"When You Stop Being a Debt Collector"
"You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’"
Matthew 5:38 (NLT)
Years ago, if you were to ask me if I was an "eye-for-an-eye" kind of girl, I’d say no. But in reality, I was. And, I hadn’t allowed God to heal my heart because I was waiting.
I was waiting for an apology for wrongs done.
I was waiting for someone to change before I took the plunge myself.
I was waiting for an acknowledgement that I didn’t deserve what happened.
My first year of college, I was fully on my own. A small scholarship paid for tuition. I worked two jobs — one in the evenings during the week and another on the weekends, to pay room and board. I was frustrated that it seemed so much easier for everyone else. Some students didn’t have to worry about how much textbooks cost. Their parents put gas in their cars and a few extra dollars in their bank accounts.
It seemed so unfair, while I dragged myself to classes on Mondays, exhausted from working two night shifts and constantly worried whether there’d be enough left in my wallet to pay the next round of bills.
I let resentment pile up.
It was stacked on top of the other resentments I had tucked away in my heart from childhood.
I carried that growing pile of resentment with me when I left college and married. I didn’t want to feel that way, so I often pushed it down. I prayed. I tried to do things differently with my own children.
But when things got hard, I’d look back and point to my past.
If only they’d done something different.
If only things had been easier.
It was my eye-for-an-eye barter system.
Though I sensed God leading me to let go of this debt, I couldn’t quite release it. When, and if, the wrongdoing was paid for in full, then I’d be OK to move on. But that left me holding tightly to anger, pain and insecurity — and going nowhere in the healing process.
In today’s verse, Jesus contested this view of payback. In Matthew 5:38, He said: "You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’"
I had heard that too.
I’d heard when someone hurts you, forgiving her without any change on her part was a weakness.
I’d heard that when you didn’t get what you thought you deserved, you should dig in your heels until you did.
Yet Jesus’ words empowered believers, like me, to think differently. An eye-for-an-eye might just leave the offender and the offended both without an eye. And God has something for us to see beyond the hurt.
In Romans 12:19a, Paul says, "Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God …" (NLT).
My anger back then was far from righteous. It was deeply ingrained and surprisingly hidden, but it surfaced in my thoughts. It conflicted with my ability to trust.
It even affected those who were innocent of wrongdoing, because my eye-for-an-eye mentality was hypersensitive to potential wrongdoing. It left little room for grace, even for those who loved me well.
In order to mend my heart, I had to exchange payback for paid-in-full.
Giving up my eye-for-an-eye mindset felt unnatural at first. But then, all the debts that kept this God-girl trapped began to fall away, and that left room for God to take up residence in the wounds of my past.
I stopped waiting for an apology.
I stopped waiting for others to change.
I stopped waiting for an acknowledgement of wrongdoing.
I stopped recounting the wrongs.
And I started living. Finally God released me from the debt collection business so I could just be me.
Lord, I willingly walk away from a life dedicated to collecting the debts of others. You paid in full the price to mend my heart, and I receive that healing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Romans 12:21, "Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good." (NLT)