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  The Line In The Sand
     - Credits
     - Forward - L. Alexander
     - Introduction
     - 1. The Dawning (Part 1)
     - 2. Incoming
     - 3. Return Fire
     - 4. Bankruptcy
     - 5. Pressure
     - 6. I'll Show You
     - 7. Liar, Liar
     - 8. Broken Glass
     - 9. Grand Canyon (Part 2)
     - 9a. No Canyon
     - 9b. Making The Canyon
     - 9c. Codependency
     - 9d. Baggage
     - 9e. The Way We Are
     - 9f. Work
     - 9g. Exclusion
     - 10. Spelunking (Part. 3)
     - 11. In The Darkness
     - 12. In The Light
     - 13. Reorganization
     - 14. The Final Chapter

     - Review - J. Talavera
     - Review - N. Beck
     - About the Author

 
Fix Your Marriage
 

(Part 1) The Line in the Sand - Chapter 8. - Broken Glass


     Broken. Broken heart. Broken vow. Broken trust. Broken silence. Broken spell. Broken mirror. Broken line. Broken glass.

     I don’t know anyone who hasn’t broken something in his or her life. It is inevitable that you will shatter some piece of glass in your lifetime, whether it is a plate, a bowl, or a drinking glass.

     We know as soon as the action begins that it is not good. Almost as if in slow motion, we anticipate the moment of impact. Not knowing if the impact will cause the item to bounce harmlessly on the floor, or to instantly break on impact. Boom!

     Relationship: The act of two people relating to one another. Relationship is an ongoing fragile process and an awesome privilege for the two people in the relationship. Keep in mind that any given relationship, in its most basic form is only between two people.

     I describe it as awesome because in the purest form, a relationship is completely open and transparent; where two people know everything about one another. There is nothing more rewarding on this earth than completely knowing another human being and to be filled with the desire to unconditionally love that precious person.

     The line in the sand. Take a moment to reflect on the important relationships in your life. You can see that they are all completely unique, and precious. OK, as you reflect on these relationships, think about the closest relationship you have. I will be quiet for a minute while you reflect on your relationships because this can be a deeply touching and richly rewarding thought process.

     (I am silently praying for you to have clarity of mind and that there be no distractions, in Jesus’ Name.)

     In your mind, picture the other person sitting in a chair facing you with nothing between you. You are in the open, two chairs facing one another, you are in one chair and the other person is in the other chair.

     Now, imagine a thin pane of glass placed exactly half way between you and the other person. This glass stretches to the left, right, up and down as far as your imagination can stretch, completely separating you from this other person. There in front of you, between you and the other person, is a delicate, fragile, and very breakable line in the sand.

     Right now you can see through the glass, and it appears to be clear. This clarity represents your deepest desire, which is to see this precious person so clearly that you will know them so completely as not to miss a thing; not one delicate nuance is to be missed. The desire is to see everything that makes this person who they are; who they were created to be. (Psalms 139:13) “For you formed my inmost being. You knit me together in my mother's womb”.

     In a perfect world (I know there's no such thing), there would be no need to care for the glass by keeping it clean, changing what it looks like or trying to make it indestructible. But since we live in this fallen world, let's look at the glass for what it is, delicate and fragile.

     If I think the person in the other chair will hurt me in some way, perhaps like I was hurt as a child, I may attempt to move away from the glass, or paint an image on the glass that will reflect to him what I want him to see. I may attempt to let him know what I’m feeling by painting the glass with one solid color. I may try to build a brick wall on my side of the glass to keep him out.

     All of these could be considered "glass maintenance." I would be attempting to change the appearance of the glass to reflect the image I desire to portray. My desire in this example is to protect myself from the inevitable hurt I know is coming. By setting up my defenses against what this person may or may not do, I can hide in my foxhole and protect myself from others. The illusion will be that I am comfortable, happy, and safe. The truth is that I will be isolated, lonely, and afraid on my side of the painted glass. Oh, and rest assured, whether I realize it or not the glass will still be shattered at some point in time. Boom!

     By attempting to protect myself in this way I will be opening myself up to inspection. The other person in the chair facing me could wonder where I’ve gone. He will still see me in my chair physically in front of him. But he’ll instinctively know there is something wrong. So, the inspecting might well begin. Concern, confusion, or contempt could cause him to look inside of me, scraping away the image I have painted on the glass to get at the heart of the matter.

