The words stung. It felt unfair. Why would someone say something so sharp to me? What right did he have to speak to me that way? If he really knew me, he would not have said that.
I had two options, and for the first several months I chose the less helpful option. I put all my attention on what was said to me and totally ignored the reaction building up inside my heart. In the same room, I avoided eye contact with him. When I saw him walking towards me down the hallway, I suddenly remembered I had forgotten something back in my office. In the privacy of my own room, I allowed bitterness to give way to anger. At times, I stoked that anger and it gave way to moments of hate. One day the Holy Spirit unexpectedly introduced me to another option. A more helpful option. “What is that in your heart?” he pointed. “Is not the bitterness and anger, and yes, the hate, just as bad as what was said to you?”
The Holy Spirit can often be a nuisance in my life. I don’t always like the way he re-directs my attention away from the offender to the offense in my own heart. He begins to tell me that I cannot help what was said to me, but I can help the way I reacted to it. He even so boldly suggested that God intentionally placed that difficult person in my life and even allowed the words to come out of his mouth, all to bring attention to what pre-existed before I had ever even known him. It was all there, lying dormant before he had ever even spoken those harsh words to me. “Are you telling me,” I protested somewhat feebly, “that God puts tough people in my path with the purpose of exposing the sin in my own heart?”
His silence told me the answer was, yes!
Since then, I have practiced a new discipline. The moment I find myself reacting to someone else, I am more curious as to why the reaction even existed in my own heart. Maybe the problem is not the person who offended me. Maybe the problem is in me. This has helped me live out my life around others with a lot more grace.
Thank you, Holy Spirit, for being so intrusive in my life. Don’t stop. You are a welcome intrusion!