I looked down, using all possible restraint to not bite back, to avoid defending myself, and simply repeated my previous response, “Please don’t text me anymore right now. Have a good time tonight with the boys.” Then I tossed my phone onto the countertop, face down, and walked away.

This small act of letting go, of non-response, would have felt impossible five years ago. I hate tension and naturally scramble to pacify aggression. I’m also sensitized to accusation, and my mind relentlessly spits out points, counterpoints and questions. I hated leaving his words hanging, unrefuted, as if their merit left me speechless.

Most of the time things flow smoothly with our exes and co-parenting, but we all still have triggers which run deep and can explode from time to time. As I sank into the tangerine chair, tears slid down my cheeks. No immediate act could truly lessen the pain of the new wound. I could only choose not to make it worse, not to pick up my own sword, and eventually, to forgive. I knew from much experience that forgiveness was the way to refuse this new wound permanency.

After the tears dried up, after my neighbor stopped by for some tea and silliness, my spirit began to lift. I finally picked up my phone, relieved to see the texts had ceased.

Then my eyes fell to the top of the screen, on his contact name, and my stomach lurched.

John the Great.

A few months ago, one of our mischievous little boys had been changing my screensaver and decided to also change the contact names of everyone in our family. And ‘extended’ family. Newton became Newton the Great. Papa – Papa the Great. And suddenly, my ex-husband had become Great.

When I first saw he had changed his father’s title, I immediately began to change it back. But I stopped. I chose, I willed, to keep it. To accept that mental signal every time his name appeared on my screen. To see his Greatness.

In that moment of wounding, I again longed to erase the title. But I knew it was still a choice, not a feeling. Even in pain I could choose the position of my heart. So many of these small choices have paved the way for real freedom in my life – things like speaking highly of him, especially to the children, or thanking God for the positive things he does and says, And so I kept it as it was and chose again, the way of grace, the way forward; a way that draws out Greatness in everyone.

I’ve also heard this referred to as ‘calling out the gold’ in someone else. It flows so naturally for me with my friends and loved ones, but real transformation happens in deliberate choice, when it’s often the hardest with people who have hurt you the most.

If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that…

I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst.
Our Father is kind; you be kind.


Graham Cooke refers to difficult relationships in our lives as grace growers, because they are regular opportunities for us to develop in character. These gifts are often abundant with divorce and blended families. There is a unique challenge in continuing to co-parent with someone you’re not married and committed to, and loving children transplanted into your unique family. The value of what’s at stake can often make situations volatile, and the person on the other side can feel like an enemy. But every conflict, every struggle, rises up as an opportunity to choose generosity and grace, no matter who is on the receiving end. These choices are carried out in actions, in words, and in attitudes. And they will bring a return, eventually.

Graham outlines a really practical exercise for this which I’ve summarized here if you want to dig deeper. Who are the grace growers in your life right now? What is just one active way you can choose kindness toward them today? Establishing that new upward direction can start with just one act: words that build up, choosing to overlook an offense, giving more than is required; the possibilities are endless. Your choices to do so will pave a way for you and for them and for your own unique life that is truly Great. You’ll never—I promise—regret it.

3 Responses to “Great Again”

  1. Denise Steyn says:

    I love this…thank you for being so real! It’s a choice to forgive, a decision that we have to make in our minds and then allow our hearts to follow as God enables us to walk that out. Doing kind without any expectations of a return, simply because that is what Christ would do. Choosing to love, not only when it’s convenient for us! XXX

  2. erinceleste says:

    You are truly GREAT!! The way you honestly walk through the grace journey is humbling and inspiring.

  3. TAD says:

    Wow! I would have played the victim card and deleted the word great attached to his name, but you did not. Super impressed and blown away by the choice you made in that moment not to run away with your feelings but to choose in the moment the harder and ultimately better decision. Great example of grace, love and forgiveness.

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