     Contempt. I am disappointed or disgusted with you. You have made me angry, or worse hurt me terribly. There is no way I can ever forgive you. I will, at all cost, get at the root of your problem. You are so bad that I have to get in there and fix you. Otherwise, you will never get any better.

     Confusion. I don't understand what you are doing. Why are you lashing out at me and causing me to hurt? What have I done to deserve this? Will it ever get any better? What's happening? I feel out of control.

     Concern. I care about you and desire to see you feeling better. How can I walk with you through this problem? I can't fix you, but I can comfort you. I can't do it for you, but I can encourage you.

     It is likely that when I create an image on the glass your desire will be to get at, or to understand my heart. You will probably want to understand what I am going through. You may look at me and realize that my behavior does not match with the smile on my face, or correspond to the words that I am saying.

     Let's examine this concept from the first person context. For this example we will assume that we are looking across the line at a man in the other chair.

     If I begin to look closely at the glass between him and me, or become inspecting, I will inevitably see flaws. These flaws could be real or imagined based upon my preconceptions or on his image control. I do have limits to what I am able to see because of the multitude of images this other person can place on his side of the glass. Much like the image I painted for him to see, so he paints an image, or filter, for me to see as well.

     Now, through my concern, confusion, or contempt, I will begin my weapons inspection, looking to uncover the secret arsenal that is hidden behind the image on the glass or beneath the surface. Or, I can choose at this point to ignore or to accept what I see. The choice is mine, because it is my side of the line in the sand.

     What are some results of my inspection? What am I looking for? What do I hope to accomplish? Why does it even matter?

     Let’s clean the glass for a moment. Even squeaky clean, the glass still has flaws. I have flaws and you have flaws. Sorry, but it’s true. I could look at you and see your physical flaws. You could listen to me speak and hear my audible flaws. I could find flaws in what you think, say, feel, desire, in who you are, and in what you do. If I’m really on the hunt, I can get out a list and keep track of your flaws. If I’m insensitive and controlling, I can categorize your flaws and think of ways I can fix you. And when I get you all fixed up, things will be all better.

     What I am trying to do is to paint on the glass the image I desire to see when I look at you. Sadly, I am the one determining who you are through my thoughts and actions. And, because I’m not perfect, there is absolutely no way you will measure up. When I put myself in the position to determine who you are by my standards, I am elevating myself to the position of judge, jury and executioner. This is a very dangerous place for me to be because I had better be completely perfect if I am to judge you. (Matthew 7:1-2) "Don't judge, so that you won't be judged. For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you."

     I now know in my heart that I cannot paint who I want you to be on the glass. And at the same time I hear Jesus saying, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” So, can I even begin to fix who you are, or any one of your problems? No. Bold statement, “No!” I can only observe and reflect my observations to you. If I try to fix you, I am saying that I can get on your side of the line and do for you what you can’t, or won’t choose to do for yourself. It is even possible that the flaw I am observing is not even a flaw at all. It is possible, too, that I am trying to hide my own flaws by looking for yours. I may even believe the lie that there is nothing wrong with me and that I am correct regarding what your problems are.

     We all need to be very careful of entering into this type of behavior. (Luke 6:42) “Or how can you tell your brother, 'Brother, let me remove the speck of chaff that is in your eye,' when you yourself don't see the beam that is in your own eye? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck of chaff that is in your brother's eye.”

     Ok, now there’s a line in the sand! Jesus is saying here that I must work on me, over here on my side of the line. He is also saying that I am a hypocrite if I work on your stuff before mine is fixed. And, to top that off, I will never be done fixing myself. I am badly in need of repair!

     Ok, let’s get back in our chairs. Take a moment to recall the person in the other chair and the glass stretching in all directions as far as you can imagine.

     Get comfortable. Settle in to your chair. Fluff up a pillow and relax into it. Allow your daily routine and activities to filter into the picture slowly. Life. Relationship. Stuff. Relationship. Routine. Relationship.

     Life happens. We can become complacent through our focus on our stuff and the routine things we are doing. The chairs remain there always facing one another, with the glass between them. What, then, are we truly focusing on as we move through the day?

