Friday, October 8, 2010

In the Refiner's Fire - Loving the Unlovable


I think everyone has one of those lovely relatives (or friends) that are just more than a bit of a challenge to have in the family.  They are demanding, often unreasonable, and extremely self-centered.  In my case, my difficult relative - my aunt - also has bad hygiene and is very uninformed about many things.  To compound matters, she has a degenerative genetic disorder, that will eventually be fatal and effects her intelligence as it progresses.  Because of the disorder, she is continually throwing a pity party, whether the rest of us want to attend or not.

Just over a year ago, I had to make the decision to take my aunt's only child off life support. Alone. Without her there.  And I couldn't reach her by phone when I needed to either.  Then I had to call her and tell her that her daughter had died.  

I had heaps of anger toward my aunt and did not ever want to see her again, much less talk to her or spend time with her.  I ended up in my pastor's office because I knew that I would need to go to my cousin's funeral and at least be civil.  I had no idea of how I would do that.  I was too angry and too frustrated.

I arrived in my pastor's office and opened my mouth to give him a calm (*ahem*) version of what had happened over the last week and a colossal rant came out instead.  When I finished, he said, "Wow. Sounds like you have some forgiving to do." 

Uh...geee.. ya think?   Thanks a ton.

The conversation that followed was literally life changing for me:  I realized with my soul that I am not the one who needs to forgive.  God is the one who forgives and that forgiveness is then able to flow through me.   I don't have to do it.  God does.

To someone who has been a Christian most of her life, this is not a new idea.  The difference was that it finally clicked in my soul.  I don't have to do it.  God does.  And He already forgave us when He sent His only Son to die on the cross.  That means that even though my aunt had done a huge number of things I greatly disapproved of, God still will forgive her if she asks.

Knowing that, I was able to give my aunt forgiveness and spend the next week planning and executing a funeral, cleaning out my cousin's room at her group home, and comforting relatives without so much as wanting to snip at my aunt and her on-again/off-again boyfriend, my less strangle her as I had wanted to before.

You see, I don't like my aunt very much. Honestly, if we weren't related, I probably would have little, if anything, to do with her. I do have to love her - as Christ loves her.  And all I have to do is let the love flow through me.  I don't have to manufacture it myself.  That makes it do-able.  Not necessarily easy, but do-able.

My aunt and her boyfriend (her husband died in 2002) are in the area for a few days to visit this week and we had them over for dinner last night. 

It is the love the God that allows me to have them in my home, although every time they come something ends up broken - and last night was no exception. 
It is the love of God that allows me to use my Grandmother's china for the meal - which my Aunt greatly appreciated the gesture of (the table and dinner are the picture at the top here). 
It is the love of God that allows me to clean my house to my level of 'company clean' even though my aunt and her boyfriend probably haven't bathed in a week and honestly wouldn't notice if the toilet was filthy. 
It is the love of God that allows me to talk with interest over their travels, even though half the conversation is about how he can't understand her disinterest in certain topics and how broke they now are after visiting thus-and-such place.

It is the love of God that allows me to love my unlovable aunt as she needs and deserves as a child of God.

Soli Deo Gloria.
Always.

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Lea