Daughters of Promise

Forgiveness Is Hard Because Our Story Is Trapped Inside.

August 17, 2018

One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. Proverbs 12:26

3. Forgiveness is hard because ~ Our story is trapped inside.

After a while, I lose perspective about the story of my life. It becomes normalized which is dangerous because normal can very well mean unhealthy. It also becomes cobwebbed and no matter how much I try to make sense of it, wisdom is lost in the complicated weave of the strands. Sooner or later, I wish for someone to hear the contents of my heart.

Personally, I have found that until I tell my story to someone God picks, I don’t have a truthful perspective. It isn’t until there is a safe, empathetic listener, that I can begin to sort things out. Sometimes, I even surprise myself at what I’ve been holding inside.

How does this pertain to forgiveness? If my story is locked inside, swirling without clear definition, I will be unclear as to what and whom I should forgive. If I need to forgive a blamer, chances are that I have assumed the guilt they imposed like a sponge. I can’t sort it out myself. If I’m someone who minimizes my pain, I won’t forgive the real offense. I’ll say, “Maybe it really wasn’t all that bad.” A Jesus-kind of listener will give me a barometer for assessing how good or bad something was. I’ll go so far as to say that I’ve never had real clarity about something important without talking about it. I’m a very private person so that is difficult for me. I’m the kind who only makes a few close friends and shares nothing personal on Facebook. I’m an introvert and that puts me in the minority. Introverts can get lost in their head where extroverts tend to spill everything without a filter. Only spiritual maturity gives both sides balance.

If you find yourself stuck in what you suspect is unforgiveness, could it be that you don’t have clarity about the offense? Maybe you say to yourself one of the following, “Maybe I was the one who was wrong.” Or, “Maybe I”m making too big a deal out of this.” Or even, “Maybe it’s worse than I thought!” It’s probably time to open your heart to someone.

One last thing ~ speaking something makes it real. Unspoken pain can remain surreal and is easier to ignore.

You made me to live in community with others. I need them and that means talking. Thank you for my ‘listening ears.’ Amen

Forgiveness Is Hard Because I’m Reluctant To Let Go Of Toxic Anger

August 16, 2018

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit is better than he who takes a city. Proverbs 16:32

2. Forgiveness is hard because ~ there’s a reluctance to let go of toxic anger.

A woman who suffered one loss after another told me, “I feel like I have lost everything, Christine, and all I have left is anger. It makes me feel powerful. I function on surges of adrenalin. I even dream of starting a movement to help others who suffer what I have suffered. How is this a bad thing?” I explained to her, “Because of what anger does to you on the inside.”

I have learned that there is was freedom I never knew. It was on the other side of forgiveness. There was a surge of lasting energy I never guessed was there. It was on the other side of forgiveness. There was a mission waiting to be born that would be driven by the wind of the Spirit instead of rage. It was on the other side of forgiveness. Toxic anger only felt good because I hadn’t experienced the gifts of forgiveness waiting for me at the opposite end of the continuum.

I appreciate this quote by Frederick Beuchner.

“To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over a bitter confrontation still to come, well – in many ways it’s a feast for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”

A modern day proverb, one you may have heard before, also sums this up. “The anger of un-forgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” This is the lie that Satan wraps in glitter and encourages me to embrace as the truth. My anger feels good and I believe it will hurt the other person but in reality, I’m the one who has drunk the poison.

The over-arching question, I believe, is this. Did Jesus harbor toxic anger? No. He listened to His Father for the proper immediate response and they were varied. Sometimes walk away. Sometimes stay silent. Other times, speak up because His Father was offended. There was no uniform response. God showed him incident by incident. If my anger has been simmering, and it’s old, it’s time to start a fresh page.

Let today be a new day for the one wasting away under the cancer of unresolved anger. Amen

Forgiveness Is Hard Because The Offender Doesn’t Want Forgiveness

August 15, 2018

Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush.  Jeremiah 8:12

1.  Forgiveness is hard because ~ the offender doesn’t want forgiveness. 

I can make strong personal vows to never forgive someone for what they did.  I feel so powerful and in control when I withhold it.  It feels like justice.  The problem is ~ the person who offends usually only takes partial, or no responsibility for it.  Because they don’t own it, why would they care if it’s forgiven?  I can think I’m punishing them but in actuality, they are living scot-free and not even thinking about what they did, much less thinking about me.  

Oh, how difficult it is to come to this conclusion.  My so-called punishment of them is really punishing myself.  My heart suffers, my mind suffers as I obsess, and my body suffers the effects of how bitterness is being played out pathologically.  The only one who appears to be thriving is the perpetrator.  

