Filled and Glorious

She is like merchant ships;
She brings her food from afar.
~Proverbs 31:14

Chick-Fil-A. That’s what we had for dinner last night. You could say it’s “from afar,” since one has to drive “to town” to get it. Too bad I wasn’t exactly the one who drove to get it, but rather sent a text to my husband hinting that I wanted him to pick it up on his way home from work!

Seriously, this verse is a tough one for me, in more ways than one. First, this is a weird simile. I don’t know how flattered I would feel if my husband whispered sweetly in my ear that I remind him of a merchant ship. Huh? How? So, I got to thinking about what this means, and of course reading beyond the semicolon helps with this. She brings her food from afar. (Well, does Walmart count? It’s in town!) It’s talking about grocery shopping, apparently, and our goal is to be a merchant ship. This is still weird imagery in my mind!

As I studied, my Bible’s cross references led me to, among other verses, Ezekiel 27:25:

The ships of Tarshish were the carriers for your merchandise. And you were filled and were very glorious in the heart of the seas.

That second sentence really struck me; it was just so beautiful. The ancient city of Tyre, which is the “you” in this verse, was “filled” and “glorious” because of the faithful merchant ships. Here’s what I wrote in my journal after reading this verse and applying it to the simile found in Proverbs:

She has what her family needs. She makes sure they don’t run out of anything; she brings goods, supplies, and food into the home in anticipation of her family’s needs. She’s reliable. She’s the one to ask if you need something. Because of this, her family members are free from worry and able to focus their energies on their calling. They’re filled and glorious, able to shine.

And this brings me to the second reason why this verse is a tough one for me: To put it plainly, this is a major weakness for me. I have made great strides in this area in the past several months, shopping ads for the best prices, couponing to save a few extra bucks, and trying to go to the store regularly (stop laughing, husband) to make sure that we have food and don’t have to eat out as frequently. Obviously, since Justin’s undoubtedly chuckling as he reads this, I still am not the most reliable merchant ship!

The fact is, I hate shopping. This isn’t just grocery-shopping we’re talking about. I hate shoe shopping. Clothes shopping. Shopping for do-dads for my house. I hate it all. Everything’s so dang expensive, and I’m so dang indecisive, and I hate trying on stuff. At least, though, I end up with stuff I like after those types of shopping trips. But what about grocery shopping? Well, I end up with all kinds of food that is NOT ready to eat, but that is awaiting more work from me to CREATE something to eat. That’s just more fun for everyone, because I like cooking just slightly more than shopping! (Oh, my husband is one lucky man, right?)

Honestly, it sounds like I need a little of verse 13 infused into this week’s verse! I really have made vast improvements since becoming a full-time homemaker. Like I said, we are saving a good little amount of money because I am going to the store more frequently and, therefore, I am cooking more frequently. I am proud of myself! Especially since I started price matching at Walmart and made a coupon book (which you can see here, skip to 6:57 in the video). Still, I know I have a long way to go before becoming a merchant ship!

Focusing on that Ezekiel verse really does help, though. Why is it important that I improve in this area? To benefit others. To help them maintain healthy bodies. To help them shine. To release them from worries about something they need. Just like all of the other verses we’ve seen so far, this reveals Jewel’s selfless heart. I’m sure it wasn’t exactly convenient to go shopping every day for food — remember, no refrigerators back then! — but she did. We can easily glean from the surrounding passage that it was her delight to serve her family well in this area, and it could and should be ours, too.

As a bonus, if we’re fully embracing the idea that this is a noble calling, and finding delight even in grocery shopping, so that our family members might be “filled and very glorious,” it seems to me that the return for such faithfulness is that we’ll be filled and glorious, too. Literally and figuratively.

♥ ♥ ♥

My Son, a great homemaker is not born that way. In our world today — and who knows about your world in 25 years? — few young women arrive at marriage prepared to take on the role she envisions herself taking on. If she wants to be the primary food-maker and home caretaker, chances are that she doesn’t really know what that means. Learn from your dad here, and be gracious. Be helpful. Be encouraging. No one knows how to be a wife the morning after arriving home from the honeymoon. A great homemaker (whether part- or full-time) is a lifelong learner, and she will blossom under your love and gentle encouragement.

