Don’t Forget Five

19 08 2015

For years I’ve been ‘stuck’ in a wound that would not go away. No amount of forgiveness brought the release I sought.

I talked through the situation with Abba – literally hundreds of times; yet could not get free of the matter.

I finally wrote it off as my ‘hard heart’ and lamented my lack of spiritual maturity.

This was a serious problem for me because I kept bumping into the same scenario everywhere I turned. That was painful, yet I see the gentle, patient hand of Father whose desire is for my wholeness.

After more than a decade of wrestling with my inability to forgive, yesterday my counselor and I discussed the issue for the umpteenth time. I’m thankful that God has given her great patience with me as well!

At long last, we found the key that unlocked the shackles of my unforgiveness.

It was a small thing, a simple thing, yet every bit as important as every other step in the process, as I learned yesterday. Perhaps that’s why I needed this lesson.

What did I learn?

I matter!

“C’mon! Get on with it,” you say. “What’s the key?”

I had not forgiven myself.

Seriously? That’s all?

Um, yeah.

A long time ago I was offered a supervisory position. I believed myself unqualified for the job. I didn’t pray about it, just declined the offer.  I would be in charge of many people. If I messed up, it could be costly.

However, I had a friend who demonstrated all the qualities I believed necessary to handle the position well.

Um, didn’t pray about that either.

At the next board meeting, I recommended my ‘qualified’ friend.

They agreed, and he was put into the position.

It didn’t take very long to realize that I’d judged this person by his outward appearance – and hadn’t given a second’s thought to his heart.

Big mistake.

Lurking under the mask was a power-hungry, ambitious fellow who didn’t care if people were hurt by his actions or words.

Sadly, many were hurt. Many found positions elsewhere.

Then I became his target.

Perceived as a threat by my ‘friend’, he went out of his way to undermine and discredit me.

His efforts were quite effective, thus when I went to the assistant HR person to discuss the number of ‘casualties’, I was told, “We know he’s hurting people, but he gets things done. Who could we get to replace him?”

I got the same response from the head HR guy as well.

I became frantic, burdened. These were my friends who were being hurt. The more innocent ones were being led into dubious actions and attitudes.

 

Seated on my counselor’s couch, we hacked at the roots of my unforgiveness – again!

“What is it about this that you can’t let it go?” she asked.

We did a little exploration (again), and began to go through the forgiveness process as noted in my Be Selfish – Forgive.

We went through forgiving the person, asking God to forgive them, to forgive me, then ‘forgave’ God for not doing what I thought He should about the matter (!).

All of a sudden, her eyes lit up.

“Hey! Have you been blaming yourself for the outcome?”

I thought about it a minute, and it became crystal clear.

Here, at last, was the key! 

I continued to hold myself solely responsible for what happened…

…Like I’d handed a loaded machine gun to a four-year-old in a mall, who was now mowing down everyone in sight.

That is not a good feeling.

“Yes I have. I was the one who recommended the guy in the first place.”

The minute I forgave myself, BAM! That choke chain around my neck hit the floor. It was the size one might use to restrain Godzilla!

The release and freedom I felt was instantaneous.

Yes, I recommended the guy for the position, but once he was installed the matter was out of my hands.

From that point on, he was the responsibility of our HR department. They saw what was going on – even acknowledged it, and they chose to do nothing.

The outcome was beyond my control, thus not my guilt to bear.

God longs for our wholeness. Jesus stated this when He introduced His ministry in Luke 4:18-19:

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.

He was content to revisit this issue with me until I finally realized that the one I needed to forgive was me!

You see, I matter to Him. What I think and believe about myself, yeah, that also matters.

Guess what? You matter to Him as well!

Forgive as you have been forgiven…

…and don’t forget Five!





When My Body Said, “Enough!”

12 08 2015

Stuffing emotions is how I’ve coped with life. As a child, any emotion that was a little too happy or too sad was cause for a reprimand:

“Sit down and act your age. Settle down.”

Or

“Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”

Sanguine by nature, I learned to behave like a Melancholy. In fact, I picked up many of the characteristics of that personality type: organized, analytical, studious, and focused.

I also suffered from severe Eczema, hives, bronchitis, and wet the bed well into my teens (TMI, I know).

It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that this ‘crazy fun’ personality made her appearance. I would get happy and act all crazy…then wonder if I was crazy, then stuff that nutso back in the box.

