To Infinity and Beyond!!

infinityOne thing about our kids growing older is that as parents, we look a bit ridiculous going to the theater to watch cartoons without little kids. I’m not saying it has stopped me, I’m just sayin’… haha! However, I will admit that these trips are much less often than when the boys were younger. I remember well when they were still my “babies” and their room was all decorated with Woody and Buzz from Toy Story. My oldest son was a fan of Woody, my youngest of Buzz. We had the action figures, the VCR tapes (remember those?), the sheets and comforter sets, all of it! So, when Toy Story 3 came out in theaters, I was very excited. “The sequel!! Andy’s going to college…!” I announced, excitedly. My oldest son informed me that it was a little “creepy” how excited I was about this movie. Bah-humbug!! Or whatever you say when it’s not Christmas!! Anyway, we didn’t go. So, last spring during our month of rain, you can only imagine my excitement when Toy Story 3 was on TV! You can bet that movie was set up in our DVR schedule right away! I figured it would be a great movie for a rainy day, which we were having our share of, to say the least. I was planning a family evening with popcorn. What I got was a very good lesson from ol’ Woody and Buzz. For those of you that haven’t been fortunate enough to see this movie, let me give you a bit of a recap.

Andy, the toys’ owner and friend, has grown up and graduated high school. He is getting ready to head to college. Mom is after Andy to clean his room, box up the toys he wishes to keep, donate the toys he doesn’t want to keep, and throw the rest away. Andy has a hard time letting go of Woody, Buzz, and the gang, and decides to keep them, placing them in a black trash sack meant for the attic. Woody, his favorite, will be making the trip to college with Andy. Mom sees the black trash sack and assuming it is meant for donation, puts it in the car to be hauled away to SunnySide daycare. The toys are beside themselves with grief and anger. They think Andy didn’t want them anymore and are very angry at Woody for being “kept”.  Once inside the daycare doors, a new life awaits. The toy that seems to be in charge is a large, cuddly teddy bear named, “Lotso Huggin”. They are told by Lotso Huggin Teddy Bear that “It’s great here. Toys get played with all day by lots of kids. We aren’t owned by just one and then given away… It’s GREAT!!” he says!

Woody saw what happened at home, that the toys were actually meant for the attic, and just can’t accept that they were not wanted. (Plus he was actually put in the “college” box, not the trash bag headed for the attic.) He is still longing for the lost relationship he once had with Andy, while the others are hurt, feeling abandoned, and have given up on relationships altogether. They are willing to be played with “all day long, 5 days a week”, nothing more, no commitments. Jessie, the cowgirl, asks Lotso what happens when the kids grow up. Lotso replies, “Well, I’ll tell ya… when the kids get old, new ones come in. When they get old, new ones replace them. You’ll never be out-grown or neglected, never abandoned or forgotten. No owners means no heartbreak.

However, they soon find out that without relationship, they are beaten, abused, and roughed up on a regular basis. They aren’t loved, just used. And their first night at Sunnyside they find out the truth, they are captives… slaves… in their new place they were once willing to call home. These toys had given up on relationships.

We were created for relationship; never forget that!   I wonder how many of us know the pain of relationships lost. Divorce. Death. Abandonment. Unfortunately, people walk away sometimes for no reason, sometimes for no GOOD reason! The pain it leaves behind is real, legitimate pain. It’s hard to understand. Occasionally, it’s hard to move on from this place. If we follow along in the cartoon, we see Jessie and the rest of the toys become very bitter and angry. Cartoon or not, I see the reality of this situation. Human interaction is not the same when it’s not a true relationship.  Are we like the cartoon characters in Toy Story 3?

I remember well the day we watched this movie.  I remember keeping it in our DVR for quite some time, wanting to go back and review this initial situation.  I knew there was a big lesson here.  But quite honestly, I am not sure I got the entire “gist” of it until recently.  I’ve been seeking God regarding a situation in our county… a situation that seems so, SO big that ONLY He could do anything about it.  I’ll say it again… He’s so good… so amazing… so faithful!

The one question-which I believe is the beginning of the answer God is sending- I’ve been “hearing” loud and clear in my heart is this:  What if God forgave like we do?  I’ve heard this a thousand times… I’ve probably said it myself a thousand and one:  “I forgive so-and-so but I’ll NEVER forget what they’ve done to me.”  What if…  Omigosh, it’s hard for me to even type this, but what if God forgave us like that?  I tell ya what, I’d be doomed.  I’d have no hope.  It brings me back to the story Jesus told us about the unforgiving servant:

Matt 18:23-35  Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to reconcile accounts with his servants.  When he had begun to reconcile, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  But because he couldn’t pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, with his wife, his children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.  The servant therefore fell down and kneeled before him, saying, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will repay you all!’  The lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.  “But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him one hundred denarii, and he grabbed him, and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’  “So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you!’  He would not, but went and cast him into prison, until he should pay back that which was due.  So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were exceedingly sorry, and came and told to their lord all that was done.  Then his lord called him in, and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt, because you begged me.  Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?’   His lord was angry, and delivered him to the tormentors, until he should pay all that was due to him.

