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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Unlock Your Shackles

25 09 2013

“The key to freedom is not merely what is written in the bible,

it’s what’s written between our ears.”

{This quote comes from one of the 900+ posts I read last weekend. If it’s from you, please let me know so I can properly credit you! ;)}

As a twenty-something year old, my understanding of God was so skewed that I don’t even want to capitalize His name in this sentence. Whatever it was that I “loved” – it certainly was not YHWH!

It is unfortunate that we liken our heavenly Father to our earthly one. While there are some men who are excellent fathers, the majority are not.

Oh, in public, they’re the model of love and kindness.

Get them home and it’s another story. There they reign like a tyrant – selfish, demanding, and subject to outbursts of anger when they don’t get their way.

Others, sadly, appear to be spineless and impotent.

From these “living” examples, a child develops their concept of what God is like.

I was no exception.

My birth father – Mel – abandoned me, I was told for years. (I learned this was not true just a few years ago…thanks Aunt Katie!)

Abandoned? You must have been really bad if even your own father didn’t want you. That’s what a child’s mind does with this information. The identity issues this causes in a child aren’t worth the momentary pleasure a divorced woman derives from such a put down. This doesn’t inflict nearly as much pain on your ex as it does your child. If you are doing this, please stop!

I grew up believing that I was worthless because of this lie.

To make matters worse, I was adopted by my step-dad. He was the embodiment of all that is selfish, demanding, and wrathful. In addition, he was capricious. One never knew what the slightest disturbance might bring in the way of affection or anger. This isn’t the place to expose him – just suffice it to say that he was a very poor representation of our heavenly Father.

As if this wasn’t enough, the church I attended during my teen years was extremely legalistic; so much so that we didn’t even associate with other churches in the same denomination because they couldn’t “toe the mark!” The “god” these dear, devout believers taught about lurked around every corner; watching, just waiting for us to mess up so we could be punished.

Hmm. Not much different than my step-dad.

I pictured life with God like this:

He and I sat across from one another, a game board was spread between us. With a broad grin on His face, “God” said,

“Let’s play a game and have some fun.”

“How do we play?” I asked.

“Oh, I’m not going to tell you. Just make what seems to be the right move. It will be fun!”

I looked over the various parts – the board, markers, dice…I know what to do!

The dice were scooped up and I tossed them onto the board.

Without warning, “God” reached across the table and slapped me hard enough that I fell to the ground. Red with rage, He said, “That was the wrong thing to do. Try something else.”

A smile lit his face, and He brightly said, “Isn’t this fun?”

I made some other move, and all was well…

…and the game went on.

This was my understanding of “God.”

Perhaps now you understand why He’s provided so many “freakin’ miracles” in and around me. He was determined to show me that He was nothing like what I believed Him to be.

To say that He is patient is a gross understatement. He loved me with an everlasting love, therefore He drew me to Himself with lovingkindness.

He has a great sense of humor, too. Remember the church I mentioned? Well, they had a library. Among the books there was one by A. W. Tozer entitled, “The Knowledge of the Holy.” An avid reader, I checked it out and brought it home. God used that book to begin to break through the lies I believed about Him.

Thanks to a high school English teacher who had a classroom full of foul novels…and a “speed reading” machine in the back corner of the room, I can now read somewhere around 700 words per minute with 85% comprehension. (I asked if I could use the machine instead of reading novels and turning in book reports. He graciously consented – anyone else see the fingerprints of God here? ;))

Despite my reading abilities, after three weeks, I’d read only 26 pages in Tozer’s book.

Well, read isn’t the best word to use. Eaten would be a better choice. I had several versions of the Bible, a dictionary, and a notebook. I spent eight or more hours per day absorbing every word that was written. This influx of information, combined with my Fearful Flight, served to greatly alter how I saw God.

In fact, the entire year was one of a rapid transformation as God used His lovingkindness to continue to renew my mind concerning His character.

It was the year of Problematic Food, and How Can You Say You Understand?

The Bible states, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free,” (John 8:32). By the time that all this took place, I’d read my Bible cover-to-cover no less than six or seven times. I “knew” truth…knew about it, but did not know it by experience until God stepped in and began to reveal Himself. When He said, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart,” (Jeremiah 29:13), that’s exactly what He meant.

Bit by tiny bit, God has been replacing what was written between my ears!