In 1980, I heard Florence Littauer speak on the four personality types. In a matter of a couple of hours, I saw what was going on and began to operate as the personality God gave me:

“Do it my way and we’ll have fun!” I love it!!

While I was set free to be me, I continued to stuff negative emotions. Expressing those had never gone very well, and this didn’t improve once I became an adult.

After several years of emotional healing, the skin ailments and bronchitis disappeared. I’ve been very healthy – without so much as the yearly bouts of flu and colds.

Until last year, that is.

It was like my body said, “That’s it! There isn’t room in here for one more thing.”

I began to have physical ailments, sometimes separately, at other times, several at once: migraines, joint pain, kidney stones, and gall stones.

One by one, though, as I addressed old wounds with my counselor, these began to go away.

It became apparent that certain types of stressors affected certain organs in my body. This is what I learned about the above maladies:

Migraines: Lies I believed about God, myself, and others.
Joint pain: Unforgiveness
Kidney stones: Rejection
Gallstones: Fear

As we worked through the lies I believed, I would get a raging migraine. By the time we’d worked through the current one, it would disappear.

These have become a warning sign for me that the enemy is attempting to sell me a lie. As soon as my head starts hurting, I consider what I’ve been thinking about. Every time, this has been the case for me.

In the spring of 2013, my entire bone structure came loose. When I moved around, my back sounded like a zipper. The rest of my joints continually popped as I walked around or used my limbs. It was a creepy feeling.

After nine months of forgiving people who hurt me, my skeleton is back to normal. I am so thankful for that! There were times when I thought a hip would dislocate just by moving it out of line with my body. That was scary.

Major emotional upsets that involved rejection resulted every time in a urinary tract disorder of one sort or another. The severity determined whether it would be stones or an infection of the kidneys or bladder.

No fooling. Absolutely every time, within 24 hours of the rejection this was the case.

And gallstones? I now understand that ‘blinding pain’ isn’t just a cute little phrase. Pain can be so intense that everything before your eyes goes completely black.

(Yes, I could go have my guts yanked out, but I like my guts and God wouldn’t have given them to me if they were unnecessary!)

It took a while to figure out what was causing stones, but after a few months it became apparent. Fear had to go.

Whenever a situation arose where I should have spoken up, but chose to be a coward – bam! Gallbladder attack. As soon as I addressed the situation, I would pass a stone (or several) and all would be well…

…until the next time.

This is the year I am learning to stand up for myself. Fear has no place in my life. My gallbladder says so.

I’ve learned that my body is the dashboard of my heart. When I deal with my heart…dis-ease goes away.

No, I am not prepared to claim this for everyone. Each of us is unique, the choices of medical care and medications between us and the Lord.

However, my body has been the way the Lord got my attention so He could heal my heart. Maybe this will help someone else, too. I’ve read reports from many medical professionals which state that up to 85% of all illness is due to emotions. I may not be that far off. It’s proven to be the case in my own life.

For me, this is the year of no more stuffing.

My body said, “Enough!”





Step by Step…Inch by Inch

19 12 2013

When it comes to set rules, no place is likely to have more than the area of forgiveness. We talked about the “bounded set” earlier in this series, and used the unfinished statement, “You’re a good Christian if…” to make the point.

Here we see this mindset with a different application:

“I will forgive you when…”

When what? Go ahead and list what is demanded of the offender.

How likely is it that these things will ever take place?

(Not very)

Even if they were, would it be enough?

(probably not)

In the meantime, who’s the one being affected?

Does it chap the hide to realize that they’ve gone on their merry way, without giving a second thought to what was done?

Yes, and the idea of letting them off “scott-free” seems so unjust!

However, this is exactly what we must do if we are to live as the free children of God we were meant to be.

Otherwise, we continue to inflict injury long after they’ve moved on. We pay for it in physical and/or mental health issues.

This is a bad plan!

So, let’s see what it’s going to take to shake this thing, shall we?

First, we’ve named their sin. We’ve seen it for what it was.

We’ve ceased to accept that we “deserved” what they did. NO ONE ever deserves to be sinned against. We didn’t “have it coming” or any other such rubbish!

Then we look at the sin in light of who we are now:

We are not the product of our past experience…

We are a product of Jesus’ work on the cross…

A NEW CREATION!