     Are we managing our stuff? Moving our possessions from place to place, or acquiring more, or getting rid of some? Are we counting, categorizing, analyzing, or repairing the things we possess? Do we use these things to take our focus off of our relationships and to escape to a place where we believe we are more comfortable or happy? Do we do things we know the other person will like just to keep him or her happy? Do we do things that we know are good for others at the risk of avoiding or damaging this relationship, especially the one we have taken the time to reflect on in this exercise? Are there other relationships that we are harming with our obsession to our stuff and the things we do?

     Oh, no! I have written another group of questions that I can answer only for myself. My answer to all of these questions is a resounding “Yes!” Am I managing my stuff? “Yes.” Am I moving it, getting more or getting rid of some? “Yes, yes, yes.” Am I counting, categorizing, analyzing, or repairing? “Yes, yes, yes, and yes.” To all the rest of the questions, “Yes.”

     Ouch! What is the state of my relationships if my focus is mostly on things other than my relationships? Does it make you feel accepted, appreciated, secure, and prioritized if I am concentrating on my stuff? What happens to the glass when I ignore you, intentionally or not?

     A crack begins to form in the glass. I see it when you begin to concentrate on your stuff and the things you do. I know I don’t like it. I try to fix it by repairing the damage. I’ll try to repair that crack by changing my behavior. I will try to please you so it won’t happen again. I will pass it off as, “That’s just the way he or she is.” I will begin to do more to try to please you and talk less to try to connect with you. To the detrement of our relationship, I will turn away and focus on stuff, too.

     When we get into a “turned away from each other” position in our relationship, the drifting begins. We know we still care about the relationship, and yet we don’t know how to get the connection back. The answer is so very simple and yet so difficult. (James 5:16) "Confess your offenses to one another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed."

     Confession-and-forgiveness is a simple concept to understand. I commit an act against you. I say or do something that causes you pain. I acknowledge the act and I repent and seek God's forgiveness. Then I approach you with a humble heart and confess my sin against you. Then I simply ask, "Will you please forgive me?" Sounds simple, huh?

     On the other side of the line, you are hurting from something I said or did that hurt you. I can either acknowledge that I have hurt you, or not. A lot of the time, we hurt one another and do not even realize that we have caused pain through our words or actions. So, in this example, I have hurt you and I don't realize it. What happens next? Unfortunately, the choice is now yours. You can choose to respond in retaliation. You could pretend you are not hurt and avoid the subject. You could try to justify my behavior as, "That's just the way he is." Or, you could let me know in what way I have hurt you and how deeply it hurts.

     The confession and forgiveness process becomes difficult when you or both of us are hurting. How can you reveal your heart to me in such a way as to convey your hurt or need without creating more trouble? How can you lovingly create the awareness that I need to accept responsibility for my actions and acknowledging that I have hurt you? That might sound something like, "I know you love me, and yet at the same time, I find myself feeling rejected because I was left alone for so long at the game. It would mean a lot to me if you would try to understand how that hurt me."

     What happens if we don’t acknowledge how we have hurt one another? Since hurt is inevitable, and since we will likely be in a continuing relationship with the person in the other chair, the outcome will be growing hurt, bitterness and resentment. If I hurt you intentionally or otherwise, and do not take ownership of that hurt, our relationship will grow apart. Love grows cold when hurts are not healed.

     It makes sense then that we will be looking at one another through cracked glass. One hurt, one crack. Two hurts, two cracks, and so on until the glass is so riddled with cracks that we couldn’t even begin to see the person for who they are. We can only see him through the broken-glass filter of hurts and bitter, resentful thoughts.

     This brings us back to managing the glass. Can you imagine trying to put a bandage on each crack in the glass? Sometimes you would use a small one, and sometimes a larger one. You could even find yourself putting bandages over old bandages because the crack keeps popping up. This could go on until you are completely fed up to the point of leaving it all behind or even worse, putting your fist right through the glass.

     I use this analogy intentionally because unmanageable or uncontrollable anger is at the root of striking out across the line. I am hurting and I don't understand or even realize it. I can’t manage to control my life, your life, everything else, or the broken glass anymore, so I lash out at you. Boom!

     There are so many reasons and situations for this type of explosion, and yet there are two basic things to consider here. There are, after all, only two people in this relationship, you and the person in the other chair. So, let's look at YOU and ME for a minute.

