Forgiveness Revisited

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Over the years I’ve written different times about forgiveness. In addition, my husband, Mike, has helped me understand what forgiveness is and is not. For instance:

  • Forgiveness does not mean we forget what happened, but we can remember it redemptively. That means that, although the memory may be present, bitterness and resentment are not.
  • Forgiveness does not mean we have to automatically trust the offender again. Trust is always earned.
  • Forgiveness does not assume we reconcile and re-enter a close relationship. Of course, we do, if we safely can, but not if the other person would repeat the hurtful actions.

Because of recent events in my life, I’d like to talk about some other aspects of forgiveness. Sometimes fresh pain can help us embrace fresh understanding. I think that is what has happened with me.

Here’s some general, background information. We can forgive offenses against us. Even before the person asks for forgiveness for something they did or said against us, we can choose to forgive. This is what Jesus meant when he said to forgive as our Father in heaven forgives us. (Matt 6:12-15) God forgave us before we even knew enough to ask for forgiveness. (Rom. 5:8) This can be hard for us, but it is possible. Otherwise, Jesus would not have commanded us to forgive. (Lu 17:3-4)

We don’t forgive the sin involved. That is between the offender and God. Only God forgives sins. We forgive the damage done to us, but God forgives the sin.

But the kind of issue I have been dealing with, off and on through my life. Is different. What do I do with the hurt I feel when someone I love is hurt by someone else?

The first time I found myself in this cage was when leaders in a church we were serving accused my husband of things he had never done. They treated him badly and cut us off from fellowship with them. The cutting off part had an upside.  It meant I didn’t have to continue to see them and try to act like I wasn’t offended. But for over a year, I harbored resentment and anger over their unfair accusations and treatment of my husband. Throughout the year I tried to forgive them and constantly failed. Why?

I failed because what they did to my husband was not mine to forgive. So, what should I do with the hurt? I began to realize I did not have to try to forgive. That was not my responsibility. I was not failing in my relationship with God. He never intended me to carry that burden of forgiving what they had done to Mike.

Did I like them after that? No. Did I want to spend time with them? No! Did I want revenge? No. Did I want bad to happen to them? No.

My husband had forgiven them right away. He was hurt and struggled with what he could have done differently or if he had done anything wrong. During that time, I spoke the truth to him about what he had done and what they had done. His pain eased and we started a new chapter of our lives, equipped with a few very costly lessons.  

I’ve just been through another lesson in this area of forgiveness. I won’t tell the details here because I don’t want to add any pain to others who were also hurt.

Again, someone did a series of mean and hurtful things to one of my loved ones. The offender has been trying to get in touch with me for months. I’ve dodged the calls. My sweet husband has been running interference for me. I was struggling with whether I had forgiven this person. I had. I held no grudges for the things done to me or that directly affected me. However, I would get physically ill just thinking about those phone calls.

It all came to a head when I received a general note of apology and request for forgiveness. I could honestly say I had forgiven wrongs done to me. But what should I say about the discomfort I still felt about this person?

Once again, I realized I was harboring anger and resentment over the sins done to my loved one. Those were not mine to forgive. Finally, I was relieved to realize I didn’t have to forgive these offenses. My loved one was the only one who could forgive what was done to them. And only God could forgive the sins involved.

I got real release when I realized the person who was hurt was already in heaven. The pain and frustration were forgotten with the first glimpse of heaven. The offender cannot hurt this person anymore.

I am free. The heartache has been replaced with that glorious image of my loved one’s joy in heaven. When the hurt comes to mind again, I purposefully replace the images with the huge smile on the face of the one in heaven.

Does this mean I trust the offender to not do anything hurtful again? No. Do I want to restore the relationship with the offender? No, I’m not ready. Maybe someday, I’ll be able to talk and visit without pain, but for now, I’ve asked the person to pray for us both. I will continue to lift this person to God and wait to see what God will do with this relationship.

With God, we get to revise lessons learned earlier again and again. I am grateful God wants to set us free from the sins and snares that trip us up. Maybe what I share here will help you in a similar test.

Take a moment to consider:

  • Are you trying to make forgiveness into forgetting or reconciliation or having to trust again?
  • Is there something you have been struggling to forgive that isn’t something you need to forgive?
  • Have you asked God to help you replace the hurts with a redemptive thought?

