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.





Replacing Jesus

14 08 2015

Many paradigm shifts have taken place this season. Necessary ones. This one concerns Jesus.

How does Jesus relate to my current activities? To housework, homework, to life in general? Does He merely make me a good steward of time and money? Does He make me honest and a good rule-keeper?

Is this why He came and died…to make me honest??

I sense a shift any minute – one so monumental that it will change everything for me. I don’t want to miss this. it has weight (glory!) attached to it.

I read The Great Dance by C. Baxter Kruger. It was eye-opening, although I had to struggle with the concepts at first. My mind could only barely grasp them in the beginning.

The church (at least in America) teaches a “good-cop, bad-cop” God. It’s like having a touchy, militaristic father and a placating, intervening mother who steps in and places herself in the line of fire and takes the brunt of the father’s anger.

Sometimes her attempts fail, though; and that’s when ‘all hell breaks loose in our lives,’ or so we think. Calamity, hardship, ill health.

Mom couldn’t quite assuage father’s fury, and we ‘got it.’

{No wonder the Spirit seems more like a doting aunt who pops in and out long enough to drop off one trinket or another. 🙂 }

The relationship (trinity) of God has been replaced by the holiness (law and order, crime and punishment, blind and cold justice – as we define it) of God. Holiness has been defined as ‘legal perfection’ and ‘moral rectitude.’

This begs the question: “Do I enter into relationship with people for the primary purpose of getting them to ‘shape up’?”

“True holiness is the joy and fullness and love of the Father, Son, and Spirit, their mutual delight and passion, the sheer togetherness of their relationship, it’s harmony and wholeness. Rolled into one word: holiness.” (The Great Dance, p. 25)

I want to tattoo this on my arm:

“Every time God forgives us, He is saying that His own rules do not matter as much as the relationship God wants to create with us.” (Falling Upward, Rohr, p. 57)

Isn’t that Good News?? The best ever, and a far cry from “I came that they might behave better” stuff we hear from spiritual leaders on a regular basis…a ‘re-translation’ of John 10:10. (“…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”)

Galatians tells us that the law was never meant to be kept, but to be a tutor that shows us that we can’t ‘behave better’ on our own. It was meant to drive us to God…not to cause us to shrink back as utter failures.

So we teach Christianity thus:

1. God is holy (in a legal sense)

2. Humanity fell into sin and is liable to punishment

3. Jesus Christ came to satisfy the holiness and justice of God

4. On the cross, Jesus bears the guilt of the world, and God punishes Him instead of us

5. God’s justice is satisfied and we are forgiven – morally clean

In this model, Jesus came to rescue us from God.

The cross replaces Jesus as the point of eternal significance; thus, after the crucifixion was complete, He ceased to be of any real and practical value.

No longer needed, He bows out and lets God and the Holy Spirit get on with their business.

At best, He remains important as a shining religious example for us to follow – and to remind God of His sacrifice.

Justification replaces adoption as the heart of the Christian message.

Forgiveness is necessary, but it’s not the sole point of the grand story…it’s not even the main point!*

The focus and goal is inclusion into the existing relationship of the Trinity.

This is the purpose of adoption!

One who has been adopted has been welcomed into a family – given their name, protection, provision, and inheritance along with the other members of the family.

No longer on the outside looking in, they receive all the benefits, love, and treatment of the original family. No ‘Cinderellas’ here! Unless an outsider was told, they would not be able to tell the difference between ‘natural’ children and an ‘adopted’ one.

Further (unless they’re warped!), a couple chooses to adopt because they want someone else to love…more people to love, not someone new, to the exclusion of the old.

In a word, they want:

Relationship!

With all the focus on Jesus as mediator between us and an angry God, we’ve lost the beauty of the Gospel message:

Our adoption as sons and daughters.

Jesus doesn’t exist to protect us from wrath by reminding God that He took our punishment so now God ‘has to’ love us.

He is the connector between us and the Trinity; He mediates the triune life of God – to us!

According to western teaching, once Jesus has the ‘sin thing’ fixed, He returns to heaven and observes us from a distance. This leaves us seeing ourselves as ‘merely human.’