     First, we could consider that I may have issues that need to be dealt with. I could be trapped in addictions, and be trying to manage them to keep in the cycle. I could have unresolved hurts from my past. These hurts could look like abuse or abandonment from a close friend or relative, or enmeshment with the same. I may be in denial about any of these things, or I may know and not understand how to break the pattern in my life that perpetuates my actions.

     This is about ME. I have problems and I am doing things that are potentially harmful to others and myself. What can you do about ME? The short answer is, "nothing." A longer answer is, "Observe MY behavior. Let ME know in a loving way what you observe. Then, after seeking wise counsel, choose for yourself what you will allow yourself to endure. Set realistic boundaries, to include discussing specific expectations with ME, regarding MY behaviors. Remember this, "Believe the behavior." While you may not be able to believe what I say, you can believe what I do. Trust. Trust that what I do is the truth. MY actions cannot lie like MY mouth can.

     Because this is about ME, and my unacceptable behavior, YOU have a choice to make. It is healthy to conclude that YOU must accept the reality that YOU can't control ME. The only person YOU have control of is YOU. So, your choices are critical to the outcome for YOU. If I am "hopelessly" trapped in some addiction cycle, YOU can choose to separate yourself (and your children) from that. If that means that YOU leave and go to some safe place while we work on the problem, then the choice is yours to make. The primary concern here is that YOU are SAFE.

     Second, if I have determined what my faults are and dealt with them, then I would look at you through a clean eye and through a clear unbroken-glass. I will also be able to effectively encounter difficult situations with a clear conscience. I won't have to manage my out-of-control life in order to cope, or even to survive. Without attempting to control you, and with the desire in my heart to love you unconditionally, I am now able to reflect our situation to you and at the same time set appropriate boundaries for myself.

     These boundaries could look like reflections of something I am hearing you say, or watching you do. I can then reflect how what you say or do makes me feel. One boundary could be simply to capture everything you say and process it through a filter like, "Is what I am hearing true?" Or, I could establish a boundary that exists only when you are angry, a kind of "time out."

     These boundaries will be clear, real-life illustrations for the other person to see. Setting a boundary really is the act of drawing a line in the sand to let the other person know where you stand on a particular situation. An example of a boundary could be, “I love you, and yet if you become angry and threaten me again, I will leave immediately and contact the authorities.” Please understand here that appropriate boundaries will be different depending on the person and the situation.

     In this chapter we have illustrated the line in the sand as a pane of glass. We have painted on our side of the glass how we desire to portray ourselves, and how we see the other person. They have also painted on the glass how they want to appear, as well as how they see us. WE have put thousands of cracks in the glass through our loose tongues, thoughtlessness, and with intentional, hurtful actions. THEY have also put thousands of cracks in the glass through their loose tongues, thoughtlessness, and intentional, hurtful actions. We have attempted to bandage the cracks and they have, too.

     What can we do about the glass? It seems to be a barrier to true intimacy, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t it be so much better if we could remove that pesky old glass? I believe there is a way to get the glass out of the way.

     In much the same way as you would clean up a broken drinking glass or a broken window, the broken glass in your relationship can be cleaned up. We found ourselves looking through cracked glass anyway, so why not finish the job and get those cracks out of there? The action of cleaning up this glass won’t be a simple sweep-it-under-the-rug kind of operation. It will take a level of perseverance that, until now, we have been avoiding. It seems like we have been living through the hurt without hope anyway. So, instead, let's go forward living through our hurt WITH hope from now on. What a thought that is. Either way, we will still have no choice but to endure the pain. I choose hurt with hope and not hopeless hurt.

     Let’s get to the cleaning. It will take the two of you to get the job started. If you both desire to get the glass out of the way, it can be much easier. With only one of you working on it you can still clean the glass up, at least from your perspective. Remember confession and forgiveness.

     Someone has to start. Ok, I’ll start. I have some practice at looking at my faults. I rightly hear about my wrongs regularly. I know by a wincing glance or a silent response that I have sliced up your heart with my words or actions. Man, that hurts to know I have caused you that pain, and I truly regret what I have said or done to hurt you.

