“She should put on an apron before frying bacon.” One would think that at my age this would be a piece of advice I would have quickly learned. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
While I am getting better at heeding this sage offering of wisdom, there are times when I throw that piece of bacon right into a hot pan and immediately feel the singe of a hot response.
Usually, it happens when I don’t think ahead or when I simply fail to consider how hot the pan is. Nevertheless, when the pan is hot and you put bacon in it, you’d better be appropriately clothed, or you will get burned.
Wait – before Brian runs into the kitchen – I’m not talking about actual bacon in an actual pan on an actual stove. I’d never be foolish enough to fry bacon naked. However, I have experienced the hot, stinging burn of heated words in response to things I have said or done. Just like bacon in a hot pan.
The reality is, we don’t always know how the people around us will receive things we say or do. We don’t know if they will read words that aren’t there into our messages because they’ve possibly had a bad day, an argument with their spouse, a sleepless night, or are in the middle of an extended crisis, any or all of which can affect how they receive whatever it is we toss into their pan.
When the response we receive is a splattering of harsh words that singe our emotions and burn our hearts, we are dumbfounded; especially when nothing negative was intended. When we get burned this way we have a couple of choices: we can get away from the pan, or we can put on an apron.
I’ll be honest, this happened to me recently, and the first thing I did was step away: I blocked all contact (this seems to be the preferred thing to do – protect yourself). However, about fifteen minutes in, I truly didn’t think that was the way to handle it. What if this person wanted to apologize; I needed to be accessible, so I removed the blocks. I knew that what I really needed was an apron – actually, a few layers of an apron.
The Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Colossians exactly what that apron looks like. It is made out of the fabric of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. When we put it on, we make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends. We remember that the Lord forgave us, so we must forgive others. Above all, our apron clothes us with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony, and the peace that comes from Christ rules in our hearts. (Colossians 3:12-15).
OK, I get it, this is not an easy apron to put on let alone wear, at least not for me. I had been burned – past tense – hurtful things had been said to me, and about me. When cooking bacon you need to put the apron on first to keep from getting burned, but I learned that even though I was putting this apron on after the fact, it had a healing effect. God is good that way.
When I chose to extend mercy and kindness – and I’ll admit, it was only in my thoughts because I was not about to reach out in vulnerability – my attitude changed. As I chose to give the benefit of the doubt, I found I was extending grace – undeserved favor. Somehow, the hurt I had endured didn’t hurt so much. I was still upset, but I started to wonder how much pain/heartache/difficulty/stress this person was enduring so that it seemed OK to lash out at me.
I chose gentleness: I didn’t resort to self-defense, which is not an easy thing for me. However, the Lord has been teaching me that he can and will defend me better than I can defend myself.
I chose patience: I would continue to love this person and let the Lord take as long as He needed to do the work He was doing in both of us. An apology may or may not come, but that was not up to me.
I made allowance for this person’s faults – which is easy to do when I remember all of the faults God has endured in me, and all of the ways this person has been a blessing to me in the past. I was ready to forgive as soon as an apology was forthcoming, and even if it never did, I was not going to hold a grudge. Love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.
I chose love – love which binds us together and brings peace. It would have been foolish to let a few hot words burn through the cords that bind our hearts in Christ.
A couple weeks went by, and I did receive an apology. Whew! Thank goodness I’d lifted the block! And I quickly extended forgiveness. I know how hard it is to own one’s sin, and I know how hard it is to apologize. I also know how good forgiveness tastes! My countless sins were forgiven at the cross, so how could I deny anyone forgiveness for one sin committed against me.
What about you, this holiday season, are you a hot pan ready to explode? Do you need to ask for forgiveness? Have you been burned? Are you keeping a record of wrongs – a list of burn spots? Who should you forgive? Do you know where you’ve hung your apron? Is it time to wear put it on?
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Marcia’s book, 365 Days of Grace — is currently available on any of the following links: