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.





Raw and Real

24 08 2015

To know that we’re loved by God with the same love as His love for Jesus is amazing; heartwarming; unless…

…you’ve been abused most of your life…

…and you believe that God punished Jesus in your place;

that all Christ endured was God’s ‘heart’ for you.

He hated you that much.

Aren’t you so thankful that Jesus took the hit for you?

Don’t you want to become one of God’s children too?

Strong words?

Yes. I cringe as I type, for this is completely untrue.

Yet, I see that this is the ‘gospel’ most of us believe; is the reason why some Christians protest abortion clinics and homosexuality and other behaviors to which God is opposed by screaming curses and spewing hateful labels at those who participate.

‘Without Jesus’, they deserve wrath…ours, apparently.

In the loving name of Jesus, amen, of course.

(This is NOT my approval of their ungodly acts – just a comment about our ungodly treatment of them.)

I had many questions for God last year. Ones to which I needed answers if I was to continue in the faith. It was really messy, so I ‘unplugged’ from WordPress to spare you.

Utterly fed up with abuse of any sort, I was ready to ‘dump God’ as the worst abuser of them all.

Hell sounded pretty good: sure, it’s hot, dark, worms never die…but you are alone. At least I wouldn’t be mistreated by others anymore.

Jeremiah 29:13 reads, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

It was the ‘all my heart’ bit that got me into trouble.

Yes, His Spirit was dwelling in me, but it was ‘Standing Room Only.’ There was a crowd of ‘witnesses’ hanging out in there as well. People from my past whose words ‘dwelt richly in me’ – words I believed with all my heart:

Stupid, worthless, fat, ugly, lazy, ridiculous, good-for-nothing, inadequate, unwanted, unlovable, and many that I won’t type so as to not offend you. Their voices were so loud that I could barely hear the Spirit speak.

(Through the process of forgiving, most of them have been evicted this year. I’m doing much better. Hearing the Lord much better, too. 😉 )

If you tell a person who’s been abused that the cross was God taking out His wrath for us – on His beloved Son – they’re not going to want to ‘join your club.’

Just sayin’.

After all, children, believe that parents love. Everyone knows that.

The abused child assumes that this is what love does: Dad’s angry about an infraction of his laws. Mom interferes, deflecting Dad’s anger and receives what was about to be unleashed on him or her.

Which sounds a lot like what God’s love ‘did’ to Jesus…

…the innocent suffering wrath that was meant for us.

(Yes, this is what the mind of an abused person does with the ‘Good News.’)

Is this what we really believe about God?

More importantly, is it even true?

Have I rattled your cage? If this is the god you believe in, I sincerely hope so.

We will seek Him – and find Him – when we search for Him with all our heart.

*****

My next post will be a re-blog by Mel Wilde. It turns out, I’m not the only one on this quest. Being further along on the journey, he is better able to articulate what God has also been revealing to him. It was exciting to discover that what God was showing me, He is also revealing to others, and independent of others. Mel is one of many, I’ve learned!

For a more thorough, scholarly treatment of this subject, I highly recommend Healing the Gospel by Derek Flood.





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!





Squeamish Truth

20 08 2015

(By the way, ‘Five’ referred to the fifth step as given in Be Selfish – Forgive.)

Start a discussion on the need to forgive God and people get nervous. Some become outraged on God’s behalf that I would suggest such a thing. Some consider me a heretic.

I’m okay with that.

Please take a moment to hear me out.

When we are hurt by another’s actions or words, the Bible instructs us to forgive. There are no qualifiers such as:

Only if they meant to hurt us.

If they said they were sorry.

Only if you’re willing to trust them again.

It doesn’t give qualifiers as to whom we are to forgive either. If we are hurt, then we are commanded to forgive.

As we saw in Be Selfish – Forgive, forgiveness is primarily something we do for ourselves. The offender usually doesn’t care one way or the other. It’s ‘no skin off their nose’ if we don’t forgive them. They’ve moved on and don’t give us a second thought.

