Let it Go... I wonder how many of you started singing that forever etched in our psyche song from Frozen like I did?
Every time I feel like God is asking me to let something go, I typically will break out in song, well, after I have had a mini temper tantrum because I don't really want to let it go...
Exactly what does it mean to let go? It literally means to relinquish our grip on someone or something. If you are like me, you may have experienced that letting go is not as easy as the song makes it seem. But then again, poor Elsa didn't really let anything go, she just stuffed it and froze everyone out of her life, because, well, the cold (inside her heart) never bothered her anyway...that's a lot of anger!
Anger is a hot topic (or a cold hearted one). Personally, I always thought anger was a justifiable emotion since Jesus got angry and over turned tables! But I found that anger, although a legitimate emotion, is not something that serves anyone well, especially ourselves. And, the bible is pretty clear that being angry is something we are to move through rather quickly, like before the sun goes down!
Over time, unreleased anger can eventually eat away and harden and isolate even the most tenderest of hearts.
Anger doesn't always have to have a need for forgiveness attached to it. It is a feeling of hostility, annoyance and displeasure but often what we do or say while being angry is where we end up having to ask another person and God to forgive us. Anger is defined as losing control over something or someone. Basically, a temper tantrum.
The bible says to "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor [shouting], and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice [evil intent]." - Ephesians 4:31
After the grueling process of learning and working through trust, surrender and forgiveness, (see my previous blogs if you have no idea what I am talking about), I found myself being challenged by God about my internal responses to my anger. Yep, still got angry about stuff but mostly just kept it to myself or rather inside myself.
A little history...I have always had one go to emotion for when I was hurt, frustrated, disappointed or even sad - it was anger. I had never really learned how to appropriately process my feelings, mostly because I was always told what I "should" be feeling instead of being free to feel and move through the emotions.
Years ago after I had participated in counseling, my counselor told me she had to see a counselor to deal with my anger in the beginning of our time together. Wow... must have been pretty bad. Well, I know it was. I had to live with me! What I know now is my anger was nothing more than feeling out of control with no way to resolve what was happening around me.
The first five years of my life were filled with violence, uncertainty and insecurity. Traumatic experiences compounded one after another established a pattern of fear, anxiousness and a constant state of fight or flight. As I got older, inconsistencies and unpredictability in family and friend relationships embedded in me a sense of feeling unsafe and unprotected. So I became bigger, better and stronger, using anger as a means to preserve my sense of well being and safety. Not the best way to self preserve but the only way I knew how. Looking back, it may have been what literally saved my life but there came a time when it no longer served me (and definitely didn't serve others well) and I had to allow God to teach me how to let it go. Not an easy task.
It is hard to change learned behaviors but not impossible. As God persisted in doing an inner work in me, the anger became less and less. It took a lot more to get me stirred up to the point of boiling, but when I did boil, it was still pretty intense. Over the past ten years, I found that my anger was more of an imploding experience than an exploding. My anger turned inward resulted in depression. It wasn't until five years ago that I actually acknowledged out-loud to another person that I thought I was depressed. That was the start of a deep healing and a dealing with all the bottled up anger.
I bring up the past because our pasts have a profound affect on how we see our present and future. Everything we experience runs through the filter of our internal programming. Change the program and our experiences become profoundly different.
This may sound silly, but letting go is, well, letting go. Letting go of trying to control your life, your circumstances, others lives and their circumstances, the world and everything that is broken in it. YOU HAVE NO CONTROL over anything but your choices. Choose to let go.
I always felt letting go was a very difficult thing to do. I often had a hard time seeing when I was trying to hang on to or control something, and then, once emotionally stuck on it, made it even harder to let go. The key is to not get emotionally stuck on whatever it is. Let it go the moment it starts to take hold.
