"Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." John 7:38

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Have you heard about the Crazy Lady who lives in the woods at the edge of the school playground in northern Illinois? She has wild hair and blazing eyes and she screams about wanting to kill people. She walks fast and slings her hands beside her. She’s a scary sight.

It was near the end of the school year, just a few years ago when the children first saw her.  During morning recess on a sunny day the kids were playing outside when they heard her shouting in the woods. Alarmed, the children stopped running and playing and stood still as they stared toward the woods.

Suddenly, she burst through the clearing on the path that snaked through the woods. The children didn’t move; were they paralyzed with fear or curiosity. The Crazy Lady stared at them. Should they run? Would she chase them? Just as quickly as she entered the clearing she turned on her heels and hurried along the path back into the woods.

Surely the older children continue to warn the new students to this day “Don’t go near the woods! She may come out again!”

She won’t. She moved to Texas.

On the day the Crazy Lady appeared I was walking in the woods and praying. When my prayers started to focus on me in my circumstances instead of God in my circumstances anger took over and the Crazy Lady from within me burst forth. That’s when I started shouting at God. I was shouting because I didn’t want to do what God wanted me to do. God wanted me to forgive someone, and I didn’t want to do it.

What? Not forgive? Who doesn’t want to forgive? Sometimes I don’t. And, I expect there are times when you don’t. But, the alternative isn’t pretty. If I refuse to forgive, I am setting myself above Christ who died so that all my sins would be forgiven.

“Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:32 NLT

Should I choose not to forgive, I am choosing disobedience.

“‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!’” – Matthew 18:21-22 NLT

Disobedience prevents me from having the intimate relationship with my loving Father that I desire. Disobedience will not cause me to lose my salvation – when I accepted Christ, I was declared justified: my sins are forgiven and I am in right standing with God, but disobedience will keep me from intimacy with God. It is like a great fence that separates me from the One I love the most.

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.” – 1 John 3:18-22 NLT

I didn’t start into the woods as the Crazy Lady — or maybe I did. I was angry at my circumstances. I was angry at the person I had to forgive. And I was angry at God because I knew he had allowed the circumstances.

I don’t believe I have any right to be angry at God. Ever.

He is wiser than I will ever be. He knows the details of my life better than I ever will. He knows what is best for me. He knows what will strengthen me, discipline me, challenge me, and help me. He allows the circumstances of my life and he uses them for my good. All of them. Even the things I don’t like. Nothing in my life happens outside of his guardianship.

“For he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.” – Ephesians 1:11

“He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the people of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him; ‘What have you done?’” – Daniel 4:35 NIV

While I believe that God is sovereign (the king) over my life, I also believe he gives me the freedom to make choices and decisions that cause things to happen, or not happen. And I am accountable to God for those choices.

So, I had choices that day – forgive the one who had hurt me and walk the path with God that he had for me, remaining close to my Shepherd, in fellowship with my Father, leaning on my Strong Tower, and trusting in his wisdom – or, harbor unforgiveness and continue to walk in anger by myself.

The choice to walk alone was more frightening than the Crazy Lady! I don’t want to walk anywhere that is not close to God, so as difficult as it was, I chose to forgive, and to ask for forgiveness.

Is there a Crazy Lady – or Man – within you? What choices will you make today to stay close to the One who loves you most?

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