We must believe what Scripture says is true of us, and NOT the labels we (or anyone else) gave us as a result of that/those experience(s).

Further, consider how God used their evil to create something wonderful in you…greater compassion, more patience, etc. Would you be the same person today if you’d never had that experience?

I certainly would not be working at the mission and reaching out to the broken, had I never been “broken” myself.

Moving on, we trust in the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us. He lives in us and is constantly at work to transform us into the likeness of Jesus. We invite the Spirit to fill us with the power to forgive. The answer to this request is “YES!” – for this is certainly His will for us.

Having done this, we NAME the sin; COUNT the cost; FEEL the loss. We allow ourselves time to grieve what was lost.

NAME it = be specific. Specific will set you free.

“I forgive my dad for alcoholism”

vs.

“I forgive my dad for not being there when I needed him…for abandoning me. I forgive him for his anger and the violence that I received as a result. I forgive him for pushing me away and rejecting me. I forgive my dad for his irresponsibility in blaming everyone else for his addiction.”

COUNT the cost = if you weigh the cost, you can reclaim the loss in Jesus. God promises to give back the years the locusts have eaten. (Joel 2:25).

FEEL = this is a process of the heart. Take time to grieve. You’ve suffered loss. Something was taken from you that can’t be returned, in the same way that death removes a person from our life.

Note that the work is ours alone to do (with the help of the Spirit, of course). In other words, this is something that we must do. No one else can do this for us.

Dump the “Bounded Set” concerning forgiveness. I.e. “When A-Z has been done, then I’ll forgive.”

Hell will freeze over long before all these ducks are by the same pond…

much less “in a row”!

Talk this issue out with the Lord – do it out loud. I’m always amazed at what gets worked out in my head when I speak what’s in my heart…the good, bad, and ugly.

We will have to resolve to live in the consequences of another person’ sin…we will anyway, we might as well accept this truth.

It’s not fair…

…but this is not heaven!

We will never be more Christ-like than when we bear the marks and cost of another’s sin while choosing to forgive them.

“Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing.”

Our acceptance of life as it is will bring peace, healing, and comfort.

To continue to demand that the person pay for what they did is to become a bitter, hateful, spiteful human.

Know anyone like that? I do. They’re downright ugly people!

(A note on self-forgiveness here:

To forgive ourselves removes the “should have” and “ought to” feelings that continually tell us that we can never measure up. No, we didn’t measure up then, but this is a new day…with no mistakes in it. Let’s get up and move on, shall we?)

In our conversation with the Lord, we can say, “Father, this hurts. Because of what they’ve said/done, I’ve believed (this) about You, and (this) about me. Please replace these lies with Your truth. Would You show me how You see me?” (“Sit” with this and give Him time to respond. He will. It might not be right then, but He will talk to you!)

(The last time I did this, He said, “chosen!”)

What God says to us about us carries the most weight.

We must learn to ask Him to speak to us!

(And then let Him get a word in edgewise!!)

Finally, we commit to pray for our offender(s). At first this will be hard, but if we stick with it, the Lord begins to show us that person through His eyes as well.

At that point, we can look for the “gold” in them (even if it’s a tiny speck!)…instead of payment from them.

When we get to this place, they are free to be who they are – and we are free to love without strings or expectations.

What a glorious day it is when we can say to those who have deeply wounded us:

“Even if you never change, you owe me nothing. You may never be the (father, mother, sibling, spouse) I want, and you may continue to say mean and hurtful things, but Jesus paid your debt, and I release you.”

Which, in reality, means that we’ve been removed from captivity to that person!

Forgiveness is not an easy process…sometimes we make progress inch-by-inch. At least we’re moving forward!

If you’re a visual person, you might want to try the balloon trick I use. I wrote about it in Two Balloons.

*****

Our current study is on the Discipline of Forgiveness. It begins here.

You’ve dropped in on the series Intimacy with God. It begins here: C’mon In…

The section on Living by the Rules starts here: Where Image Is Everything

Learn about other Obstacles to Intimacy here: A Clogged Conduit

Are loss and grief obstacles to intimacy? Our discussion on the matter begins with Plastic Hearts





How to Live Debt Free

18 12 2013

Around my house, we’re still back in the 20th century…well, at least I am. I have a ‘pay by the minute’ flip phone, no cable or satellite, and (aside from my laptop) little contact with the outside world. We don’t even have “Caller ID” on our house phone (which, by the way, is push-button…not a rotary dial. We’re not quite that backward!).