Here is a simple way that God revealed to me to get real and face what I have a hard time letting go of. Imagine God asking you, "What are you mad at?" or "What seems to be the problem?". As you keep answering the question, now imagine that God keeps asking you the same question over and over until you get to the root reason for your feelings. If you are like me, and no doubt you are at some level, eventually, you will get to an ah-ha moment when you realize that what is troubling you is just a lack of control over something. It is at this place, that you have the opportunity to surrender and relinquish that need for control over to the one who knows how to handle everything. Let it Go.
In this third installment of the road trip revelations, I want to share about Forgiveness. You may be like me and have experiences that caused you pain and yet, as a Christian you are told to forgive. But one or more of those experiences seems to require you to forgive over and over and for some things, seems like they will never go away.
A trigger, a reminder of the offense can bring us right back to the situation as if we are re-living it all-over-again and feeling all the feels along with it.
The big question is did we not really forgive the first time? I don't know about you but I have learned over the years in church sermons and christian literature that forgiveness is not a one time thing. To that, I say hogwash!
Forgiveness happens when we forgive. It is as simple as that. If the same feelings keep coming up, then forgiveness has not taken place.
Now, I can only guess that some of you are stuck on that last paragraph. I am also guessing that you, like me, have heard and learned the same things about forgiveness: that it is a process. Some of you also, like me, may have gone through or are going through 'trying' to forgive someone for something. As God was challenging me on forgiving individuals over things that have happened (and some long, long ago - and yes, I have gone through the process over and over but some things still oozed into my present), I realized when He asked me a simple question - 'what would you have me do to them'? That I hadn't really forgave at all. I still wanted some form of justice!
That question humbled me. And here is why. No where in the bible does it tell us that forgiveness is a process or that it is accomplished over time.
So why all the verses? Because it became exceptionally clear, especially in Mark, that to forgive someone is to be done in the present moment. It would be a great challenge for any of us to come before God in prayer when we have to spend our lifetime forgiving someone - we would never be able to pray!
We are called to forgive just as we were forgiven. So that brings up a an interesting question - Did Jesus forgive us one day then un-forgive us the next with hopes of reaching ultimate forgiveness over time? Of course not. So how do we forgive johnny-on-the-spot as Jesus forgave us? Well, I am glad you asked...
With a question like "what would you have me do to them", posed to me by God, for just a split second I think I felt "Finally!" it was my chance to be done with these hurts as I now had opportunity to see God execute justice at my direction! HA... not so fast!
As I visualized each person, I found that I couldn't bring myself to have God do anything other than what He had done and continues to do for me.
It was in that moment that I realized that forgiving someone over time is not the way Jesus or the Word teaches. But rather how satan has influenced the church to teach us a watered down version of the Word of God to keep us in a state of resentment, bitterness and entitled vindictiveness. If in doubt, look at our current state of affairs in our country - even Christians are devouring each other and dividing the body of Christ.
In Matthew 18:21 Peter asks Jesus how many times must he forgive his brother or sister who sins against him? He is not referring to the same person over the same sin. It is multiple and new sins that occur. And to that, Jesus says, seventy times seven. Translation - to infinity and beyond. Just the same as He has and does for us.
After God asked me what I thought He should do to 'them' and realizing I could not ask Him to do anything but have mercy, then He asked me the most powerful and painful question:
'Are you willing to forgive them for what they have done to you?' (and by 'them' it meant everyone who has and will hurt me).
I encourage you to sit in that place of uncomfortableness as you picture every wound inflicted upon you and every person or persons associated with them. Every hurtful word, every situation where you felt wronged, real or imagined, and then bring it before God and tell Him what you think ought to be done to them. Keeping in mind what He has done for you.
At this moment, I know no better way to come to the place to real forgiveness than to stand before God and explain why the person or persons who have offended you should receive something that you yourself have been pardoned for.
In my last blog I wrote about trust. I said I would tell you my answer to God's question to me. The question of whether or not I was willing to trust him no matter what may happen? Like Job, my answer was an emotional 'although you slay me, yet I will trust in you'. So, yeah, my answer was yes.