Sometimes the One we need to forgive is God.

God is perfect. He never does anything wrong. Not even a tiny bit. He doesn’t have bad days, or whipping boys. He’s no bully, nor does He take out His frustration on anyone.

To suggest that we forgive Him seems foolish and arrogant. I get that. I’ve held that stance myself.

Until I met people who were genuinely angry at God. Seemingly with good reason:

The mother who prayed for a baby, got pregnant, but gave birth to a still-born.

The boy whose sister suffered for years before she died. He earnestly prayed for her healing, she died anyway.

The woman who prayerfully entered into marriage, confident that he was God’s choice for her…only to discover 15 years later that he was having an affair when they got married, and continued having them throughout their marriage.

I’m sure you could add to this list.

Are these people offended with God?

You bet your sweet bippy.

Did God, in fact, do anything wrong?

Not on your life. He is love, and everything He does is for the greatest benefit to the most people.

Tell any of these three, though, that they have no right to question our perfect God, no right to be angry with Him for He does all things well, and see how that goes.

What are they to do with their hurt, anger, and confusion? What else can they do, if they’re not allowed to express their emotions?

They will stuff them.

As any good counselor will tell you, stuffed emotions take on a life of their own. Shoved into the dark recesses of their hearts, they are fodder for the enemy. He will tell them lie upon lie:

God is not good

God doesn’t care

He doesn’t love {me} or He would never have done this to {me}
(the enemy always speaks to us in our pain in the first person, have you noticed?)

{I} can’t trust God

If God is in charge, and this is how He does things, {I} don’t want anything to do with Him

What began as a question about God’s character or nature becomes our belief system about God. Every new hurt that is perceived as coming from God gets added to the mess. Resentment and bitterness begin to grow.

There comes a day when it all comes boiling out. They become staunch rivals of God, doing everything they can to wipe His name out of existence.

Take time to listen to the story of an atheist, and you will almost always discover a point at which God ‘failed’ them…followed by their treatment by Christians who were offended by their outrage toward God.

How differently might things have turned out for them if they were allowed to voice their anger, their frustration, their confusion about what happened; had they received permission to be honest with God?

If, instead of Rebuke denouncing them for their arrogance against Almighty God, Empathy, or at least Compassion, stepped in and gave a safe place to vent, to hear their heart, none of those lies would have remained in the dark to grow like little dust bunnies under the bed.

Brought to the light, those emotions would have lost their power.

Given the tool of forgiveness, they may have chosen to begin the process. As they forgave a little here, a little there, their confusion would have cleared up. The lies would have been seen for what they were, and replaced with truth.

Force a person to be reverent to a God they don’t understand, especially in light of tragedy, if you must; but don’t be surprised when they later spew hateful invectives and go to great lengths to get God banned from everything.

God owes no one an apology.

His love never fails, and He is just in all He does.

I get that.

But we’re humans, with human emotions that sometimes go wrong. An offense is an offense, it doesn’t matter who that may be. Left unforgiven, pain will become resentment and bitterness. We’ve been commanded to forgive…everyone.

We cannot maintain a close relationship with a person by whom we’ve been hurt – intentional or otherwise. This doesn’t work in marriage, and it won’t work with God, either.

So long as hard feelings exist on our part, we will maintain our distance.

We can’t afford to be ‘peacekeepers’ with God. He wants our all – the good, the bad, and the ugly, as they say.

God is not impressed when we lie to Him about how we feel.

He already knows.

He’s ‘big enough’ to take care of Himself, and then respond with love, truth, grace, and mercy.

Once we’ve emptied our heads of the junk inside, there’s room for truth; space for fresh insight and revelation of the character of God.

We don’t demand answers. We may not get one, and that’s okay. What we will receive is peace ~ the type of peace that comes from clearing the air. Our memories of times with the Lord bring comfort once again.

In no time we will be able to say, “I don’t understand; but I know for sure that You have been good, and You will be good to me.”

And that’s the squeamish truth.





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!