It was just about this time four years ago when I discovered what no spouse wants to discover… that thing you hear others talk about but pray NEVER happens to you. It’s the life event you sacrifice and struggle to avoid…. the gut wrenching, mind numbing, head spinning revelation that reduces your once refined vocabulary down to a series of three word sentences; “what the hell, who the hell and why the hell.”
I’m talking about the day I discovered the person I shared two decades of my life with had spent most of it betraying me. Yep. That’s the one! In spite of years building a Godly home, attending church together, raising family together, vacations, holidays, intimacy and so forth… in one split second, the entire enterprise collapsed… much like the housing crash of 2009.
Who knew a person could experience a Mount Everest of despair, rage, love, regret, remorse and denial all at the same time? Guess that was my welcoming party to the world of adultery… a world I quickly realized needed to find its home in the rear view mirror of my road forward.
In an effort to fast track the journey, I decided to visit a minister friend and his wife for a weekend of prayer and healing. On the drive up I began pouring out my heart to God. First the frustration came, “I’m so damn angry God! Then the self pity emerged, “This is so unfair God!” And then the raw ugly resentment erupted, “Honestly God, at this point I just want to take scalps!”
As usual, his response was not at all what I expected when he answered, “Ok. How many do you need?” His question rendered me speechless while he continued, “How many scalps do you think you need to satiate the pain?” From the take-no-prisoners mood I was in, audaciously I replied, “Probably a couple hundred just to get warmed up!”
No reply was necessary from God at that moment. There was no need for a lecture on revenge, un-forgiveness or the nauseating sense of entitlement that had taken root in my thinking. My own answer shook me harder than the news of betrayal. It revealed how the ravaging pain had shifted to an infectious demand… a demand for justice… a demand that was certain to cause nothing but more injustice.
Continuing the conversation I confessed, “This thing is insatiable Lord. It’s so deep, so consuming, no person or event in this world can satisfy it.” With tender mercy in his voice he responded, “That’s because your ideas concerning justice are insatiable. They can’t be satisfied or consoled.”
As painful as that revelation was to accept, it exposed how badly I needed to understand what justice meant from a heavenly point of view. Without even realizing it, I had allowed societal norms and past experience to control my attitude on the subject. As I began to examine my own ideas and expectations, I discovered three important truths about justice I had not considered.
Please don’t misunderstand. I am not suggesting that we dismiss accountability or that our laws should not protect and defend the innocent. What I discovered was more about how we hold a desire for justice in our heart… whether we hold it as a demand, an entitlement or as a means of well being. I begin to see that the way we hold a demand for justice can become a thief to our soul.. a thief that can rob us of the core attributes needed for a happy successful life. Let me explain.
The demand for Justice can steal our strength:
Demanding justice from another person actually puts them in the power position. In other words, if we place a demand on them for recompense (whether tangible or intangible), they get to decide what we receive, if we receive and what it might look like. We, in turn, remain weak, dependent and frustrated. That’s A LOT of power to place in the hands of a person who has already wounded you.
Think about it. No matter what you are hoping to receive or how “justified” your case, the other person can simply ignore you. Chances are they might escape the cost all together. And at the very least, their idea of restitution could fall drastically short of yours. In each situation, you remain at their mercy. You remain weak. You give away your strength. And strength is something we all need in order to keep moving forward
In my own situation, I kept waiting for my spouse to “own” what he had done. But it was always up to him whether he chose to or not. Without realizing it, I had concluded that until he owned it, I couldn’t move forward. How utterly ridiculous!
The only thing my demand did was enslave me to weakness and frustration. I willingly elevated his stubbornness to a power position over my emotions, my desires and my future happiness. Thankfully, I recognized it and began to make smarter choices. I chose to place my future and my happiness in the hands of someone I could actually trust… the author of Truth itself.
