Forgiveness Redefined

5 10 2015

I recently learned a new definition for forgiveness. It is this:

“Letting go of the hope of ever having a better past.”*

That may sound like a ‘no-brainer’, and it is…if you aren’t the one who must let go!

As I considered this point of view, it became increasingly apparent that this is the main hitch to forgiving. What happened was wrong. It should never have played out that way.

I want a different story!

For a one-time event, like being cussed out, this isn’t a very difficult task. On the other hand, if you’re talking years of mistreatment, that’s a different matter entirely.

How does one go back and rewrite their history?

Short answer:

It’s not possible.

What can we do with the lost years, or even decades? How on earth do we let go of the hope of having a magic wand waved over time and see the past changed in an instant?

This definition took forgiveness to a whole new level for me…and at the same time, showed me why I struggled with giving up the accompanying bitterness and resentment.

I wanted my life back, written as a fairy tale instead of the ugly reality I lived.

Which is not possible.

It was necessary to let go of the dream of ‘what might have been’.

Until I could do so, I was stuck in pain and despair.

If you’ve read many of my posts, you know that life has showered me with abandonment, rejection, and abuse of every sort. I don’t understand why my story is thus, but am grateful for the lessons learned along the way. Thankfully, God is using my history to develop my character, and to draw me close to Him.

The depth of relationship I enjoy with my Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit would not exist apart from my history.

While I’ve walked through the ‘steps’ of forgiveness, there were parts from which I could not shake free. This definition shed light on the problem.

Maybe it will help you, too.

 The struggle to accept this truth was tough. It’s too bad that mental gyrations don’t count as trips to the gym. I’d be buff!

At the end of each session, though, the conclusion was the same…the past could not be changed one iota.

When I finally came to grips with this, freedom happened.

The final moments between seeing that a different past was a hopeless cause – and accepting reality – was mind-bending in the extreme. I could almost hear the synapses in my brain stretch and, one by one, snap.

Talk about a renewed mind!

Lightness followed, as did clarity. At last I understand:

If we don’t like our history, then we must make better choices today,

which will give us a better ‘past’ tomorrow!

If I hit on a trigger: You don’t understand! I didn’t ask for this; I was a kid, let me clarify. Some of our history was beyond our control, for sure. No two-year-old has a say about much that happens to them.

However, we are no longer two years old. We’re grown-ups with a voice. As adults we have a great deal of say in what we will and will not allow.

Choose wisely!

*****

*This definition comes from Affair Recovery. If you, or someone you know, has either been unfaithful – or been betrayed – this is a fantastic resource. Their video blogs are insightful and informative, too.

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God Loves Broken Pots

21 08 2015

My life, like many of yours, has been filled with great pain, abuses, unfulfilled dreams, and deep sorrow. It was made doubly hard by my faulty beliefs of what God is like.

Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “I know the plans I have for you, plans for good (shalom – Hebrew) and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

As I surveyed my life, and considered the sovereignty of God, I came to the conclusion that He was a monster. Psalm 135:6 reads, “The Lord does whatever He pleases.” It seemed that He had been ‘pleased’ to curse me with immense misery.

I was once asked, “If you believe that God is so horrible, then why do you love Him?” That was a good question.

I responded with: “He’s all there is, and I have to love Him if I’m going to avoid hell.” I’d had plenty of experience with ‘loving’ hateful, hurtful people.

I assumed that God was like them – I could handle one more.

It was then that God began to reveal His true nature to me through a verse in John. Jesus said, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.”

Wow! I began to pour over the gospels, and to study Jesus. I realized how wrong I was in my beliefs about God the Father. He was tender with the people ‘in the ditch,’ but harsh with the self-righteous, religious people.

I hadn’t expected that.

He showed me His broken heart when I spent days on end in a drunken stupor to anesthetize my pain.

He loved me when I dragged the label “Christian” through the mud in every way imaginable.

He loved me when I slandered Him, and blamed Him for every vile sin committed against me – all while I claimed to be His child.

He loved me when I was bitter, hateful, and vindictive.
For almost five decades, He pursued me, wooed me, and sought to win my heart. His patient persistence finally won out.

