Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Forgiveness is Friggin' Hard

So I've been meditating on the meaning of forgiveness quite some time.

I've pondered it from almost every angle.

I simply wanna know what it means to walk it out.
And how in the world does Jesus do it?

This is the conclusion I've come up with, forgiveness is friggin' hard.

We want forgiveness so desperately, but when the shoes on the other foot, it's hard to "forgive and forget" as the saying goes.

Practically, this is what I've been doing.
I've been saying to myself, "I forgive them."
(Whoever my list of "them" is.)

Just for the record - "God do you hear me, I'm forgiving them."

But I also want to forgive them for myself, cause I'm being eaten alive inside, with listing all the ways they've hurt me.

I'm obsessing over it, but I don't want to obsess over it.

I want to...

So I'm saying to myself, "I forgive them."

Now, my heart truly wants to forgive but when I think about forgiving, I remember ALL the things they did to me.
It's like I can feel my heart leaning towards forgiveness.
But then again, I think back all the ways they betrayed me.

A big fat UGH.

Bottom line, my brain gets in the way.

So I don't think our brains have anything to do with forgiveness.
It's got to be of the heart.

The other conclusion I've come up with is that I don't think just saying it works.

I've got to find out how Jesus does it.

A few different scripture verses have stood out to me as I've been digging how He does it.

The woman caught in the act of adultery. John 8:1-11
The story of Zacchaeus. Luke 19:1-10
The story of Peter's restoration. John 21

All three accounts, Jesus never once went over a list of what they did. As a matter of fact, He didn't even bring up their sins.

In the case of the woman, He went as far as to tell her he didn't condemn her and told her to "go and sin no more."

Here's an excerpt from a previous post I wrote on this topic. 

"I've been pondering the meaning ‘go and sin no more.'  I think most people translate it as ‘you were doing wrong, now stop it and start doing right.’  The Hebrew definition of sin is to miss, miss the mark, miss the way or path, make a mistake, an error, fail to find or have, to be absent.  Yet the root word means forgetfulness.  So what was Jesus exactly telling her to do?  I think He was telling her to remember.  To remember is to be conscious.  To be aware.  He was telling her to remember this moment.  Remember that He didn’t condemn her. Remember that she was no longer bound to what she had done.  Remember that He set her free.  Set her free from what the religious leaders said about her and set free from what the law of Moses said. And set her free from public opinion.  His opinion was the only opinion that mattered.  Remember. "

Isn't that amazing? He didn't even bring up her sins. He didn't throw them in her face or make her grovel. 

Just as the religious leaders made a public spectacle out of her, well Jesus did the same to them. 
It was like He was saying to them, "Who are you to call someone out, let alone publicly, when you sin just the same." 

BAM! That's how Jesus rolls! 

SO I'd watch out if I were you, if you try to publicly shame someone. 
Jesus might do the same to you. Just saying.

Now Zacchaeus. I just love this story. 

It has so profoundly touched me. I think about it almost daily. 

And this is what stands out to me. 
He was still considered the chief tax collector, which meant he was the most hated man in town. 

He stole from his own people. Lied to them. All for his own gain. 

Now skip ahead a little. Here is Zacchaeus up in the tree and Jesus calls out his name. 

Out of all the people in the crowd that day, Jesus tells him He wanted to hang out with him at his house! 

He didn't make him say the sinner's prayer, the Lord's prayer, get baptized, none of that. 

Jesus didn't shame him for what he had done. 
He didn't make a public spectacle of him. 
There was no shunning him, it was only pure acceptance of exactly where he was at. 
At that exact moment, even if he was still considered a sinner. 

So even while...whatever state we find ourselves in, Jesus still wants to hang with us. 
And I believe it was because of that acceptance Zacchaeus wanted to make restitution for wrong things he did. 

That's what Love does. 
Causes us to WANT to change. 
Without all the judgement and condemnation or threats.

And finally, Peter. 

This past Sunday I listened to Richard Rohr's podcast called, He looks like everybody else! 
The passage is out of John 21.

I'd like to hone in the charcoal fire in verse 9.

Father Rohr reminds us that Peter denied Jesus at a similar charcoal fire not too long before this scene. 

Three times Peter denied being one of His disciples. 

Which Peter had profusely declared in Matthew 26:33-35, that he would "even die with Jesus...but never disown him."

I imagine the amount of shame Peter felt was overwhelming. He failed the One he followed for three and a half years of his life. He had even given up all to follow Jesus, even his occupation. 

I know that kind of shame personally. Failing Christ, the One I had committed my life to. The heaviness was almost more than I could bare. 

Almost took my life, ironically three times.

But what Father Rohr points out is, Jesus offers to Peter an opportunity "to do it right where he did it wrong...instead of accusing them, shaming them or blaming them...He doesn't even bring it up." 

As I was listening to this, in the car, on the way to church, I was overwhelmed with the generous love He offers. He offered it to Peter and He offers it to me today.