Many times a week, I must confess that I covet your ‘Caller ID;’ especially when I answer the phone only to discover that it’s a telemarketer. (Even these calls can be redeemed, I’ve discovered. They called me. I try to remember this might be a Divine Appointment, and do my best to introduce them to Jesus.)

Lately, everyone and their dog seems to be concerned about my debt load, though. I’ve never met so many people anxious to give credit to an unemployed person (which makes no sense), or consolidate my debt and reduce interest rates so I can become ‘debt free’…by going further into debt? Does anyone think logically anymore?

Today, however, we’re discussing a different sort of debt. This is what is owed to us, not by us.

We left off talking about what forgiveness is NOT. Today we’ll look at what forgiveness IS.

The most important thing to know about true forgiveness is that we can’t ‘get there’ if we don’t first own the offense…acknowledge that we were sinned against.

This seems elementary, but too often I’ve heard folks teach that when someone sins against us we should just brush it off, look to the cross as a reminder of all Jesus did for us, and get over it.

Advice like this looks good on the surface, but it’s only part truth. We will get to the cross in a bit, but first we’ve got to look closer at the ‘brush it off’ bit – which is, at its core a lie.

To pretend that an offense is ‘not that big a deal’ is to lie to ourselves.

This is what God has to say about that:

“Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” Psalm 51:6

…and again…

“O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. (Psalm 15:1-2

So long as we are in denial about sin committed against us,

big or small,

we cannot truly forgive.

For instance:

I am frequently in contact with a fellow believer who loves ‘sitcom humor’ – you know the biting remarks delivered with a laugh (and secretly meant). “Hey, that was a good one!”

I don’t find the humor in their comments, and I’ve spoken to this person concerning this matter. They don’t see it as a problem, and expect me to ‘lighten up.’

The problem is that I struggle with others who have ‘weighed me and found me wanting,’ and this person knows my battle. Instead of ‘giving grace to this hearer’ (Ephesians 4:29), this ‘spiritual sibling’ says things that cut and slash at my heart…and doesn’t want me to spoil their fun.

To make matters worse, this same person will at other times make wonderful, encouraging comments to and about me.

Mixed messages really slap a person’s brain around, don’t they? This has the ‘curtain’ effect. I’ve closed my heart on the one side to block the unkind comments, which caused the curtain on the other side to close as well – which blocks out kind comments.

(Thanks, that’s a heap of insight for me!)

For a long time I worked at getting thicker skin, tried to brush off comments, and pretend everything was fine.

I never really called it for what it is: SIN.

In the grand scheme of things, this is a little deal…and this is what we’re prone to do: Discount or excuse the other person’s behavior.

We can’t forgive what we haven’t acknowledged.

So forgiveness IS owning the truth that we have been sinned against.

Next, forgiveness IS allowing Jesus to pay the price for all sin…sin committed against us – and sins we ourselves have done.

We must forgive ourselves as well.

We cannot repay our debt to others for the wrong things we have done…and they cannot repay us either. No amount of forgiveness can undo what has been done. Jesus alone can pay these debts – and He did! From the cross He cried out, “It is finished” – which is literally translated, “PAID IN FULL!” We must move forward, with confidence that He will make everything right in His perfect timing – or risk slipping into the slough of bitterness.

Finally, forgiveness IS allowing Jesus to be the judge. We must trust Him to decide when and how the debt will be repaid. Others’ sin against us left a hole in our heart.

Perfection is the only Sacrifice that will fill this void.

Only Jesus can do this.

Why should we forgive?

Because we are commanded to forgive by Jesus (Matthew 18:34-38).

Because only then can Jesus pay for the sin. So long as the offender is being held accountable by us for their sin, they are bound to us. Consequently, even if they are a continent away – or even dead – they continue to hurt us. We do this to ourselves every time we relive their painful actions.

This is true when WE were the offender, too. If we fail to take our sin to Jesus and allow Him to cleanse us, and then forgive ourselves, we have blocked His mercy and grace from doing their work in us!

The ability to say, “you owe me nothing” (and mean it) liberates us to love, laugh,

and live debt-free.

*****

In the next post, we’ll wrap up with the process of forgiving.