The demand for Justice can steal our peace:
When we make statements like, “No justice – No Peace,” then we shouldn’t be surprised if we receive neither. Look at it this way: If your peace is dependent on justice, then you risk spending your life with no peace. An injustice such as betrayal has the potential to be a HUGE peace stealer. But in actuality, it’s up to us if we allow it to happen.
Did my spouse carpet bomb trust? Did he disrespect the glue that holds relationship together? Did he trample the priceless intangibles that make for happy and healthy connection? Of course he did! But in spite of what had already been cast overboard, it was up to me if my peace would be included in the lost cargo.
I made a decision that my dreams were too important, my assignment too great and my future too bright to allow anything or anyone to rob me of something as important and priceless as peace.
People of destiny and intentionality make a deliberate choice to walk with peace un-conditionally. That means whether the injustice was material, emotional, relational or vocational, people of vision, people who know they still have a bright future, those with a calling on their life don’t allow outward circumstance to dictate the conditions of their internal peace. Besides, true Peace is a person, not a condition.
The demand for Justice can steal our ability to receive:
Every generation has been taught (in some form or fashion) that the recompense should equal the loss. But what does recompense look like in the case of adultery or character assassination, theft, abuse, tragedy and the like? Where is the one for one correlation in those situations?
The beauty is… there’s not one. And thank God for it, because a “one to one” expectation places limits on our ability to receive something better. It has the danger of intoxicating us with entitlement. And that can lead to infectious ingratitude, cynicism and apathy towards the love and restorative power of God. The devastating end result is that we block ourselves from the divine Goodness and Mercy that is longing to chase us down (Psalm 23: 6).
The more excellent way is to walk with a restoration mindset. The more excellent way is to simply let go of our expectations concerning what payment or restitution should look like, where it should come from and how it should happen. When we do that, we open our hearts and minds to the wide limitless resources of heaven to restore the loss regardless of the cost.
Walking with a restoration mindset allows us to think higher. It frees our minds to dream again, to hope again… to plan for a better tomorrow. Most of all it frees us to receive on a multi-dimensional level. A restoration mindset places the responsibility of recompense in the hands of an almighty Savior. And that is a VERY GOOD THING because he is the only one with limitless resources to bless us in limitless ways.
Writing God a blank check, so to speak, allows him the freedom to make withdrawals from his resources and apply them to our deficit. I don’t know about you, but that fills my heart with hope and faith. It fills me with certainty of receiving what I cannot see… yet! But that requires releasing any preconceived expectation of what the recompense should look like.
Perhaps like me, you’ve suffered a great injustice. Perhaps a life event left you angry and wounded… even a little bitter. Maybe the pain created a demand for justice or produced an entitlement attitude that’s keeping you from being all you can be. The good news is… you don’t have to stay there!
Again, I am not implying we overlook the rule of law in our society. Not suggesting we devalue human dignity, personal integrity or faithfulness. But the truth is we live in a fallen world full of fallen people behaving in a host of fallen ways.
Try as we may, we will never be able to right all the wrongs. We can’t undo all the mistakes or fix all the brokenness. We can’t reclaim the lost opportunities or regain the lost time. But that does not mean we have to remain shackled to a life of frustration and pain.
We might not be able to change what happened, but we can most assuredly change our thoughts and opinions about it! We can put the pain and in the rearview mirror of our journey and choose a path towards a happier future. And it can start right now! The first step on your path to freedom and restoration can begin with a simple prayer. Will you pray with me? J
Heavenly Father, forgive me for elevating my own ideas about justice above yours. Enable by your power to redefine me what the world has taught me so I can understand it from heaven’s vantage point. Guard my heart and mind from false ideas that threaten to steal my strength, my peace or block me from the limitless resources of Heaven. I choose to forgive those who wounded me. And I give you all the pain, anger, disappointment, entitlement, and frustration. Replace it with a greater ability to fix my hope and expectation on the restorative power of your love at work on my behalf. Amen.