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How do I love thee? Let me count the ways

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By Al Earley

 Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-61) penned the famous poetic words, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”  

Her understanding of the power of love is miraculous given the horrific nature of her upbringing. Her father was obsessed with controlling her, which was made easier when she was injured at the age of 15. He forced her to be a recluse in their home, refusing to let her meet people or ever consider marriage. After a year of corresponding with Robert Browning they fell in love, secretly married and fled England to live in Italy. 

Over the next 10 years she wrote love letters to her parents hoping they could reconcile. They returned all the letters to her unopened. Although these “love letters” have now become a precious part of English literature, it’s sad to know that they were never read by her parents. Had they looked at just one, the broken relationship with their daughter might have been healed. 

Life is simply too short to hold onto offenses and refuse to forgive and reconcile with people. The process of seeking and receiving forgiveness is a pretty simple one. Doing it can be the hardest thing we can ever imagine doing. That is why the first thing we should do when we want to reconcile with someone is go to God and pray about it. 

Asking God’s divine power to be present in a difficult situation will always be helpful. God can help us see the situation much more clearly and get our heart in the right place so we will desire to be righteous far more than we will desire to be right.

After praying take the initiative (but keep praying throughout the process). Someone must get things started, and many a relationship has never healed because both parties refused to reach out to the other. Don’t wait for them, even if you think the other person is at fault and should be making the first contact. Confess your part in the broken relationship. Even if you think the other person is more to blame. That doesn’t matter.  

When a relationship is broken, there is always something we could have done better to keep the brokenness from occurring. Usually, when we confess our part in the brokenness it will open the doors to all parties being honest and seeking forgiveness.

Deal with the problem instead of attacking the person. Many times, when we are hurt, it is easy to put the worst motives on the person and turn them into a bad person. We all have plenty of personality flaws that can be used to prove we are bad. Don’t go there. Ask God to help you stay focused on the problem.  

Amy Biehl died a violent death in 1993. She was a 26-year-old Fulbright scholar who had gone to South Africa to help register black voters for their first free election. But even though she was seeking to help the people of South Africa, as she was driving one day, she was dragged out of her car, stabbed and beaten to death by a mob which was committed to violence to overthrow of the apartheid government. 

Soon afterward, Amy’s parents, Linda and Peter Biehl, quit their jobs and moved from their Orange County, Calif., home to South Africa, not to seek revenge, but to start a foundation in Amy’s name. Today, two of her killers work for the foundation. They call Mrs. Biehl “Makhulu,” or grandmother, because of the way she treats them. She says, “Forgiving is looking at ourselves and saying, ‘I don’t want to go through life feeling hateful and revengeful, because that’s not going to do me any good.’ We took Amy’s lead. We did what we felt she would want.” 

That is the picture of reconciliation. It not only forgives; it reaches out to restore. It pays back good for evil. It is following the heart and character of God, for the Bible says, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). 

Is there a broken relationship in your life that it is time to address?  What keeps you from beginning to pray about that relationship?  

What are the many ways prayer can help you be open to God’s creative power to bring forgiveness and reconciliation in our lives?

 

 

 

 

To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see, www.lagrangepres.com.