A few years ago, my son received a bag of coal for Christmas. From his wife. ? The “coal” pieces were freezable ice cubes. He uses this coal regularly because it doesn’t dilute his beverages.
While this funny story still makes me giggle, I also started thinking about what lumps of coal I’ve passed on to my children. Are they ones that create funny memories, or do they bring heartache and disappointment?
3 lumps of coal you don’t want to pass on to your children
Carol S. Dweck’s book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” challenged me about the importance of our life attitude. Earlier in my life, I remember hearing that we are born with either a pessimistic or optimistic attitude, and I believed it. I thought that I was a natural-born pessimist because I felt blue often. Therefore, I looked at life negatively, expecting the worst, which I called being a realist.
After reading Mindset, I discovered the fallacy in this belief. We learn to be pessimistic and optimistic. Therefore, we can change our mindset. God created us with the ability to learn and grow, and that includes our brains. In 1 Peter 2:1-3, God encourages us to grow up, mature, and change our minds about our behaviors. Why would God say that if it wasn’t possible? He wouldn’t. God is a good Father who desires the best for His children. Therefore, if He says we can change, then it is possible.
This mindset change requires we believe God, understand that He always seeks our best, and desires to give us His abundant life. Notice I said HIS, which is often very different from OURS.
Psalm 37 tells us that when we seek God’s heart when we wait for Him, we discover how He meets all our desires. This “meeting our desires” doesn’t mean God is a genie granting three wishes nor is He Santa Claus. He’s not a grandfatherly figure in heaven waiting to say yes to our every whim. No, God is the Creator of the Universe and us. He deserves praise and thanksgiving. His purpose in creating us was to be in a relationship with us. But we destroyed that relationship when we believed Satan’s lie in the garden. Sure, Eve first succumbed to Satan’s lie that God wasn’t good and wanted to deceive us, but Adam chose to go along with the same lie, which brought sin into every one of our lives. So, yes, we destroyed our relationship with God.
God told us in that initial sin moment that our Redeemer would come. Jesus, born as a baby, came to provide our way back to a right relationship with God. Only a loving God who knew He created us to grow and mature, to choose His life-giving ways over Satan’s death-producing antics, could redeem our minds. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, God teaches us what it means to live with an expectant attitude exemplified by our hope in Him. Hope is Jesus, nothing else. He changes our perspective on this lump of coal.
Talk about a nasty lump of coal to give someone. Our children aren’t born with angry words in their hearts and minds. They learn these from us.
I’ll never forget when I learned this lesson. Even now, I can see my young child cowering at my outbursts. Those life-stealing words came from deep pain within my heart and soul. Ephesians 4 says that we are not to sin in our anger. The anger I felt wasn’t necessarily wrong. It was what I did with that anger. I used that anger, disappointment, and fear to lash out at my children and husband, verbally assault them to cause pain, and not bring life.
Jesus became angry, but He didn’t use that anger to cause harm or destroy others. He challenged us who twisted God’s words and laws to suit our self-promoting desires. Perhaps one of the most famous examples of Jesus’ anger was in the Temple with the moneychangers. He felt anger over the misuse of His Father’s house and the thievery evident in the dealings with the people. Jesus continually calls us to a higher standard, which points others to God.
Today, I cringe when I hear angry words fly out of my mouth. I know I have some soul searching to do with God in those moments. I’ve probably not spent time reading the Bible, journaling, and talking with God each day. Therefore, I’ve lost my anchor. Or maybe I’ve experienced several hard things in quick succession. My heart hurts, and I haven’t fully processed that pain. Perhaps I haven’t slept well for several days. Tiredness weakens my emotional health. I know that. Whatever the cause, an angry outburst warns me to stop and deal with the reason.
I can’t often say my anger is righteous like Jesus’. When I hear the Bible misquoted or passages pulled out of context to justify sinful behavior, I cringe and want to call it out. What I do know is this angry-words-lump-of-coal must be burned.
This lump of coal feels more extensive than the others. The world and our culture promote seeking our best, fighting for our rights, and separating from those who don’t think like us. We find this attitude sneaking into God’s church as well.
Yet, God commands us to forgive as we’ve been forgiven. One of the most quoted passages of the Bible is the Lord’s Prayer, which tells us to forgive our debtors. Another translation says to forgive those who sin against us. God even ties our forgiving others to His forgiveness of us.
It’s so easy to recite these words from memory. However, living out the command to forgive consistently takes hard work. I once heard our pastor explain that if you truly understand the depth of sin for which you’ve been forgiven, you cannot look at others and refuse to forgive them. Jesus died on the cross to forgive ALL our sins. And in that forgiveness, He gives us eternal life with the Father. How then can I say your sin is too great to forgive? I can’t. Only through the mighty work of the Holy Spirit in our lives can we forgive others even when the pain feels overwhelming.
As the mother of an only son who eventually forgave the man who shot her son said, “unforgiveness is like cancer. It will eat you from the inside out. It’s not about the other person; me forgiving him does not diminish what he’s done. Yes, he murdered my son – but the forgiveness is for me. It’s just for me.” We need to forgive the other person for our sake even more than for theirs. Unforgiveness breeds bitterness because it continues to rip open the wound.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean I trust you and stay in an intimate relationship with you. There’s the rub. We confuse the command to forgive with the ability to trust or the wisdom of trusting that person. God gives us the courage to forgive another person. But trust is earned in small actions.
If you’re carrying this lump of coal, it’s time to drop it. By God’s grace and with His help, you can choose to forgive any offense you carry. The enemy of our souls wants to keep you trapped in unforgiveness, and he’d love you to pass that lump of coal to your children. However, God has a better way because He’s shown you what happens when a person receives forgiveness.
What lump of coal are you guarding?
How are you passing any of these coal pieces to your children?
How are you passing any of these coal pieces to your children?
This Christmas season, stop, take time to look at the baby in the manger, and thank him for forgiving you. Then, ask him to give you the courage and strength to dissolve these lumps of coal permanently. He will answer this prayer because he’s done it for me. Jesus came to set us free from all the traps that entangle us. He was born to die for the sins of the world.
Not sure how to destroy these lumps of coal?
Take one step of courage and reach out. I promise we’ll work together to set each one aside with God’s help.