Time and again He has shown Himself trustworthy. If I took the entire week it wouldn’t be enough time to enumerate the many ways He’s demonstrated Himself to be His every name as given in the Bible:

Redeemer, Provider, Healer, Defender, the Great I AM, and so much more.

He is everything I need.

He set me free from the bondage of people-pleasing, and has shown me time and again that if I seek to please Him, then others’ opinions are of little consequence.

He loves me – and that is enough.

He has become my best and dearest Friend, Confidante, and Lord. He promised a future that will surpass all my hopes and dreams.

With great expectation, I wonder what I will be doing a million years from today…
…it will be phenomenal!

To know God is to experience Him. To experience Him is to discover a love so vast that it is beyond comprehension. It is a privilege to know with confidence that I can trust His love.

Life may have broken this little pot, but my Father loves me with an indescribable, glorious love! Have you experienced this for yourself? I hope so!





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!





Be Selfish – Forgive

18 08 2015

Okay, this probably isn’t the sort of ‘selfish’ that comes to mind, but it’s truth.

What do I mean?

Forgiving others is something we do primarily  for ourselves.

Most likely, the offending party moved on with life – hasn’t given us a second’s thought since the event.

Meanwhile, we carry the stinking carcass of ‘what they did/said’ around like it’s a prize buck.

Did you catch the word stinking? It sure does. And folks around us gets a whiff of that mess whenever we’re near.

What’s worse is that we pick up the arrow they shot us with – and continue to stab ourselves with it. This happens every time we rehearse the scene.

They injured us once, we re-injure ourselves over and over and over.

Sometimes for decades.

What’s worse is the corpse draws flies…

…which lay eggs that become maggots…

In no time the thing is a writhing mass!

You get the picture!

Yech! 😛

Do I know that this is easier said than done.

Yes indeed, I do.

But this is something I do for me.

I want to be free.

All those flies and maggots? Those are unrelated events that *feel* like the original injury and so attach themselves.

Ever had an over-reaction to something minor?

Yep.

Out popped another maggot.

We do not want to go through life with unresolved issues that cause others to shrink back from the stench.

Ever been around a bitter, resentful person? Not fun.

This is, without a doubt, a nauseating mental image. You’re welcome.

Now you understand why we’re commanded to forgive!

That disgusting illustration describes much of my life…and perhaps why I haven’t had many friends over the years.

This year I decided to do something selfish. Something that’s just for me.

I began to make lists of my offenders and forgive them.

In some cases, a single event required the 70 x 7 times of forgiveness of which Jesus spoke. Nevertheless, I had to let it go – and then let it go – and then let it go…

Sometimes I didn’t fully mean it – so I didn’t lie. Instead, I asked Father to help me be willing to forgive them…

…or even willing to be willing to forgive.

In these instances, I forgave as an act of obedience. That was as far as I could go at the moment.

Next, I asked Abba to forgive them, and to lead them into a vibrant relationship with Himself. After all, He loves them, too. (That can be a tough one to swallow!)

I may select a passage from Scripture to pray over them – like Colossians 1:9-13.

In addition, I pray for myself:

Lord, create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit in me.Give me Your love for them.

(Which doesn’t mean I have to trust them or put myself into their line of fire again. Please note that.)

Those two bases covered, I next ask the Lord to examine my heart and show me where I’ve been tripped up by what happened.

While I may have had no fault in the event, what my heart did with the offense is my responsibility. They didn’t ‘make me’ do or feel anything. That bit was on me.

At the very least, I usually have to confess to hanging onto the hurt. In every instance the reason has been a lack of trust in God to handle the other person.

Sometimes I’m angry that He didn’t blast them off the planet. That’s exactly what I wanted my ‘loving Father’ to do!

I prefer grace for me – judgment for everyone else.

{Yes, that was my ‘outside voice.’}

Which leads me to the next step in forgiveness.

(Don’t freak out on me here)

I need to forgive God.

Did He do anything wrong?

No. His ways are always perfect.

Was I offended by His response to the situation?

You betcha’!

