So there I was again. Back at the kitchen sink. The dishwasher had been broken for a long time. No money to fix it. So there I was again. Back at the kitchen sink.
Divorce causes lots of emotions, feelings, thoughts and bunches of other stuff. It seems that every time I stood at the kitchen sink to wash dishes, all I could think about was how angry I was (How could he just walk away from this beautiful family?). How jealous I was (He had money for oceanside vacations.). How sad I was (no 50th Wedding Anniversary shindig for us).
Well, washing dishes can be a downer, right? So when I washed dishes, I got down. Those emotions, feelings, thoughts and bunches of other stuff weren’t helping either.
The apostle Paul talked about a “root of bitterness.” If you were to let that grow in your heart, you were in for all sorts of difficulties. He said it was better to “follow peace with all men.” That meant I must forgive in order to prevent that most distasteful root from metastasizing to the place where Jesus dwells in me.
According to Pearl S. Buck, “You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel, but you can make yourself do right in spite of your feelings.” That’s what I had to do.
Now doesn’t that sound like the most sensible course of action? Of course it does. It’s God’s plan for His best for our lives. Just do it. Yeah, do it. Well, how? I don’t know. Give it to Him. How? Lift it all up to Him. Really? Yes. Soapsuds and all? Yes, soapsuds and all. OK, here goes.
I stood at the kitchen sink and raised my hands heavenward, soapsuds dripping off my elbows. “Jesus, I give you all my anger, rage, bitterness, jealousy and hurts. And where they were, Lord, I ask you to replace that huge hole in my heart with your love, your joy, your peace.”
“I don’t want to forgive. I don’t feel like it. I can’t conjure it up. But I know it is your desire for me to forgive. So I ask you to pour your forgiveness through me to him so that I can be obedient to your will.”
The most amazing thing happened. I felt love, joy, peace. I felt such release. My heart was as clean as the dishes I had washed, rinsed in Living Water. The apostle was right. God was right. Wrenching out that root of bitterness brought healing and close communion with God.
That lasted about 5 minutes. And then there I was again literally lifting up the anger, rage, bitterness, jealousy and hurts as an offering to God and asking Him to replace them with His love, joy, and peace. Begging Him to pour His forgiveness through me to the object of my grief.
And then the cycle would begin again.
Eventually it was 15 minutes apart, 30 minutes, an hour, hours, days, weeks, months. I rarely had dirty dishes in the sink anymore. I spent a lot of time with dishpan hands learning how to really forgive.
Standing in line at Taco Bell one evening, you can imagine my surprise when I looked behind me and saw my ex-husband and his wife. I greeted them cordially and continued with my order. No anger, no rage, no bitterness, no jealousy, nothing hurt.
I was considerate, calm, confident.
As I was walking to my car, the Lord spoke very clearly to my heart, “You have forgiven.”
How powerful that was! I had gotten so used to trying to preclude the presence of the root that I didn’t even notice when the work was finished. God poured His forgiveness through me to the one I could not forgive on my own. What a mighty God we serve!
Did I mention that this took eight years?!?
When we moved to another city a few years later, I got a dishwasher that worked! When it broke, I never bothered to fix it. I still stand at the kitchen sink and lift up bunches of stuff to God. He’s faithful.
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 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.
— Hebrews 12:14-15 (KJV)