If I watch the evening news for one week, I will undoubtedly hear a victim’s family make this vow.  “I’ll never forgive them for what they did.”  It’s the only sense of control they can seize and it feels weighty.  For the most part, in that moment, they fail to understand that the one who committed the crime doesn’t care about forgiveness withheld.  

I need to conform my thinking to biblical standards.  I don’t choose to forgive because someone has asked for it and I don’t withhold it because someone will suffer if I do.  I choose to forgive because I belong to Jesus and my life is not my own.  As He forgave me, I am to forgive others.  As His pardon of me was outrageous, so mine is to be of the same nature.  

The way of the disciple is a pathway carved out by Jesus.  I place my feet in the sandaled footprints in front of me.  When it’s difficult, and most of it is, I ask for grace.  Forgiveness is the only way I will be free to soar on the pleasures that can be mine in His presence.  I need to just trust God’s promise and I can tell you, personally, that when I have taken the leap, the freedom afforded an energy I never knew existed. 

Your law brings life, even when it doesn’t feel like it will.  Thank you.  Amen

Forgiveness Is Not A One Time Event

August 14, 2018

Forgiveness is not ~ 6. A One Time Event.

I can hold myself to high and unbiblical standards. For instance, I can believe that I should walk the aisle once, confess bitterness, ask for forgiveness, and then get up and live with no more inner conflict about the matter. This lie is reinforced by the ‘talk’ we Christians have adopted. Under the name of ‘accountability,’ we ask each another, “Have you forgiven?” The inference is that no matter how fresh or how old the wound is, forgiveness through a simple prayer concludes the issue.

Do you remember Peter’s description of Jesus’ life here on earth? He said, Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while they hurled insults at Him, He did not insult in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to His Father who judges righteously. I Peter 2:1-23 Jesus, modeled a lifestyle where he ‘kept entrusting’ himself to His Father when hurt by people. Every time a wound was inflicted, he was tempted to take revenge but in His holiness, He showed restraint and then trusted His Father to rule well over his life. Jesus didn’t just forgive others just once in some general sense. It was moment by moment, offense by offense, person by person.

imagesI’ve received many women at the altar at the close of a teaching session. Some came to share their painful stories. Usually, the most serious wounds were sustained by family. When a hurt was forgiven, the relationship continued but similar wounds were suffered again. I told them that forgiveness will need to be repeated. When we live with the ones who hurt us so badly, our life will be characterized by act after act of intentional forgiveness. When hurt, we’ll stop, acknowledge our desire to take revenge, but then put the ones who hurt us in God’s hands – knowing He rules well.

Forgiveness was a life-style choice for Jesus, not a one time event captured in a verse in one of the Gospels. Peter, who lived and walked with Jesus, saw this way of living firsthand and it impacted him enough that he wrote about it for our benefit.

If someone close to you has hurt you, and if you decided yesterday to forgive them, perhaps you wonder why you feel pain again when they continue to hurt you. Shouldn’t yesterday’s forgiveness have taken care of today’s arrows? No. Not for you and me. Not for Jesus, either.

Teach me how to live like you, not according to others’ expectations. Amen

Forgivness Is Not The Same As Reconciliation

August 13, 2018

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Romans 12:18

5.  Forgiveness is not the same as ~ Reconciliation.

Just as it takes two people to have a relationship, it takes two people to rebuild it.  There must be unity, humility, vulnerability, admission of wrong as God defines it, and reconciliation with God for both parties to be able to build something solid. 

What usually happens is that one person in the broken relationship either can’t admit what they’ve done, or the one who was hurt can’t forgive what was done to them. If one is too proud to ask for forgiveness and the other is too proud to offer it, true reconciliation just won’t be realized.  

Paul said, ‘If it is possible, live at peace.’  The ‘if’ is important to digest because it’s possible, due to people’s sinfulness, to never get reconciliation.  Forgiveness, however, only takes one person.  It’s a unilateral act between me and God.  Reconciliation takes two people ~ the offender and the victim ~ coming together in agreement before God about what transpired.  This is the necessary ingredient for there to be the beginnings of a relationship again.  Fractured trust takes oh so long to re-build even after sincere apologies and remorse.

Isn’t it your experience, however, that most of our offenders fail to see what they’ve done?  They aren’t willing to own truth.  Does that mean we can’t have peace and closure in our heart?  No.  I can still do my part and forgive them.  That’s something I do by the power of the Holy Spirit in prayer.  I take them off my hook and put them on God’s hook.  I yield my rights to play judge and jury and repent of my desire to make them pay.  I do the hard spiritual work of forgiveness, and then what?  I pray for them and wait.  I poise myself on the line of reconciliation and wait for that person to seek God and the truth of what caused this broken relationship.  