     From that place, where I begin to understand and feel your pain, I can come to you, humbly and with love in my heart for you, and say, “I can see that I hurt you by what I said (or did), and I am sad because you are hurting. I am sorry for the pain I have caused you through my actions, and I was wrong to do that. Will you please forgive me?” I would be specific about the words or actions so there was no mistake about my knowing what I did wrong.

     Let’s go to your side of the line in the sand for a moment. Think about what would change in your thoughts if you heard those words from the person in your significant relationship. If the incoming message was, “I was wrong,” what would happen on your side of the line? What would you be feeling and thinking as those tender, healing words flowed in?

     There are a couple of possible reactions that could happen besides your choice to disbelieve or to ignore it altogether. First, you could use the vulnerability of the other person to get even or to retaliate, to even the score. Shoot first and ask questions later. Hide in your foxhole all alone, seemingly safe from the pain of attack. Boom! Or, you could choose to let down your guard a bit, or a lot, and really hear the words for what they truly are: humble confession.

     Here they come again. “I was wrong, will you please forgive me?” Just imagine hearing those words in the context of a humble apology from within your relationship. Repeat those words a few times and picture the other person saying them to you. Repeat them again and picture yourself saying them to the other person. Repeat them again and picture yourself saying them to Jesus, hanging on the cross, dying for exactly the thing you did or said that you know was wrong.

     Now picture Christ sitting at the right hand of God. He has, after all, conquered death and lives again. He is saying, on your behalf, “Father, I paid the price for the sins of this one, too. I present him (or her) to You as blameless and whole.” Our Champion is there, right next to God, to intercede with God on our behalf, because we cannot do it ourselves. We are sinners and we are unworthy of the Father’s glory, so we need a Savior who can speak for us and usher us into His presence.

     Forgiveness. Mercy. Forgiveness. Absolution. Forgiveness. Pardon. Forgiveness. Exoneration. Forgiveness. Freedom. Forgiveness. How can I be forgiven for all the wrong things I’ve done, all the sins I have committed? I am so bad that there is absolutely no hope for me. I can’t even begin to forgive myself, let alone expect someone else, especially God, to forgive me.

     So, if I can’t forgive myself and I don’t believe that God cares enough to forgive me, how could I ever forgive you when you hurt me? There must be a time in everyone’s life when these thoughts press in and push out the presence of joy. Let’s take a deeper look at forgiveness.

     There are three elements to forgiveness. I have to forgive myself. I must seek the forgiveness of my Father in heaven. I must forgive you when you hurt me.

     “I just can’t forgive myself!” How many times have you heard these words? How many times have you said them and meant it? If I know I have done something wrong, committed a sin, then I surely know I need to be forgiven to remove the burden from my back. If I have sinned repeatedly in some area of my life, as I have, the weight of those un-pardoned sins becomes unbearable.

     The weight of sin is in my life. The burden is extremely difficult to bear up under. The pressure of the burdensome weight of my sins is crushing in on my soul. I … can … barely … lift … my … foot … to … take … the … next … step. I’ve fallen and I can’t get up. Here I lie crushed by the weight of my sin, with nowhere to go, nowhere to get relief from the pain and emptiness I feel inside. Or, is there?

     From this place, broken like the glass I have managed for so long, I recognize that I am a sinner. I have nothing to give except my life of wretchedness, the wickedness in my heart, thoughts and soul. I am dead here in my sin. Trapped. Lost. Consumed like the pressure of the ocean crushing down, down, down on me from all sides.

     It seems there is the possibility of being utterly consumed through this thought process. I could remain in the cycle of being ashamed and feeling guilty until I reach the point of death. Actually, I could remain living and yet be dead, or feel dead, completely emptied of hope and love and life and joy.

     If I find myself at the point of feeling dead in the turmoil of my sin, I sincerely pray that someone will come alongside to help me, and to listen and care about me. I also hope that they will recognize my sin and point it out to me in a kind way. The word here is rebuke. It sounds very harsh, and yet it is with love that rebuke is given to someone who is sinning. (Luke 17:3) "Be careful. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him." Albert Barnes indicates in his notes on the New Testament for this verse: "Rebuke. Reprove. Go and tell him his fault, and seek an explanation. Acquaint him with what has been the effect of his conduct, and the state of your feelings, that he may acknowledge his error and repent."