My Love, oh me. Thank you for your patience, and thank you for bringing home Chick-fil-A! I sincerely appreciate your understanding and your willingness to help out after a long day at work. This is an area that I’m working on, and I am determined to become a merchant ship! And a cheerful one, at that. 😉

My Lord, I love Your creativity in this verse. It sounds so strange at first, yet it’s a perfect picture. I pray that You will continue to revolutionize my heart and make it more like Yours. You are the ultimate merchant ship! You provide so that we don’t have to worry about a thing. May I model myself after You!

Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
~Jesus (Matthew 6:31-33)

♥ ♥ ♥

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(This post is part of a series on Proverbs 31. Click here to see all posts in this series.)
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A Forgiving Spirit

Ponder this:

The way to know you had fully forgiven someone was that you no longer felt they owed you anything.
~Jo Saxton, as quoted by Katdish 

When I read this on Katdish’s blog the other day, it got me thinking. Sometimes you just feel like someone owes you an apology, right? I mean, if nothing else, just say you’re sorry.

But sometimes you don’t get that. Sometimes people just don’t feel like they did anything wrong, or they feel justified in what they did, or for some other reason they simply are not going to apologize to you. What then?

Well, holding out for that is detrimental to you. It can easily turn into bitterness, which I discussed here.  Further, doesn’t it keep you from forgiving, which will put your relationship with God in peril? I discussed that here–remember asking God to forgive those who sin against you in the same way that you have forgiven others? Danger!

All of this reminded me of a sermon I listened to or read (I don’t remember which) a few years back. What I remember learning, to my surprise, is that you can’t really forgive someone who is unrepentant–at least not fully.

Here’s Piper (from the sermon linked above):

…I am not sure that in the Bible the term forgiveness is ever applied to an unrepentant person. Jesus said in Luke 17:3–4, “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” So there’s a sense in which full forgiveness is only possible in response to repentance.

Think about it: Does God forgive people who do not repent? No. It’s impossible. If you receive forgiveness from God, then that also means you receive the richness of His mercy and enjoy eternity in relationship with Him because you’ve been pardoned from sin. The Bible teaches that you must repent and follow Jesus for that to happen. So if God does not forgive unrepentant people, then how can we?

The difference here is having a forgiving spirit. I think that Piper gives a very helpful and Biblical “checklist” for your heart related to forgiveness. Forgiveness–and I would venture a forgiving spirit–looks like this:

  1. Resist thoughts of revenge: Romans 12:19, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
  2. Don’t seek to do them mischief: 1 Thessalonians 5:15, “See that no one repays another with evil for evil.
  3. Wish well to them: Luke 6:28, “Bless those who curse you.”
  4. Grieve at their calamities: Proverbs 24:17, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.”
  5. Pray for them: Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”
  6. Seek reconciliation with them: Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”
  7. Be always willing to come to their relief: Exodus 23:4, “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him.”

You can do all of those things without someone repenting. Can you achieve full reconciliation and the renewal of a relationship without the other person repenting? I don’t see how. But, just like God does with every human, you can be willing and ready to meet their needs, to love them, and to forgive them. And you can begin letting go of your own hurt, pride, and bitterness and pray for a forgiving spirit in the meantime.

Not easy, but worth it.

Forgiveness

Jesus taught us how to pray. You all at least recognize it; many of you have it memorized from so much repetition:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.
Amen.
(Matthew 6, but I was going on memory)

I’ll speak for myself here and say that I have “prayed” this prayer without thinking. A lot. I’ve been in many situations–religious and otherwise–where this prayer was recited by a large group. So I recited it. Of course, I glossed over the whole thing in those instances, but I want to talk about one specific part that is nearly always spoken, but ignored. You guessed it: forgiveness. Glance back up and see what you just asked God to do.

Essentially this, “Dear God, please forgive me like I forgive other people.” (Hey, are you sure you want to ask God to do that?)

Have you ever noticed the couple of verses that come after this example prayer? Jesus immediately follows the “amen” with a specific explanation to His disciples:

For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
~Matthew 6:14-15, emphasis mine 

These are verses that have kept me awake at night, wrestling with God and with my own, self-centered heart.

I have a lot of thoughts on forgiveness, as I’ve done a lot of wrestling. For now, though, I’d be really interested to hear what you think. How do these verses strike you? What are their implications? Why would Jesus say this? Ultimately, though, are we to believe what Jesus says here and act on it, or just hope that things will be okay in the end?