“We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.” Luke 15:23-24—The Parable of the Lost Son.
Scripture says that when a man or woman once lost comes to Christ, there is a celebration in heaven. I also believe that when a believer taps into a greater measure of truth and God’s love, celebration follows that as well.
There is a celebration in heaven today—over me. Not because of any grand, glorious act that has flowed from my hands. To be honest, I wasn’t in the mood to party. It was God who told me to pick up my mat and celebrate.
Ironically, I was literally on my yoga mat yesterday feeling the burn in my hamstrings when God spoke to me. Just that morning I’d prayed, “Lord, make me more gentle. I want to be gentle like You.” I’d conversed with a friend the night before about what God is doing in her life. She shared that she’d turned away from the false, religious interpretation of the gospel, and was now living in its fullness, and that she was blessed because of it. That same day, another friend shared her desire for present day cruelties in the world to be brought to light. Though valid, she’d recognized where her flesh had crept in with judgement. The Lord challenged her to lay down her pride, pick up His humility, and trust Him. She was in tears as she confessed.
Repentance—the act of turning from man’s way to Christ’s way—is contagious. I could see clearly heaven’s celebration over my friends and their obedience to Christ. Little did I know that He was inviting me to a celebration of my own, and similar to theirs, it would come at the expense of laying down what I formerly thought was right.
As I lay on my yoga mat, the Lord began to speak to me. I’d been wondering for many months why I am so provoked to jealousy, comparison, pity, control, and anger. These are not characteristics that would come to a friend’s mind when she thinks of me—hopefully—but I sense them lurking in the shadows of my heart often. I don’t desire them to be there. In fact, I was doing what I thought would keep them away—being in the Word, praying, surrendering, seeking wise counsel. Still, the uglies grew as weeds in my heart. No matter how much or often I pulled at them, it was obvious that I’d yet to see the root. I needed divine help.
One situation in particular had its grip on me. I’d wake up thinking about it. After praying it away, it’d return midday for me to pray it away again. I kept asking God, “Why can’t I shake this?” I’d convinced myself of a lot of reasons why—none of them aligning with God’s response.
Because you’re offended, and you’re bitter because of it, He said.
I was speechless, and that’s rare.
Never in history had there ever been a more contemplative ab workout. Putting my equipment away, I could see that God’s insight had settled over me like a blanket I could throw off or wrap around my shoulders. Am I offended?
There was no way. I’d prayed. I’d surrendered. I’d let go…hadn’t I?
I ventured to the theological journal of YouTube in search of any teachings on offense, and hit the jackpot with John Bevere speaking about his book, The Bait of Satan: Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense. I purchased the book even before hitting play, pulling God’s blanket of gentleness over myself one shoulder at a time. As I listened to him speak on the DNA of offense—where it’s rooted, how it manifests—I realized that I’d not only taken up offense in this situation. It was a lens I’d lived much of my life through—subjecting my relationships to pain, and self-sabotaging seasons and moments that would have otherwise been beautiful. In an effort to protect myself, I took up offense.
Ironically, the word sounds like “a fence,” and does exactly what a fence would do. It keeps what you want in and what you don’t want out. When we build out of offense, however, we keep out the very things that are able to heal us.
The very One who is able to heal us.
As the enemy would have it, I tumbled into false repentance. I am a toxic person. I don’t deserve to be surrounded by people who love me.
The voice from the yoga mat stampeded those thoughts with greater ones. You are My beloved daughter in need of a redeeming Savior.
I have so much work to do, I thought. I don’t even know where to start.
I did all the work, He said. Now you live in what I’ve done. Start with meeting with Me.
The next morning—this morning—I attended the first meeting, where God set the ground rules. There would be no false repentance, no self-pity. This was a celebration—a believer once blind had come to greater knowledge of her standing in Christ. Heaven was celebrating. As the guest of honor, I needed to celebrate too.
All that’s revealed now is the first step: continued meeting with Him. The next steps will come, I’m sure, in the prayer and worship and seeking. And so, here in step one, I leave you with this: Offense is a choice the way forgiveness is. You cannot choose to be offended and choose to forgive. There are many both-ands in the world; this isn’t one of them.
Repentance is for our healing, not our humiliation; and like the father in Jesus’s parable of the lost son, when our Father sees us walk in the way of true, righteous repentance, He celebrates with a feast, and He invites you to celebrate with Him, and with heaven.