     I pray that you have someone in your life that knows you so intimately that they would rebuke you when you need it. In the same way, I pray that you are that special person for another brother or sister in the body of Christ. Is someone there for you? Are you there for someone else?

     Hang in there; we are still working on clearing out the pieces of broken glass that we have been masterfully painting, breaking and repairing for such a long time. The first step in the process when cleaning up a broken glass from the floor is to survey just how bad the situation is. The sin in our life is the problem so taking an inventory of our sin now is a right and good thing to do.

     We are now standing at an intersection with only two ways to go. We can turn left, which takes us straight back to where we found ourselves, dead in sin. This will return you to your old job of managing the broken glass and will only serve to keep pressing on you in the same old ways. Return to the old life filled with bitterness for all the things you have suffered and resentment toward those who have caused you pain in the past. Rightfully, you will be living right there in the past, filled with the fear that you will be hurt in the future in much the same way you were hurt in the past.

     Or, we can turn to the right, into the light of the truth. Step into the light of our Creator with His truth on your lips. Experience the deep pain of all the wrong things you have done; hurt deeply for the One who died so you could have abundant life, and repent.

     The American Tract Society Dictionary defines repentance very clearly. “But the true gospel repentance, or 'repentance unto life,' is sorrow for sin, grief for having committed it, and a turning away from it with abhorrence, accompanied with sincere endeavors, in reliance on God's grace and the influences of the Holy Spirit, to live in humble and holy obedience to the commands and will of God. This is that repentance which always accompanies true faith, and to which is promised the free forgiveness of sin through the merits of Jesus Christ.”

     “God will never forgive me. I have been too bad and I am unforgivable.” Just as forgiving yourself is one of the steps to complete forgiveness, so is taking your transgressions before your Creator. Acknowledge them, list them, and speak them to God and another person. God already knows every sin you have committed, so this question comes to mind, “If He already know all my sins, why should I bother to tell them to Him, let alone another person?”

     That’s a good question, and I’m very glad you asked. I can deceive myself into believing that it will be OK if I just hide one little thing, or two or three.

     “But God already knows so I’m not hiding anything.”

     True, God knows every sin you have committed. However, you are being disobedient by hiding in your shame and guilt, and by NOT trusting in His plan of confession, forgiveness, prayer, and healing. Also, you are still hiding your true self from those closest to you. Your relationships with your spouse, children, friends, boss, and God are suffering as a result of whatever you are tucking away inside.

     Seek out and find someone you can trust. Pray for humility, courage, strength and forgiveness. Talk with this person about the things that are inside the cavern of your heart. Release them to the light of Jesus Christ. Pray for freedom from bondage, strength to reject temptation, restoration of relationship with Him, and complete forgiveness of your sin. This is where the glass starts to be plucked out, piece-by-piece.

     Lord, I come before you with my broken heart. Please forgive me for my sins against You. I lay my life before You with a deep trust that You are here for me. I ask for courage, and strength, and that You would keep me humble as I seek to reveal the pain and the hurt that I have been hiding for so long. Take my burdens and free me from the shackles I am wearing. Please, Lord, restore our relationship, and strengthen my will to reject temptation. In Jesus Name.

     The burden of our sins is a tremendous weight and the element that creates separation from God. (Matthew 11:28-30) "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

     So, as we release ourselves from the bondage of sin through the process of openly and honestly discussing our wrongs with another person and praying together, we begin the healing process. This will take much courage because it is in complete opposition to the sinful nature, and I personally encourage you to earnestly pray about this step. “Lord God, I desire to be in the light with all my sins. Please guide me to a safe place to connect with a caring person. Please have mercy on me, a sinner. Give me courage, strength and perseverance in spirit to carry out this important new beginning that You have in store for my life. Thank you, God, for still loving me. Humbly and in Your glorious Name, Jesus. Amen.”

     When this step is fully achieved, you will have entered into a new and wondrous relationship with your Father. Now there are some other considerations regarding the removal of the broken glass.

     Forgive others. (Matthew 6:14) "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you."

     Wait a minute. If I forgive men their trespasses? What if I don’t want to forgive others for what they have done to hurt me? What if I cannot release the bitterness or the resentment I have inside? What if I deny that I am hurting? What if there is something there, but I don’t even know what the hurt is? What if? What then?