OUCH, right?

So how did we get from Toy Story to a story of how we should forgive from the Bible?  Where am I going, you ask?  Hold on… it should all come together right here.

We throw people away.  We throw relationships away as if they never did mean anything.  I would confidently guess that all of us have, at least once, been “thrown away”.  Most likely by someone who should love us unconditionally.  I have been.  But what is worse, is that this was my lifestyle.  I found it so easy to walk away from anyone who I even perceived might one day hurt me.  Looking back, it honestly hurts to realize how many times I just walked away.  I’ve missed out on so much because of fear, unforgiveness, and anger.  And I’m afraid I’ve hurt others with my running.

I guess what really stands out to me are the family relationships I’ve lost.  I’ve had people that were a huge part of my life walk away from me and never look back.  There is a giant difference between my family and my husband’s family.  The first few times I witnessed any family conflict within my husband’s family, I fully expected that relationship to be over and done with.  I remember actually being surprised that only minutes later those involved were talking and going on about life again… together!  Psalm 68:6 says this:  God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.  This is a verse that brings me to praise everytime I think of it.  I thank God SO often for the lessons He has taught me from within this awesome bunch of in-laws (& out-laws, haha!) I have been blessed to call my family!

One of the lessons I’ve learned is that there IS going to be conflict.  (Doesn’t that seem like such a simple fact-of-life that we should all question why I had to “LEARN” it?  Don’t comment on that, please!!Hahaha!!)  Just because people don’t agree on one situation or another has nothing to do with the love they have for the other person.  Or it shouldn’t, right?  For crying out loud, with 8 billion people on the earth, I’m sure there’s going to be more than one opinion and more than one way to “get-er-done”!  Because your opinion or way of doing a particular thing doesn’t match identically with someone else’s doesn’t automatically mean you’re right and they’re wrong.  And please hear this loud and clear:  IT’S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT BEING RIGHT!!!  How often have we “won” a fight, proving we were “right”, and it felt horribly wrong??

Andy’s toys felt abandoned, thrown away by someone they loved and they thought loved them.  They were through with relationships… willing to be used and abused… angry and bitter… and very soon realized they were being held captive… slaves!!  What a lesson, right?

Unforgiveness.  Who does that hurt?  Bitterness.  Who does that affect the most in your life?  Anger.  Who does that make the loneliest?  We hurt ourselves the most with these actions.  Honestly, the person who we feel has caused us to be this way has most likely gone on in his or her life to other things.  Andy didn’t even realize the toys were taken to the daycare.  He assumed they were in the attic.  I am learning more and more that those people who have hurt us don’t even realize they did and for sure didn’t mean to.  Now, seriously, I do realize there are situations that are very serious; I understand that some of us have been hurt “on purpose”.  But, as hard as this is, forgiveness is forgiveness.  I know, I know!!

I heard someone say this one time on TV and I have no idea who it was.  “But you don’t know what they did to me.” and the response was this, “But I know what they did to Jesus.”  And I know what I’ve done to my Lord.  He gave up everything!  He went through pain that science says He should not have been able to endure.  ~and He went willingly!  I spent 27 years of my life walking away from His love and forgiveness, basically throwing my ugliness in His face defiantly!  But you know what?  He spent 27 years pursuing me, loving me at my absolute worst, calling me back to Him when I wasn’t even willing to hear His voice.  And when I did hear it, He never once said to me, “Tracy, I forgive you for what you’ve done… BUT… I will never forget!”  He just said, “Come here, I love you.  I’ll help you turn away from all that mess and guide you into everlasting life.  I have a good life for you… an abundant life.  I love you.”  People, please hear this… I was trash.  I deserved nothing except to be thrown away!  And He welcomed me into His kingdom with loving, FORGIVING arms!!

I am learning more and more everyday that Jesus holds and guards my heart, through the good and bad, and that He for sure will never leave my side.  One of the most dangerous prayers I’ve ever prayed was this: “Lord break my heart for what breaks Yours.  Teach me to love as you love.  Replace my heart of stone with a heart of your flesh.”  I dare you… I dare you to pray this prayer!  I am not a slave anymore, I am not captive to anything!  I dare you to follow Him with all your heart… to infinity and beyond!!

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