Here’s the thing. I can put on my ‘nice Christian’ face and be incensed that someone would have the audacity to suggest such a thing…

…and let my resentment and distrust toward God continue to grow in the dark recesses of my mind until I walk away from Him altogether.

Or

I can speak what’s in my heart to the Lord; and forgive what I ‘perceived’ to be His disinterest or abandonment, etc.

He already knows how I really feel, and what I believe to be true about Him.

Very often, when I feel distant from God it’s because I’m holding something against Him. The error is entirely with me, but I’m offended nonetheless.

*This is a golden moment. Don’t skip this bit.*

It’s at this point that I ask Him to teach me truth about Himself, or to show me the event from His perspective.

There is something here for me to learn, if I will but have the ears to hear.

Finally, I come to the part that I forget most often:

I must forgive myself.

Not in every instance. There may be nothing here.

{Often, however, at the very least I forgive myself for misunderstanding God and ascribing to Him some horrible characteristics that simply were not true. If this is the case, I circle back around and ask God to forgive me for believing such lies about Him as well. See, this isn’t arrogance. It’s truth. And He desires that we know truth in the inmost parts.}

Right at this point we have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of ‘all things work together for good.’ If this event brought to light a lie I believed about God, that is a good thing indeed.

No, He didn’t bring this injury upon us. We live in a fallen world where hurt people hurt people. But, He’s going to bring benefit to us from the thing if we will let Him.

What others meant for evil, God meant for good.

The goal is to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This means identifying lies and replacing them with truth.

Back to forgiving myself.

It may be that I accepted responsibility for someone else’ s words or actions. I may have believed myself the one to be blamed, that I somehow deserved what they said/did.

Perhaps I’ve come into agreement with lies about myself: ‘I’m so stupid.’ Or ‘How could I have fallen for that?’

To forgive myself is another useful tool for locating faulty beliefs so they can be dismissed. Dig up the root, and everything that attached to it dies.

We’re not so ‘stinky’ to be around; things begin to change – in us – and we walk in greater freedom, light, and love.

Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.

It’s the healthiest ‘selfishness’ in which we’ll ever indulge.





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!”





Three Little Words to Change Everything

10 08 2015

I’ll bet you’re expecting to read something like, “I love you,” right?

Those will improve life, no doubt, but they’re not today’s topic.

We have a Book that is crammed full of promises. Some are conditional, some are not:

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper.”

“If you focus on whatever is good, pure, right, just, lovely, virtuous, and of good report you will have peace that passes understanding.”

“Seek God’s kingdom above all else and He will provide your needs.”

What if we, say, actually believed the promises we’ve been given? What if we acted as if they are true.

Maybe you’re saying, “Duh, I get that.” For me, though, there was a day when the reality of this truth broke through and illuminated my life like never before.

“I can put my full weight on the Bible.”

What does that have to do with three little words, you ask?

Let me give them to you first:

Jesus is Lord.

There they are….all eleven letters.

Oh, the depths of the riches of those three little words, though. If Jesus is Lord, then:

That means He’s the boss of me (as my kids used to say).

His plans for me are for good and not for evil – to give me a future and a hope…no matter what my circumstances may look like.

Everything I “own” is actually His – to be used whenever, wherever, and however He wants.

Which means:

When my car breaks down – it’s His car. I point out the problem and ask Him how He’s going to get it fixed.

When I’m having health issues, I know there’s a purpose in it and ask Him for guidance.

When I lose my job, I ask Him what He wants me to do next.

When I have needs (not wants – although sometimes He surprises us with those as well!), I look to Him for provision.

I’m not reduced to begging. Instead I can thank Him for taking care of me.

Prayer requests turn into praise meetings when I know that what I am seeking is in accordance with His stated will.

If Jesus is Lord, I can relax and quit trying to run the world. It is in His capable hands. I seek His direction…and then go where He sends me.

Hmm. A timely message for me! So much in life is upside down at the moment. Some of the matters I understand – many I do not.

Nevertheless, because Jesus is Lord, I can rest today, and know that He is in charge.

Yes, these three little words change everything:

Jesus is Lord!

