Unforgiveness & How Soon You Wash the Dish

Dishes get dirty.

Some meals (say, a ham sandwich with some Lays and an apple) leave almost no crumbs. But while we eat meals like that from time to time, we also all eat meals (say, spaghetti & meatballs with salad & dressing, or oatmeal with brown sugar and drizzled maple syrup) where our dish ends up dirty.

Relationships, especially everyday relationships, are like that dish.

Day in, day out, week in, week out, getting used.

Sometimes that dish can be brushed right off. It was used, but if you look at it, you can hardly tell. But in any dish that's really being USED, the time comes that you're going to have to wash it. The mess is ugly, and everyone looking on knows it.

Every dish gets that way from time to time.

Every relationship gets that way too.

Forgiveness is when the dish is made clean. The old has gone, and the mess is no longer where the focus is.

Dishes weren't made to be relics that show just how dirty they once got. Relationships aren't made to be relics that tell the story of just how sinful he was, just how sinful she was, just how sinful I was, just how sinful you were.

Dishes are made to serve up meals that enable growth. Relationships are also made for growth... to fortify and strengthen us, to sharpen and shape us, to nourish and encourage us for the journey, and biblically, to propel us Godward.

Dishes are much easier to wash when the mess is freshly made.

And I think forgiveness can be like that too.

When Doug & I argue, there may be a short time where we need to breathe deeply and remind ourselves to let love carry the day, but we forgive before the night is out, and we keep accounts short. It's easier to wash the dish right away than to let it sit and harden.

The mess is easier to clean up when it's not also hardened and stinky and germ-infested.

Unforgiveness is like using your bowl for oatmeal and setting it on the counter. There's a mess in there and you know it. It's hardening by the minute.

The problem is that that relationship still exists and needs to be used. So you pick it back up but- "UGH! There's a mess in there. I hate this bowl. I hate this stench."- but you go on and pour your cornflakes because you need to eat. Pretty soon that same bowl is back in that same spot but now there's some bits of cornflake stuck on there too. Hardening.

Before long it's time to eat some soup and so you- "gulp"- get over your grossed-out-ness and grab the bowl. Now you're sucking down mold and bits of whatever that was from a few breakfasts ago, everytime you eat.

Unforgiveness does that to us.

We keep choking on the thing that hurt us ages ago because we didn't deal with it rightly. We didn't work through it. We didn't choose love in action. We didn't choose to walk in health and peace and biblical reconciliation. And so we keep choking and hurting and being grossed out and angry by the thing that ultimately, we should have dealt with through forgiveness.

Well, we all have done this (at least a little bit) in real life, haven't we? Dishes can get nasty dirty and the food seems utterly cemented on... while it appears impossible and we could kill ourselves trying to scrape that dadgum 3-day-old-spaghetti sauce OFF the plate, that's not ultimately the answer. No.

What has to happen? The dish needs to soak and soften.

We can be that way too-- we can scrape and work and weary ourselves trying to drum up some kind of human forgiveness, or we can stop. We can soak ourselves, washing ourselves in the water of the Word, ruminating around in the messages of our Lord-- "forgive us as we forgive those who have sinned against us," (which means according to the same measure that we forgive) "forgive from your heart," "be reconciled" -- reminding ourselves of the great forgiveness we ourselves have received.

This. THIS is what changes our hearts and makes us forgivers.

Let me encourage you, and let me challenge myself... make it a habit to "wash your dishes" soon after they get "dirty." It's so much easier that way. It truly is EASIER. Forgive your husband. Forgive your mother-in-law. Forgive the friend that hurt you. Forgive your sister or brother.


Today is a new day for each of us. Be-- become-- a person known for forgiving.


Charisa said...

Thank you for writing this. I needed to hear it.

Kristen said...

This is amazing...mind if I link to it on my blog? Such a good time to hear this wonderful message...but to be honest, I tend to love all your posts!

Jess Connell said...

Kristen, Thanks! Link away!

Sharon Mavis said...

I love that picture of unforgiveness being like eating off a dirty plate. Thanks so much. I'll be quoting you.

I've always heard unforgiveness described as a prisoner situation with the prisoner being ME if I need to forgiven. So, set the prisoner free!

I'm new to your blog and enjoyed this very much.