Shakespeare and I have a lot in common: We both love poetry and prose; we love to transpose words, metaphor and rhyme; we love to give birth to stories and ideas that bridge the natural and spiritual. Perhaps one of my favorite poems he ever penned was Sonnet 116, on love.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
It may be the line, (love) “is an ever fixed mark, that looks on tempests and is never shaken,” that has stayed with me over the years. It’s been said in the Bible that, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love,” 1 John 4:8. The notion, that if we hold fast to love, we can go through whatever is thrown in our path. Now, from my own experience, there are trials in life, and then there are storms, and then, there are the Mother of all storms – like Hurricanes. Things you’d rather not even think about going through. Nevertheless, they come.
Now, it just so happened that other day that I was given a passage by The Lord, which was both telling and revealing. You see, Jesus has a way I’ve noticed, of doing a very good job at exposing my heart. The past few years have been rough sailing; there have been days when He has just had to carry me through them. There have been some serious blows to my faith. Things that have come straight from the enemy to harm me and take me down. Things that have been packaged so cleverly that it appeared these trails and flaming arrows were coming from Christians themselves. Satan loves to break unity, always trying to create a wedge between us and God and between other Christians. Well, with numerous trials on several fronts he was beginning to do a very good job at this.
I was doing my best to, “overlook offense,” but the “offenses” kept coming and never seemed to let up. After a while, I just began to feel worn out and defeated. I was upset and angry with a certain someone ,who I was in ministry with, and then there was the final blow. Suddenly, a very difficult experience rocked my boat and I fell out of “Fellowship” for a while. Hurt and frustrated, I began to believe, falsely, that Christians were the problem. This was a trap from the enemy.
After a while, I didn’t even want to go to Church. I was hurting. Until, one day, The Lord took me to some passages in 1 John 3. As I began to meditate on them, I realized that “other Christians” were not the problem – I was the problem, my sin was the problem. The Lord had been allowing some very difficult experiences in my life in order to expose some sinful patterns. I am often very blind to my own error, as was the case here. Jesus wanted to expose some wrong “thinking” in my heart as he took me to 1 John 3:11-12. “For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.”
You see, I finally realized that I had been suffering from the consequences of my own sin. I believe, to some extent, God was using these “difficult” trials to help me “see the light”. He was using some of these Christians who “hurt me,” to speak “truth” into my life. I just wasn’t listening. So, I got angry with everyone else when the real problem was me. I had to repent. Jesus died on the Cross at Calvary to save me from my sin and to sanctify me. “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin,” 1 John 3:5. For to love is divine.
“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him,” 1 John 3:14-15.
What I’ve come to understand is that when there is a “pattern” of “offense” — especially, if there is a pattern — it means I need to stop looking around me and start looking inside me for the problem.