Artful Seeing

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“What do you see?” That’s the question my art brings to my mind constantly. It’s a new way of living.

I see light and shadow. I see roundness and flatness. I see over lapping and underlying. I see large and small. Young and old. Whole and broken. Shades of color. I stop and look. Look intently. Look to see: Why? How?

At first it was a discipline to stop and look, to really see what I was looking at. Then it was automatic when I was getting ready to sketch something. I didn’t just rush into putting pencil to paper. I took time to see the parts, the form, the shadow. Later I took time to see how the subject could be captured on a page. I was concentrating on light and dark tones, outlines and forms. Then I learned to take the time to plan how it would look on paper, the flow, the margins, the feel.

But now, I see that this way of really looking has affected my whole life. Instead of just seeing color and form and flow, I take time to consider the story behind the image. A flower in a vase has a story to tell. Looking at a whole tree with only green leaves, I see the young shoots; the mature, strong leaves; and the old, withered and spotted or drying leaves. What have they experienced? What story could they tell. Even the knotted and twisted branches of a tree tell a story.

When I see a face with lots of creases, I wonder were they good things or bad things that etched those lines on that face? When I see a joyous smile, I think about what has brought such joy to that person. A limp has a story behind it. A hand held out to help another, it has a story too.

I want to see like Jesus sees. I want to have compassion and tenderness toward all God’s children. Even the unlovely, I want to ask the question, “What brought them to this trouble?” and “What does God want to do for them?”

I have wanted to see others this way for a long time, but art has brought it to the front of my mind much more often.

I am grateful for this talent God has given me, but right now I’m even more thankful for what this practice is doing in my life.

Do You Want to Keep It?

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“You’re pregnant, do you want to keep it?” That was the question I was asked about my second son. I needed to confirm my pregnancy before seeing a gynecologist. That was in 1976 in the US. There were no home pregnancy tests, yet. So I went to a Planned Parenthood clinic. I was fooled by their name to think this was about planning a pregnancy!

I was so horrified by the insinuation that I should even consider abortion!

I had been told before we married that I had a couple different conditions that would make it difficult or impossible to get pregnant or carry a baby to term. After a miscarriage, God surprised us with our first son. Then four years later, I was sure I was pregnant again. Of course I wanted to keep this baby!

That was only three short years after Roe v Wade made it legal to do abortions in the US. In 46 years more than 60 million abortions have been reported in the US. The number worldwide is even more staggering!

There are multiple tragedies out of this epidemic of abortions. The loss of so many babies to grow to be productive citizens, moms and dads with post abortion distress, and the moral confusion over this issue. (To see articles about mom and dad post abortion distress click these links: Moms and Dads)

Looking at this tragedy along side the increasing number of couples who are infertile is heart wrenching! How many of those aborted babies would be eagerly adopted, if they had been allowed to live!

In Christianity Today a mother told her story.  About halfway through her pregnancy, they were confronted by the news that the baby she was carrying had a life-threatening heart defect.

The first doctor who spoke with them, told them their options: life-saving surgeries, comforting  care once born and for the short time she would live, or choose to abort. When the mom strongly reacted to the offer of abortion, he said he was required by law to inform her of the option to abort. Another doctor showed them more compassion and support, but even that doctor risked discipline if abortion was not offered.

There is much more to her story, but what I want to focus on here is that the options presented and the decisions we make about a pregnancy or abortion show our view on the value of life.

Every baby born is going to die eventually. We are not saving these babies the trauma of dying, but we are choosing whether they get to live life, however long or short that may be.

Do we have the right to say, “This child is worthy to live and that one isn’t?” Do we have the right to say, “Because this child will be an inconvenience, it should die.” Just because it is legal, does that make it moral? Of course not!

It is good to reinforce our reasons for resisting the sugary, tolerant, freedom language that can obscure the moral stand we are taking with our choices. The candy covers a poison pill. For me, as a former neo-natal nurse, a mother, and a grandmother, no law will ever make right what is wrong.

I Had a Dream

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I woke this morning from a dream that has stuck with me as the day has gone on. Here’s my dream, as I remember it.

