“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
I was in my office, at a former church about 20 years ago, when Lauren, my five year old daughter, came running in tearfully confessing to some disagreement with one of our youth. She was nearly hysterical, explaining that Sarah, a 16 year old girl, had a bloody nose and that she, Lauren, was somehow responsible.
My daughter was a typical little girl. She loved playing with little ponies, flowers, blocks. She was sugar and spice, certainly having no history of a strong right cross. Sobbing, she led me to Sarah in another part of the office, her hand cupped under her nose and growing little pool of blood in her hand, a stunned look on her face.
Sending Lauren to a neutral corner, I focused on Sarah, staunched the blood flow and listened as she graciously explained that it was weird accident. The details are fuzzy, but somehow Lauren had unintentionally hit the end of Sarah’s nose, perhaps caught her with a fingernail, resulting in a bleeding nose. Lauren said she was sorry, end of story.
Not so fast.
On arriving home, Lauren was still quite upset. The details of the story had not changed. It was simply an accident, but Lauren felt guilty and that her apology had not been sincere enough. The youth were having a get-together at another house, so I suggested we go over there and Lauren could apologize again. It was really not necessary, and completely unimportant to me, but Lauren kept going back and forth about whether to go and make additional apologies. She would be embarrassed to go over there, she would feel guilty if she didn’t. I suggested she go ahead and apologize again, and relieve her over-sensitive conscience. This went on for about a half hour. Fun stuff.
Finally, we drove over to the house. Lauren was a nervous wreck. Sarah came out, puzzled about the purpose f the visit. Lauren said she was really sorry. Sarah was a jewel, assuring Lauren that she was just fine, that it simply been an accident, and she was not even thinking about it. She hugged Lauren and went back to the youth group.
Walking back to the car Lauren was floating on air. “I feel sooooo much better.” “Wow, I feel so good.” Over and over. My daughter parses emotions deeply, meaningfully, and sometimes endlessly. Bottom line, she felt great.
Now it was certainly a small matter, the product of an over-sensitive conscience. Lauren had committed no sin. She did not need to seek forgiveness, but there was a lesson there about what to do when the matters get bigger.
When I’m struggling about some issue, trying to discern the best way forward, I am almost always going to do what is easier for me, but if my choice is not the right one, then things get harder. For Lauren, staying at the house was easier. Just let the matter drop. But in her little mind, things kept getting worse and she struggled with guilt.
On the other hand, if I do the hard thing of confessing, offering an apology, or taking a risk that honors God things get much easier. For Lauren, going over there was hard and nerve-wracking, but then the relief was so palpable she couldn’t stop talking about it.
The principle is clear and applies for any age: My will at first is easier then gets harder. God’s will at first is harder, then gets easier.
I can usually tell what is God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will by how I initially feel. Short-term comfort is my goal for me, but never God’s goal for me. He’s not in the business of insulating me from pain and difficulty in the short run, if that pain and difficulty can teach me joy and peace in the long-run.
This week, don’t be afraid of making the overdue apology or the challenging commitment. It will be uncomfortable, possibly embarrassing, or worse. But if it is right, then relief and gratitude will result. That is God’s will for you.
Dr. Terry Ellis
November 9, 2014