 





The Danger of Vows

5 08 2015

What kid could resist Jesus? His pictures always showed Him kind and loving; so gentle and welcoming – especially if the male faces around them are angry and mean most of the time; their actions rough and unkind.

The Sunday School class I attended as a child used big songbooks with beautiful pictures. My two favorites were “Fairest Lord Jesus” and “How Great Thou Art.” I fell in love with Jesus because of those two books!

As a child, though, we moved countless times to several towns and three states. Church wasn’t a high priority, and we attended only on Christmas and Easter most years.

The ‘face’ of Jesus that I’d come to love when I was little began to be replaced with the one I saw every day, everywhere we moved…because he moved with us. Back then families didn’t split up. You went to a new location where ‘things were going to be better.’ When you’re taking the ‘problem’ with you, that just doesn’t happen.

Like kids do, I assumed that God was like my ‘dad.’ Distrust of His love for me took root.

After all, if He was supposedly in charge, why wasn’t He doing something about the way we were treated by this man? And, without spiritual leadership – people who could explain free will and the other factors involved, I was left to figure out how it all worked on my own.

Few eight-year-olds are equipped to do this well.

By the time I was ten, I’d decided that the God-Who-Was-In-Charge either didn’t care about me, or was too weak to help. If life was going to get better, then I needed to take over.

Vows made in times of distress are dangerous.

“When I grow up, I will live in one place.”

“When I have a family, my kids will have a happy childhood with loving parents.”

“I will never let a man treat me the way my step-dad treats my mom.”

These little seeds are planted, but lay dormant for many years.

It isn’t until we become adults that these vows begin to interfere with life.

If we closely examine our vows, we discover that many factors were beyond our control.

For instance, where we will live is not dependent solely upon us. Unless we were able to purchase a house right out of high school, moves would happen. Apartments, more apartments, rent this house and that, until we bought a home and settled down.

When it came to parenting, I was only one voice of many in my kids’ lives. Since five out of seven were boys, I had less of a voice than any male. The simple truth is that it takes a man to raise a man. While this is not a popular belief, it is true nonetheless.

I had no control over how my kids’ dads would treat them…whether he would be loving or bring happiness to our home.

As for men…well, I can’t control how they choose to treat me. I can only control my response.

Here is where the vow becomes a problem:

I’d set boundaries around what my life would look like. Because none of them were dependent solely upon me, they were unsustainable.

Take my first vow: I will live in one place.

Hubby says, “I want to move to (this town, or that house).”

That’s a problem. I swore I would never move when I grew up. Now I have to decide which vow will be broken – the one about not moving, or the one about my kids having a happy family.

If I refuse to move, but dad has a job in another town and must go, then that means a split in our family – and there goes the loving home.

{Keep in mind, this is not a stable, healthy family to begin with. In a godly family, one where Christ is central, this would all work out. I get that.}

Or:

Hubby is abusive (no man will treat me…). If I take the kids out of this mess, I now bump up against the other two vows: I will not move, my kids will have loving parents – plural. What to do?

The bottom line is this: the vows I made boxed me in. No matter which decision I made to maintain one, others would be broken.

Before you judge me as an idiot, you need to know that I didn’t consciously remember the vows I made. My line of reasoning didn’t look like what you just read. At the time, I had great confusion as to the ‘right’ thing to do. I could see no way out of the messes I got myself into. I did the best I could, without ever understanding the underlying issues…my vows.

Consequently, I’ve made decisions that made no sense to anyone – including myself. As a result, I saw myself as a huge failure, and thus deserving of whatever kind of treatment I received from the world at large, and from the family members whom I’d failed.

But God loves me and wants me free. Over the course of the last year, He’s revealed countless vows that I made when I was young so I could dismiss them. Bit by bit, I’ve relinquished control to Him – the only One who can work all things for my good.

I’ve had to forgive myself for making the vows, and let myself off the hook for how things panned out. I take responsibility for those areas which were truly dependent upon me, and leave the rest on the table.

There is a lightness to my heart these days. Much of what I presumed to be my failure turned out to belong to someone else. They can have it!

“But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. Matthew 5:37

*****

Next time we’ll discuss agreements – the ugly twin to vows.