There is no inclusion into the Trinity, no divine life, no divine dance. Life is merely secular…ordinary. Except, of course, on Sundays.

We have no idea who we are!

The western world is crying out for spiritual meaning and the Church has none to give it. We only know how to encourage others to behave better.

Our Jesus is too small.

*YES! The Gospel of Atonement is vital to our right standing with God. Why is it necessary? Because we are born spiritually separated from God. THIS is the problem Jesus came to solve…Adam and Eve ‘unplugged’ from the tree of Life (God as our source for life), and ‘plugged’ into their own knowledge. They made themselves the source for life.

Apart from His death, burial, and resurrection – at which time He entered the Holy of holies once for all and placed His blood on the Mercy Seat – we were without hope.

Thanks to Jesus, we are now welcome to come boldly into the Holy of holies; to come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

You won’t find a ‘bouncer’ at the entrance, replacing Jesus.

*****

(In my next post I want to share three verses that took me by surprise!)

This post is far above my ‘pay grade’. I’m still processing much of what I’ve learned – and cannot yet articulate as clearly as I’d like. Thanks for your patience while I work this out!





Faith-Full

11 08 2015

Although the dictionary defines faith as confident trust, the world defines it as a nebulous belief in “something out there” – whether it’s God, or Buddha, or aliens…whatever.

But the Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Why is this? As I read through James, I realized that many of the things that are commanded in the book cannot be done if I do not implicitly trust God.

When trials come, I will not shout, “Hurrah! God’s going to do mighty things, and I’m going to get to see Him at work.”

I will credit chance or luck for the good things that come my way.

Anger will come easily when others infringe on my rights. As a result, I will do some really ugly things – rampant wickedness, the Bible calls it – in an effort to maintain my position.

Every effort will be made to hoard all that I have. After all, It’s mine…get a job!

Without real trust in God, I will fall into the world’s belief that only those who have status, riches, or renown have value; and that I will only be a “somebody” by rubbing shoulders with them, or by becoming one of them. Heaven forbid I should be identified with the “wrong crowd.”

Consequently, I will scratch and claw my way to the top, stepping on others along the way. I will be unable to encourage or support others in my field, lest they gain an advantage and surpass me on the ladder of success.

Trust enables me to rest in the knowledge that God will avenge my adversaries on my behalf. Without trust, my belief is that I must seek revenge.

Unless I trust God, forgiveness is impossible.

These are just a few of the topics covered in the book of James. As you can see, without faith, we will fail in our attempts to do more and try harder.

Thus, our focus when we travel through James must be on learning to trust God. We must be able to rely on Him completely, or fail utterly.

This begs the question:

How do I learn to trust God?

The only way I know is by experience others’ and my own, and from my memories. This is what the Bible is all about: stories of people’s experiences with Him.

Paul said, “Forgetting the past, I press on toward the mark of the upward call in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians) Time and again I’ve heard people use this verse to say, “You need to forget everything that happened to you, and everything you used to do. That’s not important anymore. It’s only today that matters.”

To a certain extent, they are right. If we live in the past with unresolved anger, resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness, we will be short-circuited and unable to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What Paul was stating is that he did not allow his past to define him. Yes, he used to be a Pharisee, harshly judging people. He had been transformed by the Lord’s hand.

Yes, he used to arrange to have people killed for following Jesus. He doesn’t continue to murder.

These are things he used to do, but now he was a new creation in Christ. The old was gone, the new had come.

On the other hand, God told the Israelites countless times to “Remember when I brought you out of Egypt. Remember when I parted the Red Sea. Remember when I took out your enemies…

“Remember.”

It would seem that our memory concerning God’s work in our lives is a big deal to God. Why is that? Well, this is where “theory meets reality” and experiences happen.

The same is true in our history. When I look back and remember times when I needed a home and God provided, I experienced Him as my Provider.

When I had to go to court because of an abusive husband, I experienced God as my Defender.

When I was in the hospital, dying from a bone marrow disease and God healed me, I experienced Him as my Healer.

When I was committing adultery and God continued to pursue me, I experienced Him as compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy and faithfulness.