People in marriages, families and friendships, deeply hurt another, then offer a generalized, token apology that is pretty meaningless.  “Guess I’m a bad friend.  Chalk me up to being a bad spouse.”  They consider that an adequate apology and want everything back to normal.  These are not grounds for reconciliation!  We are told to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.  We get the ‘harmless’ part of the equation and cave in to pressure instead of being ‘wise.’  Sometimes, I want peace more than I want truth and I rush to patch things up when there is no foundation upon which to build.  So, it is possible to  forgive yet still have to wait for reconciliation. 

Lord, for those who wait, give them grace. For those who are about to rush in to an unsafe relationship after an unacceptable apology, give them pause.  Only in your timetable and by the wisdom of Your Spirit.  Amen 

Forgiveness Is Not Being Free Of Anger

August 9, 2018

Be angry and sin not.  Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.  Ephesians 4:26

4.  Forgiveness is not ~ Being Free Of Anger.

While anger may be toxic, it is not always an unholy thing.  Yes, it fuels bitterness and acts of revenge but it also moves God’s people to pray, to right wrongs, and to take needed actions.  

If you are in pain because an unrighteous act has been committed, and if you are feeling anger, that is not necessarily evidence that you have failed to forgive.  We should each be angry over the things God is angry about.

Having grown up in a home where anger was rarely displayed, I grew up to be afraid of it.  Thinking it was always a product of sin, I was afraid to feel it and was also afraid of anyone who was escalating from frustration to anger. I had no experience with it.  It’s been a process to learn that because God gets angry, it should also be in my emotional repertoire.  And, I must admit that I’m comforted by a God like that.  I want a Father who is angry over sin and injustice.  

We’ve been shown the face of God in Jesus.  We’ve been shown the many shades of His character as well as His complex emotional life.  More than once, His anger was on full display within the full parameters of righteousness.  Jesus overturned tables in the temple because poor Jewish people were being told their sacrifices weren’t good enough.  They were then sold a replacement for 10x the going rate.  He also called religious abusers vipers because they questioned most everything He said and attempted to nullify His message.  He showed us that it’s holy to feel anger over sin.  When God’s children are hurt, anger is a part of His response.  When I am hurt, anger is a part of His response. 

How can I sift righteous and unrighteous anger inside my heart?  When offended, I ask myself some questions like these.  Am I offended because they hurt me or because their sin offended the heart of God?  Is my anger kindled because I am indignant?  My pride wounded?  My goals thwarted?  It’s clearer if the wound has not been personal but something I’ve witnessed happening to others.  

I will say, in my experience, that it’s more rare when my anger is holy anger, but it has happened.  When others are wronged however, and I have nothing at stake, I have experienced a piece of the fury of God’s heart over the destruction sin causes.  

Today we are looking deeply, Father. Never have we needed Your Spirit more.  We can’t afford to get this wrong.  Help us.  Amen

Forgiveness Is Not Excusing

August 8, 2018

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Psalm 51:6

3. Forgiveness is not ~ Excusing.

There is usually no end to the lengths I will go to protect myself from pain. If I believe a partial truth, and if choosing that over something stark saves me from further suffering, isn’t that okay? Not according to my Father. He delights in truth and tells me it’s only for my good and total healing if I value truth as well.

How does this play into forgiveness? When someone wounds me and the pain threatens to undo my heart, I will self-protect by beginning to offer excuses. “They only did that because . . .” How about, “They didn’t mean it.” Or, “He only does it every once in a while.”

When it’s childhood pain, ultimate forgiveness takes into account an understanding of my offenders as God gives me His eyesight. Supernaturally, I understand why they acted like they did but in the beginning, excusing them as a way to block out the pain is a way of minimizing what they did.

It’s as if I start with a basketball-sized offense. Every time I excuse it somehow, it gets re-shaped and becomes smaller. Eventually, what was once the size of a basketball is now the size of a golf ball. It no longer even resembles the original offense.  Forgiving some made-made, altered offense feels much safer whereas forgiving the real thing is excruciating. But, it’s necessary.

Perhaps you’ve extended forgiveness but failed to find any closure. You said the words but have just not felt better. It didn’t feel real and honest. Could it be that you did not allow God to show you the whole truth deep in your spirit? Could it be that you chose to self-protect by minimizing the intent of the offender? There isn’t freedom until each of us forgives the real thing and it’s only bearable with God’s arms tightly around us. Forgiveness is empowered by grace – not something we can manufacture with our own elegant mind-games.

If I love You, I’m a truth seeker. Amen