I went to bed that night thinking, oh Lord, please don't slay me! I think I should have included my car. Because I woke up to a smashed window and my purse stolen. Stranded 400 miles from home with a 1/4 tank of gas, no money and no idea how I was going to get home. Panic and fear hit me for about 5 minutes as I tried to grasp the magnitude of what just happened. Then I remembered my commitment to God less than 12 hours earlier...
It was now a day to put my resolve to the test, and much (and I mean MUCH!) to my surprise, it felt incredibly peaceful to not go down the spiral of resentment, anger and bitterness. I had to consciously choose to take the path of Surrendering my right for justice, blame and resentment. I had to choose immediately to hand over, my hurt, panic and the feeling of being violated over to the one I chose to Trust. I kept repeating, 'I know nothing escaped your eye and for whatever reason you chose to allow this. I don't understand and I am a little afraid right now, but Yet, I will trust you'.
Who in real life has this kind of response after such a violation? Surely someone else occupied my body, mind and spirit in this situation.
Oh wait... yes indeed that has to be what took place when I made the choice to Trust...Because, it certainly wasn't the ME I knew before I took this trip!
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me
and gave himself for me." - Galatian 2:20
Surrender: abandon oneself entirely; cease resistance. That is exactly what it felt like. Something of a cross between feeling helpless yet strong, vulnerable yet protected. It was an odd sensation and feeling. The only time I have ever felt something similar to this was when I gave up defending myself to those who overpowered me. That ended in me withdrawing. This however, ended in me feeling strengthened and empowered. It was like falling into the water - weightless, un-abandoned and free.
"If you want a change in your life, if you want forgiveness and peace and joy that you’ve never known before, God demands total surrender. He becomes the Lord and the ruler of your life." - Billy Graham
On this trip I had been reading the book, "Unoffendable" by Brant Hansen. I did not think a book with this title would teach me about trust and surrender but it did. It redirected me to the humble truth: If I had accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord, then I needed to live both of those aspects out. It seems I was real good on the Savior part, with the eternal life aspect and knowing I was saved by grace, of which I am so very grateful for His sacrifice. But, the Lord part? Not so good. I really wanted to maintain the rights to my life and sprinkle it with good deeds and the many flavors of the cultural Christianity du jour, as is taught in so many churches in our nation. But for Jesus to be Lord, that requires utter and complete surrender. Complete letting go and handing over everything of myself to his leadership, no matter what!
That is a pretty large pill to swallow! I don't know about you, but control is not something I eagerly wanted to hand over. It is not simply a selective (when times are tough) "Jesus take the wheel" kind of thing. It's a Jesus take the whole darn car kind of thing!
For Jesus to be Lord, we must give up our right to justice, to vengeance, to directing and guiding our own lives. To taking a stand and devouring someone else in the name of Christianity - (Jesus never asked us to defend Him or His kingdom - but rather to always be ready to give an answer for our hope).
Surrender is being willing to give up the pursuit of wealth, status, entitlement and the distorted belief that we are all deserving of some magnificent 'American Dream' of prosperity and all things warm and fuzzy. Now...with that said, that doesn't mean God won't bless us with wealth, prosperity or all things warm and fuzzy. It means we surrender seeking after those things, for His sake.
Surrender is denying ourselves.
"Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life[a]will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?" - Matthew 16:24-26
I knew it was what I wanted and needed to do. But I was scared. It felt at first like jumping into a body of water in the dark with no way of knowing how deep it would be or what I would encounter. It was pretty scary to take the leap. But as it turned out, it was more like floating weightlessness. That must be what Jesus meant when He said to 'come to him, all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and He will give you rest' (Matthew 11:28). It's hard work running our own lives (and trying to run others too!)
Surrender is about giving up ourselves so we can be filled up with Him. When that happens, we are no longer burdened by the cares of all that is going on around us. All the strife, the politics, the human injustices, the violence and offenses. God has got it. Grasping that, and loosening my grip so I could fall back into His arms - the second best decision I made this week. It is the most peaceful experience I have every felt. It is pure joy.
Don't forget to pick up a copy of my book, "Confessions of a Feel Good Addict"
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