Why bring it into the present? Allow the love of others to come into your soul, diluting the poison that still remains. Resentment and bitterness only keep YOU captive. It is much better to engage in life again, for behind the bars of bitterness, surely what flicker of life is left will soon go out, leaving only a darkened soul.
I know I’ve said a lot, and I can hear some of you say, “If only I could…” Some wounds which we carry are so deep, they seem impossible to release. I understand, so let me share with you a story that might help. It is a parable that Jesus told.
The story involves a ruler and a servant, but it starts with a question from Peter regarding forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35). Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” (Peter thought he was being generous.) Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” In other words, there is no limit.
To illustrate his answer, Jesus told this parable: “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents (millions of dollars) was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had to be sold to repay the debt (this was common practice). The servant fell on his knees before him. Be patient with me, he begged, and I will pay back everything.”
Now, as a side note, the servant’s words are just words in a time of great difficulty. There was no way this servant would ever be able to pay back such an astronomical debt. He was obviously a servant with authority, one of position under the master, but he was a terrible steward with what he was entrusted. Undoubtedly, he was spending the master’s money to his benefit. You might say he was a thief with royal protection until now that his stewardship is brought into question. Yet, “The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.”
If you’ve never heard the story before, I am sure the master’s response came as a surprise. You would also think that the servant who had been forgiven so much would be a changed man. Let’s see: “But when the servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii (a few dollars in comparison). He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’” The servant refused. Instead, he had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.
The servant’s hard-heartedness and incredible lack of mercy is incomprehensible. He could not find it in his heart to forgive a fellow servant, an equal; the greatness of his own pardon had not been valued. So when the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything. Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said. “I canceled all your debt because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” In anger the master turned him over the jailers until he should pay back all he owed. The servant’s lack of mercy came back to judge him, and found guilty, he will spend the rest of his days in jail.
So let’s ask some questions. In the story, who is the master? The master is God. And who is the servant with the enormous debt? We are the servant. Finally, who is the other servant? He is our fellow man, whether a spouse, child, coworker or friend. The point that Jesus was teaching was if God, who is Holy and Just can see to forgive a repentant heart, who are we not to forgive one another. If the Greater forgives the lesser, should not the lesser forgive his or her equal? Indeed, which of us has not offended; which of us is so much better than the rest that we can stand as judge? As stated, who are we hurting by not forgiving? We are only hurting ourselves. How much better it is to forgive! How good it feels to forgive, to release the offense, and to seek peace. It’s healing to our inner being and to the fractured relationship—a fresh breath on life. Why would I want to keep all that poison inside? Would it not be to my betterment to “forgive my fellow servant”? For before a Holy God, we all stand guilty. Not one of us is holy, just, and without sin. We are all like the servant who owed much more than he could ever repay. Yet, God is willing to forgive us completely.
The Bible teaches that God is not only willing to forgive, but also that He forgets our sins when we confess them unto Him. He who would have every right to keep record does not. In Isaiah, Chapter 1, Verse 18, God speaks tenderly to His people saying, “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as (white as) wool…” Amazing! The Creator God wants to come to reason with His creation! Yet, as incredible as that is, it is true. The divine mercy He offers is the key to us becoming a more merciful person. For once you experience the graciousness of God and His forgiveness and love for you, you understand how much grace we all need. Giving The Gift that Heals begins with receiving it, and by receiving it and being changed by it, we in turn are able to extend it. So let’s get the weed of resentment out of our souls and begin to live life.
Thank you so much for spending your time with me. What better way to enjoy your landscape creations and one another than to know the Creator of All. Have a wonderful Christmas, and if I can be of help, do not hesitate to email me at email@example.com or call me.
I will be at the Northern Cal Expo show in January, sharing a booth with Patio Perfections in the Landscapers building. I would love to meet you personally. May God richly bless you, as we journey into 2012. *Part 2 (Heaven’s Hope, Grace Unmeasured) will be posted soon.