     Let’s just say, for the moment, that I can’t or won’t forgive something that has happened to me in my life. Boldly I might say, “I will never forgive you for what you have done!” I would mean it, of course, because after all I am deeply hurt by whatever happened. What happens then?

     Let’s say, for a moment, I choose not to forgive. (Matthew 6:15) "But if you don't forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

     But, I asked for forgiveness. And God forgave me. True. And yet, there is still that significant, lingering problem of free will choice not to forgive. So, it seems there is a condition for my receiving forgiveness for my sins from God. I believe that God empowers or enables me to overcome my hurts because His example of forgiveness is so awesome. It is to His Glory that I am now able to forgive because He has freely forgiven me. The passing-on of the forgiveness I have received actually completes the process because that which is freely given I am able to pass on.

     What happens when you receive forgiveness is a wondrous thing. The overwhelming rush of freedom is the very beginning of what can be described as a new birth in Christ. For the first time in your life, you experience true joy, the joy that comes from knowing you are special and deeply loved by your Father.

     This new birth has the effect of completely changing your outlook on life, love and relationships. As you look out over the lines that represent your relationships, you can see more clearly the shards of broken glass. You can see them for what they truly are, and not what you previously thought they were. There is now no paint to mask the clarity of the hurt represented by each individual piece of broken glass.

     All right, I now see and understand how God has changed my heart simply because He has forgiven me so completely. None of my sins remain un-forgiven because I have revealed my heart and asked for His forgiveness, and I have shared these with another human being, whom I trust, and we have prayed together. This is the James 5:16 principle in action.

     You are now ready to choose. It is your side of the line in the sand, after all. With your new heart and your new outlook, you look around from your foxhole and survey the damage. What do you see? It is war out there and the damage has been done. There is damage caused by you and damage caused by me. There is damage caused by everyone.

     Now it is time to take an inventory of how you have been hurt and by whom. It could be your father, mother, brother, sister or any family member for that matter. It could be a teacher, co-worker, church member, or any other friendship you have in your life. The hurts coming from your closest relationships are usually the most painful because those close relationships are supposed to be safe, caring and filled with unconditional love.

     Take some time to inventory and reflect on these relationships and the pain that lingers from things that were said and done to you. Now is a great time to be aware of some important flags, much like a penalty flag used by a referee during a football game. Be ready to throw a penalty flag (for yourself, of course) if you think or say something like the following:

         “I had a perfect/great childhood.”
         “That’s just the way he or she is.”
         “That didn’t hurt me.”
         "It's not that bad."
         "It's not a problem for me."
         "I don't care."
         "I'll get over it."
         “I’m over it.”
         “It’s not worth remembering that.”
         “I don’t know.”
         “It just doesn't matter.”
         "But, that was so long ago."

     Taking inventory of your hurts is much like accounting for your sins. You should consider this concept with the intent to understand the importance of the process. A most effective method to complete your inventory is to write it down. Write with as much detail as you can and acknowledge who, what, where, when and how you were hurt. Name the emotion and, as difficult and scary as this sounds, attempt to experience the pain again so you can remember how you felt and truly know what it is that you are about to forgive. This inventory can take a long time to complete, and yet it will be one of the most significant things you ever do in your life.

     * Pause here for a moment and ask God to reveal any pain in your life that has not been healed. The same spirit that convicts us of sin will comfort you in the ways you’ve been sinned aganst!

     During this time it will be comforting and helpful to have a trusted person of the same gender to walk alongside you as you acknowledge and inventory these emotional scars. This person must be safe, not someone who will try to engage in any inappropriate behavior. This person can and should be there only to encourage and comfort you. They can also provide much needed accountability during the process. In addiction recovery circles, this person is referred to as a sponsor. It would be best to have someone walk with you who has been down the same road you are about to walk. They'll know the way.

     Some readers will be tempted to deny their pain right now, and some will already have worked through theirs. I encourage you to take up your cross right now and get the materials, a prayer, a pen, a spiral notebook, and a box of tissues worked for me. Schedule some time where you can be alone in a safe place. Contact a trusted friend, sponsor, counselor, or pastor and establish some accountability for the process you are about to undertake. Express to these people that you will need them to stand by you and to walk with you through this time. I know you can find someone to be there for you. I know someone wants to be there for you and witness your success.