This took place in America. I was in a huge ‘restaurant.’ It may have been a food court. My husband and I sat down with a friend. We all had our food in front of us. The friend said, “Let’s pray.” He stood up and began to pray the Lord’s Prayer in a loud voice. We quickly stood to our feet and joined him in praying. I looked up. All around the huge restaurant, many people were standing and joining us in the Lord’s Prayer. It was like a Flash Mob, but it had not been organized by any person, though I believe it was organized by the Holy Spirit.

That image of all those ‘random’ people standing together, praying a prayer all Christians know, has been coloring my day.

My heart is so heavy for my country right now. Our freedoms of speech and religion have been eroding for many years. But the attacks on those freedoms are not subtle any more. There is out-right attack on Christians in AMERICA! America, “The land of the free and the home of the brave!”

If Christians don’t stand together and use our freedoms, we will certainly lose them. Are we brave enough to stand up for what we believe? Will we stand together, no matter what ‘flavor’ of Christianity we are, and show that we are united for our freedoms of speech and religion? Will we pay the price to keep those Constitutionally protected freedoms?

I was encouraged as I looked at that crowd of average Americans. There are many more of us than there are of the loud, out of control liberals. They get all the press, but we have the power for change if we stand together, if we vote, if we keep letting our congressmen know what we expect from them. Most of all, if we unite in prayer!

Take a moment to consider:

  • Are you grieved by what is happening in our nation? Or are you getting numb because of the constant rhetoric of tolerance?
  • Are you grieved by what grieves God? Are you actively involved in praying for righteousness and justice?
  • Are you doing anything to inform or encourage our congress to make laws that uphold our constitutional freedoms?
  • If you have not been voting, will you become well enough informed to vote in the next elections?

A Good Friend

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We have been privileged to have some very good friends in our lives. One of those special people came to visit this week.

From this visit with her and others who are very dear in our lives, I want to draw some lessons I’ve learned and am still learning.

Good friends are a gift from God. I believe friends are among the gifts God gives to all people, everywhere. Having friends does not depend on having the same faith. But those with our same faith can become friends on a much deeper level.

It is these friends who share our love of Jesus and fulfill their calling in serving others that I want to focus on today.

How special it is when we can share a song or Scripture or faith experience with our friend. The sharing encourages and enriches our hearts. As we listened to beautiful music together, our hearts were touched and both tears and deep joy were equally welcomed and shared.

For those of us in the trenches, a time of ease is God’s special gift to us. In a time between struggles, God’s desire is to soothe and heal and strengthen us again with peace and joy in this season. What delight it is to share these times of refreshing with our friends.

When we share our difficulties, it is a real friend who listens to our heart. The kind of friend we need is someone who will listen without criticism or jump in with their own story. Real friends give us the opportunity to process our experience and give us support while finding a solution.

So some of our conversations were over the struggles we have had. These conversations reassured us that we are not alone in fighting the evil in ourselves and in our surroundings. We shared ways we found resolution to some of those struggles or where we found strength to endure and press on in spite of them.

We shared victories and rejoiced in answered prayers. People we can never see face-to-face, we have prayed for and now we hear answers to those prayers. We learned the back story of God’s miracle encounters that have led to many knowing more about God and His love.

Some conversations led to thinking about the future. We don’t know what the future holds for each of us. We don’t know what giants may loom just out of sight. But we KNOW how we have been cared for in the past. We know how God has always given us what we needed at the time. A rich store of testimonies strengthens our confidence that we have a future and it is a good one. We are sure God knows how to take us Home.

Today, our deep friendships with our sisters and brothers is so much easier than in the past. While we were together, we were able to have on-line visits with others we have not seen in years. Oh, to see them and how God has protected, provided for, and used them for His purposes in far flung corners of the world! A conversation that would have taken months by snail mail, is instantaneous today. We must do all we can to keep in touch with those dear to us.

Take a moment to consider:

  • If you don’t have a good friend like this, you should pray for God to show you a friend. Friends are a need in our life and God supplies our needs. (Caution: No one person will meet all your needs for a friend, but God will direct you to ones with whom you can share your hearts.)
  • Are you listening with your heart or waiting to tell your own story?
  • Is there a friend you can encourage today?