How I love Him today because of His patient teaching. He never gave up on me – even when I was maligning Him and accusing Him of many atrocious and cruel actions against me. In the process, He’s shown me how deep His love is for me.

If He can love me like this…

…Oh how much He loves you!

What we believe about God will determine how we live our lives. If your concept of Him is anything like mine, ask Him to show you the truth.

Like me, you will learn that:

“The key to freedom is not merely what is written in the bible,

it’s what’s written between our ears.”

You’ll hear the sound of shackles falling to the ground – like a gentle spring rain in no time at all as He replaces those old lies with the glorious truth of Who He is.





No Blood, Guts, or Gore Required

9 08 2013

A study of the tabernacle is very fascinating. Every detail speaks volumes concerning spiritual truths.

We spent several months going over the various elements in our home group. My husband purchased a model of the tabernacle so we would have it as a visual aid while we studied. It was a fun study, and we spent the first two nights painting and erecting our set. It also came with figurines of priests, cows, and sheep.

At the same time, he and I were reading Experiencing the Cross by Henry Blackaby. One of the topics in this book is the cost of sin. This, we realized, was clearly demonstrated day after day in the tabernacle – then later the temple as countless animals were slain.

Why all the blood, guts, and gore?

Sin is a gory, bloody mess to God. Through animal sacrifices, God gave us a clear visual of the seriousness of sin…it brings death. At the same time, He used the daily sacrifices to help us understand that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.

Once our model was completed, we set the furniture in place, as well as the priests and animals. We set some of the sheep and bulls on the little tables, and set the bent-over priests next to them as if they were inspecting them.

As Wendel read out of Blackaby’s book, I saw what was being displayed in a very different way. Along with the mental image came the verse: Present yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable act of worship.

Suddenly I understood what He’d been teaching me:

I am the lamb on that table.

I need to be examined for spots and blemishes…

…not so I can be rejected as unworthy,

nor so I can be killed to pay for my sins.

Instead,

I am there as a living sacrifice.

The Holy Spirit is the One examining me,

bringing to light anything for which I need to repent.

When the inspection is done, I am released!

Jesus already paid the price for my sin; but I am to be holy and acceptable. When I submit to this inspection and correction, it is an act of worship unto the Lord.

Furthermore, I saw that while man (the priest) looks at the outward appearance, God (through His Spirit) looks at the heart.

God used the combination of the model of the tabernacle and the Scripture to give us a better understanding of His truth.

I’m so thankful that, unlike the lambs, goats, and cows, I will arise from

the inspection table

alive

– and hopefully –

“altared”

(okay, changed! :))

With a heart that has been cleansed, I am less conformed to the world – and more transformed by the renewing of my mind so that I can prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Father, thank You for loving us and sending Jesus to die in our place. I am so grateful that You are faithful to complete the work You’ve begun in us. Help us to present softened hearts that can be quickly cleansed. Renew our minds, lead us into a better understanding of Your Word. May all we do, say, and even think bring glory and honor to Your great name this day.

In Jesus’ name, 

Amen

\o/





“But God…” Words of Hope

31 07 2013

A cloud of pot smoke engulfed me as I stepped out of my bedroom. I rose late that morning, and missed the first “high” of the day.

Several people were on the couches, legs sprawled before them, heads leaned against the back of couches and recliners. Some of their heads lolled in my direction and they looked at me through puffy, barely focused eyes.

Slurred voices said, “Wow, man, that was awesome.” “This is so cool.” “Oh, baby, you missed some good weed.”

For the first time in a few months, I saw them…really saw them. The scene before me was pathetic.

What am I doing here? I asked myself. I’m more intelligent than this.

I returned to my room, gathered my few belongings, and left the house – for good.

How I came to live with that couple, I cannot say. I was eighteen years old; my marriage blown apart after just a few months. I didn’t want to go back to my parents’ home, and had nowhere to go.

I don’t know that I was invited. I just showed up with a friend to get high, and decided to stay.

I had no job, no car, no money, and (obviously) no sense.

The couple I dumped myself upon were drug dealers, so getting high was a several times per day event. The wife worked, and they had a two-year-old daughter. I assigned myself the job of “nanny,” and justified my presence in their home by saying that I was taking care of their kid, even though I didn’t do anything with or for her.