     When you get through this inventory, be prepared to forgive. This is the act of giving over your bitterness and your resentments to the One who forgives and has already freely forgiven - YOU!

     Now that you have forgiven others for their hurtful words and actions, you can clearly see the pieces of broken glass we have spoken of. It is apparent that these pieces represent your individual sins. Through these processes the glass will be gone. When all are confessed, not one shard will remain. (1 John 1:9) "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." All swept up and properly disposed of, the King of kings takes your sins upon Himself.

     There is one more point to be made here. As you look out of your foxhole one day surveying the damage, you see a wounded person crawling slowly toward you suffering great pain. Upon seeing this wounded person, your immediate desire is to shoot first, because you recognize him or her as the source of many deep wounds that you have suffered. As you take aim you hear tender words being spoken. You cringe with the fearful thought that you will be wounded again.

     With your new heart, you lower your offenses and your defenses. In essence you have dropped your guard and made yourself vulnerable to the words you are now hearing. What you hear, instead of an attack on your heart, are words of confession. This person is coming to you expressing sorrow for the wounds they have caused you. They are accepting responsibility for the hurt they have caused you to endure. The words flow in truth and in love and without blaming you. The desire to change and turn from those things that hurt you is spoken with a gentleness in spirit and mannerism. You can see this person is deeply sorrowful and is in need of something. You hear, “I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?”

     What now? Do you flee? Do you fight? What is the right thing to do here? (2 Corinthians 2:7) "So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow."

     There is the answer. This person has come to you humbly seeking your forgiveness. So, instead of any other response or action you could do, forgive. Forgive with the compassion of our Father who has forgiven all your sins. Not that this forgiveness will excuse nor erase what has been done, only that with a pure heart, given by God through Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit, you can release that person from their sin against you.

     Then, after releasing him from your judgment and verdict of "guilty" through your forgiveness, comfort this person. Let him experience the tenderness of your genuine concern for what he is going through. Express words of comfort, with a gentle demeanor, that will lift his spirits somewhat. It is likely that this person will feel worthless and undesirable and unloved. This is your opportunity to speak God’s Love into his heart. You can provide some hope through your comforting, caring tone and words.

     I have been this person. Overwhelmed with sorrow at the depth of hurt I caused. I looked, no, I helplessly stared into the deeply overwhelming blackness of that sorrow. There was no end to the blackness. Inside that sorrow there was no light, no hope, no love, no God and no end. I say “no God” because it was I who had alienated myself from Him through my sin. What I heard when I confessed the depth of my sin to my precious bride was hope. I was hurting so deeply, and my own hand caused the pain. The desire of my heart at that time was to get away from, or to escape, the pain. What I really wanted was simply to die.

     But when the seed of hope was planted, the light began to shine on the inside of the cavern in my heart. The cleansing water of Christ watered the seed of hope and it began to grow. I now carry an unending debt of gratitude because my bride chose to forgive me of the wrongs I committed against her, our family and God. I use the word “debt” to describe the importance of my gratitude for her forgiveness, not that I am contractually obligated to repay because it was freely given.

     What I experience now is a more consistent desire to comfort, walk with, lift up, unconditionally love, and forgive others. I want you to know that I fall short of this desire, and yet the desire remains. My desire is directly related to and connected with the unconditional love and forgiveness I have received from God and through my beloved wife. When she made the choice to forgive, I truly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit, a freely given gift from Yahweh, as my sins were taken up and out and replaced with the essence of clean, white and perfect. Not that I am perfect, but that I am perfectly forgiven and free from the bondage of that sin.

     To the point, instead of being overcome by my sorrow, I was forgiven and comforted. God, I hate what I did, and yet I know that I own it. I accept that I own it all. I own the sin and I own the pain others have experienced because of my sin. But through the processes discussed here I gave it over to Him and traded burdens. I can tell you this; His burden IS light.

     Did we clear out the broken glass? Yes. Is life perfect? No. I still sin. I still hurt others. I still need forgiveness. I understand that I will be cleaning up the broken shards of glass when I sin. The blessing of hope that gleams brightly on the edge of each piece of glass, though, is the hope of the light burden as I sweep up the pieces and give them to Jesus. He takes every one. Every day. Oh, God, I love Him!

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