The not so respectable, respectable sins
Catch for us the foxes,
the little foxes
that ruin the vineyards,
our vineyards that are in bloom.
Song of Solomon 2:15
A few days ago I found myself quite irritated with my husband. If I were to disclose what it was that set me on edge I have no doubt you would shake your head in amazement and then hand me the number of a good marriage counselor because at that moment in time, my heart needed some help. As I stood trying to sort through what I was feeling and why, the Holy Spirit pressed upon my heart the realization that immediately identifying and dealing with this perplexing situation was not an option! As I forced my brain to concentrate on God’s call to love unconditionally, it struck me that moments like these, if left unattended, threaten the foundation of even the most solid and committed relationships. Couples do not stand at the alter on their wedding day with hearts full of contempt and disdain. What begins as true, committed love will always grow cold over time if the memories of what they loved most about their spouse are replaced and replayed with a growing list of hurts, offenses, and irritations. If I valued the gift of a healthy and thriving marriage and planned to honor my pledge “to love, honor, and obey till death”, not divorce, I had to figure out and deal with what really was going on in my heart towards my spouse. But, there was more going on in my heart than opportunity for a silly irritation to attack the foundation of our marriage. A few days later, God used a simple drive in the car and then a book to bring understanding and truth to a critical need to identify and eliminate some foxes in my vineyard.
The drive on Thursday wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for me. I wasn’t in a hurry, there wasn’t a lot of traffic. I was simply making my way back home after running some errands. As I approached an intersection, a car hesitated and then pulled out in front of me. With their available clearance to shoot the gap already in question, the car then proceeded to slow down and go a full 5 miles under the speed limit. Frustrated, I eloquently barked out my irritation at the inept driver. I did’t cuss and I didn’t rage or loose control of my emotions, but in frustration I proceeded to spend the next few minute explaining to the car in front of me exactly what I thought of their driving skills or rather lack of them. The entire time I was vocalizing my displeasure, the Holy Spirit quietly was doing the same to me to me. Conviction eventually led to muted irritation until opportunity provided me with the chance to get around my slow moving obstacle. I snapped the turn signal my, jerked my car into the other lane, and then stomped on the gas making sure to looked over as I passed the slow moving can in order to get a glimpse of the offending driver. My irritation seemed innocent, if not justified but deep down I knew I had responded poorly. I knew this outburst and the many others like it were wrong. I felt convicted and ashamed because I knew this was an ongoing problem I hadn’t been able to master. I also knew I this was a sin I should not excuse to justify and so I arrived home discouraged. I continued on with my day, got distracted, completely forgot about the interaction. Eventually, the sorrow and guilt over my conduct faded and the little fox remained in my garden.
Today I finished up Lisa Terkeurst’s book “Forgiving What You Can’t Forget.” One of the last points she made about the importance and necessity of forgiveness, brought everything from the past week into light. Aside from the fact that God commanded us to forgive and Jesus tied it to the Father’s forgiveness toward us (Luke 13), was the truth that the consequences of refusing to forgive seeps into all other relationships and aspects of our lives. We can’t simply choose to not forgive a specific person and keep the effects of that bitterness confined to that one single relationship or situation. Bitterness is a sin that will spill into and poison all other relationships. Bitterness towards an “enemy” who has wounded us will multiply and be poured out upon the spouse we love, the friends we cherish, and the children we adore. Any sin rationalized and justified produces consequences that seeps into every aspect of our lives and relationships. I began to reflect upon the people and events in my life that had caused great brokenness and pain, things I would never be able to forget. There are memories so painful that the mere mention of names or events can trigger stifling anxiety attacks. Lisa’s words rang true as I began to connect the dots, recognizing a familiar pattern of keeping score, making lists, and withdraw from other relationships I cherished.
As I digested Lisa’s words, I thought back to my shameful ride in the car and then to the silly irritation towards my husband a few days earlier. The light came on again as I realized those 2 moments were also connected. Just as bitterness towards one relationship affects another, justifying my irritation towards an aggravatingly slow drivers created a home in my heart for the seeds similar irritation towards my husband. “Little foxes” (ie. sins) are often excused reactions that fly under the radar. While they seem innocent and harmless, they quietly perpetrate some of the greatest damage to relationships far and wide because they continue unnoticed and unhindered. I would never dream of killing someone who hurt me, but I can become so bitter I rejoice when they hurt or worse yet become bitter at God when they don’t. I may believe it absurd to divorce my spouse for something petty like leaving his underwear of the floor but I can poison my heart and love towards him by daily compiling a list of irritations, faults, and failures that silently and gradually erase from memory all that is good, and noble about him that I admired and fell in love with in the beginning.
All foxes that are welcomed or tolerated into the vineyard spoil the vines and destroy the grapes. Every sin tolerated and justified in one situation take root in our hearts and bring destruction in others. May God grant us discernment and vigilance to root out and annihilate all the little foxes.