*****

Our current study is on the Discipline of Forgiveness. It begins here.

You’ve dropped in on the series Intimacy with God. It begins here: C’mon In…

The section on Living by the Rules starts here: Where Image Is Everything

Learn about other Obstacles to Intimacy here: A Clogged Conduit

Are loss and grief obstacles to intimacy? Our discussion on the matter begins with Plastic Hearts





Forget-Me-Not

13 12 2013

“Forgive and forget…isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Then why do I continue to remember what others have done to me?”

Let’s look at what forgiveness is NOT today.

First, forgiveness is NOT “forgive and forget.” God does remove, release, and cover our sins:

“Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” Hebrews 10:17

God is stating that He is not holding our sins against us any longer. Why? Because of the work of Jesus on the cross. All we ever did – or will do – has been paid for in full by Jesus…

if we have accepted His sacrifice as atonement for our sin.

“The life I now live I live by believing in God’s Son, who loved me and took the punishment for my sins” (Galatians 2:20b God’s Word).

(Thanks for the Scripture reference, Viewoutsidethepew!)

Without a relationship with Jesus, you’re on your own.

“And when you were dead in your transgressions…He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us, and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to His cross.” Colossians 2:13-14

Back to the “forgetting” thing. If we are going to mature and become like God, then shouldn’t we be able to forget what was done against us?

That sounds right, but the Bible doesn’t say God “forgets.” He’s not a dottery old man who has trouble remembering things. Scripture says that He chooses to not bring what we’ve done back to remembrance. There is a difference.

Sometimes it would be dangerous to “forget.” More on that in a moment.

Second, forgiveness is NOT tolerating sin. It does not mean that we allow someone to keep hurting us. It is not saying, “Oh, it’s okay” when it’s NOT! God does not call you to be a doormat.

Get this:

Behold, I have taken out of your hand the cup of reeling; the chalice of my anger, you will never drink it again.

And I will put it into the hand of your tormentors, who have said to you, 

“Lie down that we may walk over you.”

You have made your back like the ground, and like the street for those who walk over it. Isaiah 51:23

Abuse is NOT God’s will for you, nor is it your just punishment for sin. Jesus took all our punishment on the cross. Don’t lay down for those who are out of control “in the name of Jesus!”

Third, forgiveness is NOT demanding repayment or revenge; nor is forgiveness contingent on justice for the consequences suffered.

As we consider this, we must realize that no amount of unforgiveness can ever undo what was done – and no amount of apology can ever rewind the clock and erase what took place. This is a cold hard fact. You’ve heard it said, “what’s done is done.” That’s true. That time is past, and no amount of unforgiveness or repayment can change history.

When we demand repayment, or insist on revenge, we have set ourselves on God’s throne. We will be the judge…the jury…and we will decide when they’ve paid enough for their sin.

I’m thankful that God does not treat us in this way – aren’t you?

We must forgive…and then leave justice up to God.

Fourth, forgiveness is NOT rationalization. It is NOT trying to understand the reasons why: “I’m sure he had no idea…” “She really is not like this usually.” or “He was under a lot of stress.”

Nonsense! See their actions for what they were – sin. Forgiveness is not denial. We tend to accept abuse when we believe we don’t deserve better treatment.

You’re a child of God, for heaven’s sake, not a punching bag!

(This is not to be confused with being martyred for faith in Christ…that is an entirely other matter.)

Finally, forgiveness is NOT bad boundaries. To forgive someone does not necessarily mean that we keep the relationship the same.

It may be necessary to put emotional – if not physical – distance between us and those who sin against us.

It may take time to rebuild trust.

Forgiveness does NOT mean that we have to continue to put ourselves in harm’s way. Get some distance between you and the offender, some help from a wise Christian counselor, and some time to heal. It’s lunacy to continue to put one’s hand on a hot stove…physically and emotionally.

(If you need some information on this, I recommend Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend.)

*****

In the next post we will discuss what forgiveness IS.

*****

Our current study is on the Discipline of Forgiveness. It begins here.

You’ve dropped in on the series Intimacy with God. It begins here: C’mon In…

The section on Living by the Rules starts here: Where Image Is Everything

Learn about other Obstacles to Intimacy here: A Clogged Conduit

Are loss and grief obstacles to intimacy? Our discussion on the matter begins with Plastic Hearts