A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford

The voice on the phone was broken with sobs. “Mrs. Handford, could you come over real quick? My home is falling apart.”

Of course I went at once. What horrible tragedy had overcome that precious home? Jane let me in the house but stopped me at the front door. “There!” she sobbed. “Look at that!”

I saw a pair of worn men’s boots, perhaps a little muddy, but right at the door, where they wouldn’t muddy the carpet. Her husband worked long hours in construction so she could stay home with the children. He and the children hovered nearby. They seemed bewildered and frightened by the passion in her voice. “What’s the matter with his boots?” I asked.

“He always leaves his boots there! He never puts them up where they belong! I can’t stand it any more! I’m leaving him.”

“Janie,” (not her name, of course) “could you and I maybe go into another room so we could talk alone?”

As you’ve already decided, she was wasting emotion on something not worth her passion. True, the boots were unsightly, but certainly not a threat to the welfare of the home. I couldn’t help but wonder if Jane didn’t also have some small, irritating habits her husband could have complained to me about as well. Of course she couldn’t meet all of his expectations, nor could he meet all of hers. So what should she do about the muddy boots? If they were so important to her, couldn’t she move them to their bedroom herself? Better, couldn’t she greet him at the front door after a hard day’s work with a kiss and a cup of coffee, and take off his muddy boots for him?

None of us will ever be able to meet the expectations of our loved ones. Couldn’t we accept the good we see in them and overlook their small, irritating habits?—especially when we need their forgiveness for the ways we disappoint them? Romans 15:7 says,

So accept each other
just as Christ has accepted you;
then God will be glorified.

How did the Lord Jesus accept us? He welcomes us into His holy presence without any reference to how well we behaved, how carelessly or earnestly we have lived. We were sinners, foul, disgusting, but because He paid the penalty for all those terrible things in our past, He welcomes us into His perfect family. And that’s how He expects us to forgive and accept each other. Sure they have flaws. Sure they are hard sometimes to live with. But so do I have flaws. So am I sometimes hard to live with. And if you accept me, and if I accept you, then, the Scriptures promise, “God will be glorified.”

A fourteenth-century Persian rug of a beautiful garden of flowers bears this inscription:
“My heart accepts the thorns of your garden.” My heart accepts, not tolerates, not forgives, but
accepts. How our relationships, our homes, our work environment would be changed if we only accepted the prickly thorns in the personalities of those we love. . . and in the meantime, working diligently to remove our thorns that are so irritating to others!

Oh yes, you will be glad to know that Jane did learn what God wanted her to learn that day. She and her husband have been happily married now for 40 years.