It is in remembering that I discover that I’ve had many chances to experience the truth of Who God really is.

Today when my faith is weak, I have only to look back and remember all that God has done for me. Recounting the ways that He has been faithful, helps me to be Faith-Full!





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!

 





By Faith, Gerbil…

11 06 2015

When our three-year-old granddaughter showed up on Friday with her swimsuit and goggles in her arms, I knew one thing for sure:

There was a pool in her future!

She had been asking Grandpa for one, suggesting that he take his truck so she could get the box home. This went on for a couple of weeks.

On Friday, she changed her tactics. Instead of asking to go to the store, our little Gerbil (affectionately so nicknamed for how she sounds when she speaks – too cute!), told Grandpa that she would take him to the sale. Now, who can resist a sale!

She returned home with her parents later that night, undaunted by the fact that her ‘prayer’ was still unanswered.

We marveled at her faith, her persistence – and her calm assurance that she would receive that for which she asked. No temper tantrums, no whining; just patient waiting.

Impressive for a three-year-old!

You know what happened next:

We went shopping on Saturday for a wading pool!

At the same time, I’d been asking Abba for a writing table; a dedicated place for my laptop where I could be with my hubby while I work. Like Gerbil, I was patiently waiting.

That same Saturday, Wendel said, “Hey. Why don’t we go find a writing table for you.”

Out of the blue, just like that.

“You know,” he said, “we could learn a lot from Gerbil. Instead of taking the car, let’s take my truck. That way, when we find your table we can bring it home with us.”

Following Gerbil’s lead, he took a step of faith.

(Or would it be called a “drive” of faith?)

We went to a consignment shop and looked at every table. They didn’t have what I was looking for.

I finally decided that I could ‘make do’ with one of them if we took the shelf off the top. We were looking it over to see how difficult it would be when the owner of the store came to see what we were doing.

After we explained, she said, “Did you see the drop-leaf table over there?”

Over where? We’d looked at every piece of furniture.

Or so we thought.

Sure enough, hidden in plain sight, was exactly what I was looking for.

It’s amazing what we can learn from a three-year-old!

It was fun to watch my Father reward the kind of ‘faith that asks with expectancy’ for both my granddaughter and my husband.

While this lesson “in the natural” was great – we all got what we wanted – it will no doubt encourage faith in weightier, “spiritual” matters as well.

Assurance of the thing for which we’ve asked is important

– especially when we know that what we’ve asked is in God’s will.

There was a matter for which I prayed with expectancy for years. As time wore on, however, my prayers became rote – I prayed less often, and more because I “ought” to, than because I anticipated the fulfillment of my request.

This is a dangerous state of mind. Doing so can cause us to miss out on the gift when it comes.

Like Zechariah, it can seem like too little, too late. We’ve lived with the stigma of barrenness for so long that it’s become familiar; comfortable.

Instead of gratitude, bitterness erupts.

That was my situation this year. Even though God spoke (Behold I am doing a new thing…Isaiah 43:19), and there was no denying the ever-enlarging abdomen of the forthcoming birth of the answer to my long-forgotten prayers, my response was less than gracious.

I’d resigned myself to the status quo. It became a ‘badge of honor,’ and for some absurd reason, didn’t want to give it up!

Much of the year was spent unraveling the multitude of lies I came to believe when God tarried (by my standards 😉 ) in moving on my request. Even though my request was being fulfilled, in my bitterness I nearly ‘aborted’ His gift, then considered putting it up for adoption. I came to believe that I didn’t want it anymore.

I was angry! At my age?? Really? Why couldn’t You have done this when I was young enough to fully enjoy it??

(No, I am not pregnant!)

You understand what I am saying? Sometimes the thing for which we ask seems like it would have been better ‘delivered’ when we were younger, more agile, and had more time to enjoy the benefits of the fulfillment…careers, relationships, etc.

I love that even when we’ve given up, God is faithful to do that which He has promised.

All that to say this:

For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry. ~Habakkuk 2:3

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. ~Romans 8:25

When we patiently wait with anticipation – especially when everything tells us that it’s hopeless – our names are added to Hebrews 11:

By faith, (your name here!)…