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Sermon 6/21/09
Keep On Trying - Psalm 143:1-2

Audio Sermon

Keep On Trying

Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In Your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness! Enter not into judgment with Your servant, for no one living is righteous before you” (Psalm 143:1-2)

My mother and I had a wonderful relationship during the last years of her life, but it wasn’t always that way. When I would telephone her home in California from my place in Tucson, and later, Mesa, Arizona, she would answer “Hello!” in that bright, friendly way she had. But when she found out it was me, her only son, she would inevitably add, “Oh, it’s YOU!” in an annoyed tone of voice.

I did not understand why she was angry though it was obvious she was, and when I asked her about it once in awhile, she denied that she was angry at all. It was frustrating, but when I told someone about the problem, they gave me some very good advice: “Keep on trying. Don’t give up. You're not perfect either. Keep calling her.” And I did.

It was at that point I began calling every week. And in every call, for a long, long time, her response was: “Oh, it’s YOU!” with that angry sound to her voice. But I took it as a challenge, deciding that our relationship was more important than any hurt feelings I might experience. I went further and developed the habit of following up each phone call with a greeting card or note sent in the mail.

During my childhood years, my parents had argued constantly. Oh, not ALL those years! They began really fighting when I was eleven and it was still going on when I left home at eighteen. The loud arguments actually continued until my father was in a convalescent home in his seventies, not that long ago. One thing I remember clearly in those early years was the inflection my mother used in speaking to him. “Oh, Earle!” she would say in a certain manner that everyone understood was a contemptuous, angry tone of voice. In my telephone calls to her from Arizona, she would often call me “Earle,” as though I was him, in precisely that tone. I knew what she felt about me when she called me by his name and it was hard, but I continued to make those weekly calls.

It took a long time, but it all began to pay off. After literally TEN YEARS of phone calls in which I did not defend myself against the jabs she took at me, she began to thaw. We became friends once more and entered what you might call a normal mother-and-son relationship. Then came that wonderful moment when she invited me to visit her. I initially declined because during those years there was no money for travel, but she offered to pay for the plane ticket. It seemed right to say “yes,” so I made a reservation and off I went. We had a great time together. I continued to visit, sent her notes, and we saw each other in person about twice a year. The healing had begun.

I had not been able to understand why my mother was so angry. She wouldn’t talk about it and if I persisted, she denied that she ever felt that way. It seemed the Lord had possibly healed her anger to the extent that she could not imagine ever having such feelings. And later, God gave me understanding through my wife, Genevieve. They had become good friends in the last years of my mother’s life, and one day Genevieve explained it to me this way: When I moved from California to Arizona during the 1970’s, for me it was just a relocation. It did not occur to me that when I went, I not only took her only child (that’s me) away from her, but I also took my children. Those children, from my mother’s perspective, were her beloved grandchildren. She was angry because I took her grandchildren away.

Suddenly it all made sense. I did not have to ask my mother about it because every angry response that had come from her now made sense. For the first time, I knew why. I had thought my hands were clean. I thought I was innocent and the problem was my mother, but it was really something I did. Pretty much everybody in the world wants to be the “hero” of their lives. We want to be like the “good guys” in the movies, and that's why we often assign the blame to others when things go wrong.

My problem with my mother was perspective. I saw everything, but without understanding. I was a father who had moved with his children to Arizona, but never looked at it from the perspective of an adoring grandmother who resented the person who took her beloved grandchildren away. And that’s the way of misunderstandings, most anger in life. We only look at our side and are blind to the other person's feelings.

We like to view ourselves in a good way, and we are less able, less willing to see others in a positive manner. Actually, I don’t think we as humans EVER fully see the motives of other people or even our own. But better than human understanding is when we come to the Lord and begin to see from the perspective of the throne of God. He understands everything and everyone perfectly and He is willing to share what He sees with us.

Today’s Scripture is a Psalm of David, his prayer to the Lord. He said, “Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In Your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness! Enter not into judgment with Your servant, for no one living is righteous before you” (Psalm 143:1-2). This is wonderful, for it defines what my parents never did for each other, and it shows what I did not do for my mother. My parents constantly blamed each other and I blamed her for rejecting me. We didn't pray; we felt blame. The person who advised me to: “Keep on trying. Don’t give up. Keep calling her,” was showing me the heart of God. And during the ten years of continuing to make those calls and send the notes, I know that the Lord enabled me. I also know that my efforts did not change her - it was God who did a great work in our lives.

We can recognize certain key elements in David’s prayer that will enable us to keep on trying. First, David took his concerns to the Lord in prayer. He did not try to solve them on his own, but instead went to God, confidently anticipating a positive, effective response. He trusted, he KNEW that God would hear and faithfully "answer." He also saw that we don't come to the Lord in OUR "righteousness," but in God’s. We deserve God’s “judgment,” for “no one living is righteous before” God.  Reconciling with people is not accomplished by them being “wrong" and us being “right.” We must admit we lack understanding, pray, and then keep on trying. The Lord helps those who look to Him.

Lord, we bring our impossible situations and our lack of forgiveness to You. We ask You to do what we cannot. We confess our sin, acknowledging that “no one living is righteous” before You.” Help us to keep on trying. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

Write to: Letters@FridayStudy.org

"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

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Friday Study Ministries
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Long Beach, CA 90809-2131 USA