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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Holding On

Two birds battled in our driveway. The beak of one was clamped firmly on the leg of the other and it would not let go. The captured bird wrestled frantically to break loose. They jerked, thrashed, and rolled. I sat spellbound as they continued to lurch and tumble as each fought to gain the advantage.

I spotted the birds as I was leaving home to run an errand. I don’t know how long they had been locked in combat, but it looked like a fight to the death. After watching almost ten minutes, I needed to go, but the birds blocked my path. When the front tire of my car was within a foot of them, the attacking bird finally released its grip and the two flew away, free.

The battle reminded me of a time my husband, Robert, and I had struggled. We must have looked just like those fighting birds. Conflict threatened to destroy our marriage and we couldn’t seem to work through it. We kept thrashing and tumbling as we sought to gain advantage. At every turn, one or both of us was hurt. I thought the emotional bumps and bruises would never cease.

Our struggles in relationships are often lengthened because, like the birds, neither gives in. We hold on, refusing to let go. We don’t realize that as long as we maintain our grip, we are trapped too. We are jerked, tossed, and tumbled, being wounded along with the other.

Throughout the struggle with Robert, I never guessed that I held the key to stopping it. Freedom came after I finally realized I was holding onto Robert’s leg through judgment. My judgment of him kept us locked in conflict, destroying the peace we once knew.

Initially, I didn’t approve of a decision Robert made and was afraid our family would suffer. My fear led me to be too forceful when we first talked about my fears, and nothing changed. Even as I tried to be respectful and supportive, I was thinking, “you shouldn’t be doing that,” and “You ought to ...” I held him by the leg with my shoulds and oughts and continued to judge his decisions. I was not aware of my judgment, just of the fear of the consequences we could suffer from his choices.

Meanwhile, it felt to Robert like I didn’t respect him and he couldn’t do anything right. Even when I didn’t say anything, he sensed my underlying judgment. It was hard for him to hear God because of fear of my reactions.

As the conflict continued, my greatest concern was Robert’s lack of seeking the Lord. How could we expect God’s blessing if we didn’t seek His direction? What I didn’t realize was that I was standing between my husband and God. He was so afraid of my reaction that he couldn’t find the Lord. I was in the way.

Jesus’ words are so true, 

"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2 NASB).

As long as I remained judgmental against my husband, I felt judged by him. The consequences of my judgment were worse than those from his decisions. For months, we scrambled like two birds in the driveway.

When I released Robert from my shoulds and oughts and trusted God to work out His purposes, Robert and I were both freed. He was free to hear God, and we both found peace with God and could reestablish the fellowship we had once enjoyed with each other.

The same principle holds true with my in-laws, pastor, co-worker, and neighbor. If I dwell on how they should and ought to be doing something, there is conflict. If I trust God to work in their lives, I don’t get caught up in struggles I can’t get out of. Instead of holding on, I need to release people and circumstances into God’s hands. He is the judge.

“Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things” (Romans 2:1, NASB).

Copyright © Kay Camenisch, used with permission.

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