During my high school years, I had been a “good” kid. I was the vice president of our youth group, taught Bible studies in the library at my school during lunchtime, sang in the choir, read my Bible on a regular basis, and behaved myself.

I met my husband at a Bible college, and eagerly anticipated that we would live happily ever after…even though it had been less than three months between when we met and when we got married. Why my parents thought this was a good idea, I’ll never know.

Disillusionment set in when I discovered that he was not my savior – he wasn’t Prince Charming, either. The few months we were together were painful for us both. This was not the first time we separated, and wouldn’t be the last.

Suitcase in hand, I returned to our apartment. Having realized how stupid I looked when I was high or stoned, I gave up drugs and pot. (I didn’t know that I needed a recovery program to do so.)

When I turned twenty-one, I was excited. I could finally buy alcohol for myself. I was on my second marriage. That one turned out to be a real doozie, and I coped with it by drinking. Rum was cheap at that time – two dollars per bottle, making it an affordable habit. I would begin to drink at eight a.m. every day, and would polish off at least one “fifth” of rum – sometimes two. It was the only way I knew to cope with the pain in my life.

I had periods of being “dry,” and then go back to drinking every day again. This went on until I was in my late 20s. There were several times when the pain would become so overwhelming that I would drink to the point of blacking out. I didn’t know about alcohol poisoning then. Apparently those around me didn’t either. They’d just go behind me and clean up the messes I made, pour me into bed and leave me to sleep it off.

Sadly, I am a mean-mouthed drunk, and can verbally dismantle a human being in less than three minutes. I later found out that I did this whenever I was in the “black out” phase of a drinking bout. How I wish I could take back every word.

But God…

(How I love those words. They show up many times in my story. He relentlessly pursued me into some of the darkest and ugliest places you could imagine.)

…God was not content to leave me there. For whatever reason, I began to take my kids to Sunday School. I felt guilty when I dropped them off, so I began to attend as well.

One Sunday, I heard an announcement about a Christian recovery program they offered. There was a group for the addict, and for their co-dependents. The latter group seemed a little less threatening, so I began to attend their weekly meetings.

On a Thursday night, it was my turn to tell my story. I began to talk about my marriage and the abuse I endured. I excused it all, stating, “If I’d stayed in my first marriage, I wouldn’t have this bed to lie in.” I believed what I was enduring was my “punishment” for walking away from God, and that I just had to learn to endure with patience.

The women of the group were horrified by the things I told them, and pointed out that if we didn’t get away, someone was going to end up seriously hurt or dead.

I didn’t believe them for a long time, but would go home certain that this marriage was “my cross to bear.”

Thankfully, those sweet women weren’t willing to let me stay in denial, nor to believe such mean lies about God. They helped me plan a way of escape.

It was during our exodus that God showed up in a powerful way. You can read about it in Fearful Flight. I had no idea that God ministers to us personally. I am still humbled by His gracious closeness during the next couple of years.

Not knowing that I needed a recovery program for my alcoholism, I trusted the Lord to lead me out of that trap. He did indeed set me free from my addictions.

That’s twice I’ve said that I didn’t go through recovery – either for my drug addiction or for alcoholism. That doesn’t mean that they don’t work, or aren’t necessary. Recovery programs offer something that I had to pick up on my own…and took twenty years to learn. I needed to be transformed by the renewing of my mind, and to learn healthy ways to cope with life’s stressors.

Although I was too proud to sign up for an 18 month recovery program, God has patiently and lovingly led me to counselors and reading material that helped me stay clean and sober. In fact, just this morning I giggled as I realized that He has me recording audio books for the mission’s recovery program. Some of the folks in recovery can’t read. Now they can listen and focus on the content instead of struggling to sound out the words – then try to remember what each sentence was about.

In the process, I’m getting the education I needed twenty plus years ago through books like, Staying Sober, The Genesis Process, and Boundaries. I can see that by avoiding classes I short-changed myself, and a transformed life took much longer. Jesus healed me from the need to default to drugs and alcohol; however, my thought processes still needed to be corrected. Too bad I was “too smart” to need anyone’s help to figure things out. 😦

But God…

…who loved me and gave His Son for me…

…loved me too much to let me continue in ignorance –

– He arranged for me to record the books as a “charitable act” so I could be transformed by the renewing of my mind.

Ya just gotta’ love a God who loves like that!