Saturday, September 11, 2010

Danger of Bitterness

Today is my 34th wedding anniversary. As a result of my poor planning I am in a hotel room in south Florida preparing for the next service in a friend's church in the midst of a small outpouring of the Spirit. People are getting healed and happy and I am thrilled anytime I see God do such wonderful things. I am happy to be here and wish I were home with Donna, all at the same conflicted time. As anniversaries sometimes promote, I find myself contemplative, looking back and looking forward at the same time.
Sitting here in the Marriott, one thing I have been considering is that the church has been enduring a terrible plague, not just the cancer one, or the immoral one, but the one called bitterness. Years back I realized that in Jesus' very small circle of intimate friends five or six of them had the same name, Mary. How unnatural to have so many close close friends with the same name and how significant must it be when it is the Son of God who does!
I once asked the Lord, "Why so many Mary's". The answer I got takes a full hour to preach to explain all I saw and understood. Suffice it to say that Mary's name is rooted in an ancient word for 'bitterness' -Mara. You may remember from the book of Ruth that when Naomi bitterly returned home to Bethlehem Judah, after losing her husband, her children, and her wealth, she said "Call me not Naomi (meaning 'pleasant') but call me Mara ('bitter'): for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me (Ruth 1:20)." The multiple Mary's surrounded Jesus as a prophetic picture of the proliferation of the bitterness problem among His people, and of His ability to heal people just like that. In Naomi's case the Lord sovereignly put in her life Ruth, a daughter in law, and Boaz, a wealthy landowner. They married and had a child that healed Naomi's broken heart.Their child was in the lineage of Jesus, the one who heals the broken hearted. All of this points to how Jesus can heal bitter people, but often bitter people don't want to be healed, they want to be right!
The scripture gives us a sober warning in Hebrews 12:15; "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;" I understand this verse two ways; (1) roots of bitterness defile many people, and (2) one root in an influential person defiles many other people. Both are true. I lived in a Christian community for over eight years. I was young, headstrong, and barely married six months when Donna and I moved into it with some other great zealous folks. It started grandly. It ended poorly. Everyone was to blame. No one understood how things fell apart the way they did. We all tried to determine whose fault it was. I left bitter.
In my long 7 year trip through that bitterness the Lord eventually revealed to me that everyone who desires to be truly spiritual will at some point need to choose to follow one of two pathways: the way of bitterness or the way of brokenness. If you want to be healed you can break, admit your wrong, refuse to demand personal vindication, even allow your good to be evil spoken of, allow the cross to work deeply to yield a greater resurrection, or stay in your bitterness and defile those around you, even the ones you love. True brokenness makes you a kind person, one who is gracious to all. Its up to you. What do you choose?
C.S. Lewis concluded that 'tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless'. As unambitious and small as it may seem, one of my chief aspirations in life is to end my spiritual race as a joyful person. So many seem to fall into the dangerous trap of bitterness and it breaks my heart. How about you? What are you?
Bitter...or broken?