So this is my dilemma for forgiveness. 

Examples in my life have shamed, blamed, listed, measured, judged, condemned, and brings up every ounce of failures, those are the patterns I've followed. 

If Jesus, the exact representation of the Father (Hebrews 1:3), doesn't even do that, why can't I?  

These scriptures have shown that He fully embraces us in our sinful state.  
*I know, I know. Some of you might give me flack for making that statement but hear me out. 

He fully accepts us here and now. He doesn't shame us to change. Blame us to change. Threaten us to change. It's His love that moves us to change. 

But people. It's people that really get to me. 

Not the ones that know they're sinners. I like them. 

It's the ones that go around all haughtily, pointing their fingers at us sinners, like the religious leaders. 

Even Ghandi recognized the inconsistency in their behavior.

Then again, aren't I doing the same thing to them, pointing my finger at them for pointing their finger at me?

Oh the conundrum I find myself in! 

So what do I do? Forgive and forget as He's done for me or still hold on to the list and keep on counting? 

Kinda like Santa. 

Oh goodness do I need help or what! 

I don't wanna be like Santa, only giving gifts when I deem them good enough. Then withhold gifts when they're bad.

Final conclusion, forgiveness is a gift. 

It's wrapped in Love, which covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). 

It covers. Period. Like a thick, warm blanket.

The only way it works is if you fully lay the covering over it. 
But if you pull it back and begin to list all their wrongs then you're right back to square one.

So thankful that even in my struggle He fully accepts me right where I'm at.

I see it like a father teaching me how to ride a two wheeler. 
I climb on the bike. Steady myself. 
My father gives me a good push and I begin to peddle as fast I can. 
The bike is somewhat wobbly, I try to stay steady, but instead I fall down. 

Now my Father could yell at me and tell me everything I did wrong with his shaming finger. 

Or he could lovingly ask, "Are you okay? And encourage me to get right back up and try it again.

I might not get it right the next time I get on my bike but I'll keep trying and eventually I'll get it. 

I believe with all my heart I'm gonna get this forgiveness thing. Cause' I have a good, good Father encouraging me on until I do.

Love and Peace,

P.S. I'd love to hear what you think about this issue. Let me know in the comments. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

It's been awhile...

It's been awhile since I've written anything. Seems like I've been on an emotional cross-country trip and I haven't been able to get out of the car and just enjoy life.

Until recently.

Dealing with emotional stuff is a heavy burden. After being put on Wellbutrin a few months ago, it seemingly was going well, then I started having side-effects that I didn't like. After consulting my therapist I decided to get off of it all together. Surprisingly I feel clearer headed than ever. But it's taken me awhile to get here.

A few days ago, I met with my friend Christina for coffee at this little bagel shop, yes I had a bagel (sounds so good right about now) and ironically I ran into another friend of mine. So after my visit with Christina, Sue happened to still be there and we chatted for a bit.

Now these two women couldn't be more different in personalities but they are so dear to me. They walked with me through the traumatic experience I went through last year and I'm so grateful to both of them and their love and support of me.

One of the things I said to Sue was that I have felt that some of the people in my life have expected me to just go right back to the way things used to be but I simply can't. I'm changed. The experiences I had have caused me to see everything differently. I'm not the same person. I've been wounded so deeply it's scarred my soul.

I'm not even the same Christian. For awhile I didn't even want to be associated with Christianity. I don't think going through what I went through could possibly produce sameness. I see the scriptures so differently. I don't want to ever go back to who I used to be. I don't want to be associated with those who take "pride" in their religious position any longer. And frankly, after all the trash-talking gossip, shunning, public humiliation - ALL that and more, profoundly impacted me and I don't wanna be like that.

I'm reading a book called Scared Wounds by Teresa Pasquale and the validation it's given me has been so healing.

I definitely would recommend it. It's for those that have experienced church hurts and also for those who suffer from PTSD. 

I have quoted this book so many times on Twitter it's ridiculous. That's one of the things I love about Twitter is that you can Tweet as many times as you want in a day and no one complains about it. It's like journaling throughout the day. 

One of my favorite quotes from this book is "All the trials we endure cannot be compared to these interior battles," ~ Teresa of Avila  

Isn't that quote so true AND so validating! 

It's like she's saying, "I see you and the hurts that have caused you great pain. You are not alone."

Well friend, whatever you are going through right now I want you to know you are not alone. 

One particular verse that has brought me such comfort is Psalm 139:8, "...if I make my bed in Sheol You are there." Another version says, "...if I make my bed in Hell..." Sometimes it certainly feels like you're going through hell. 

But it's the message version that has brought such gratitude in me. It says, "You're already there waiting!" How amazing is that! I can't thank Him enough. 

So no matter where you're at in your life, in heaven or down in the depths, He is with you. 

Love and Peace,