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.
Camping and driving - two things that force me to reflect, un-busy myself and get back to what is important - call it self care or call it getting untangled. I prefer untangled since that was the word that came to me the beginning of this year.
This week has been HUGE in this untangling process.
This blog post is the first of four (ok maybe five) that chronicles the untangling that occurred over these past 6 days.
As a Christian in today's culture, it is so easy to get jumbled and tangled up with so many competing thoughts, philosophy's and pseudo Christian teachings that do more harm than good. Although they are seemingly intent on helping us grow deeper in our faith and walk with God, they just seem to complicate the simplicity of the pure relationship with Christ - (by leading us away from his Word and into someone else's perspective of the Word - hmm, call it another Gospel of sorts!). These competing teachings clutter our thinking so that we spend more time learning about Jesus and what we need to do to be closer to him, instead of just being with Him and reading His word. It is profoundly different.
This first post is about Trust. This lesson happened on Day 1 of the trip. Day 2 and 3 morphed from trust to Surrender of which I know now, you cannot have one without the other - (these were not fun things to have discussions with God about!). Day 4 was about Forgiveness and Day 5, Letting Go (mostly of anger). Today, this last day before heading home tomorrow, was about Contentment. Tomorrow, I plan on having a long conversation about health and fitness... oh boy! - (so that may mean 5 posts on getting untangled... who knows!)
I am not saying you have to go camping or drive 1500 miles to get things sorted out, but definitely getting unplugged long enough to be still and listen to His voice, truly helps.
So, let's get started, shall we?
Trust. Not something that comes easy for me. Wounds, betrayals and hurts all have a way of breaking down the willingness to trust. This isn't a foreign conversation I have had with God but somewhat longstanding... well okay for about the last 10 years I have been having this discussion in bits and pieces. It seems my life unraveled back in 2009 then got all tangled up while I was trying to reassemble myself. I failed miserably. Why? Because I was trying to reassemble myself - without fully trusting God.
I discovered I was pretty upset with Him on this first day. I had lots of 'why did you allow...' questions for Him. The rest was filled in with every hurt that crushed my spirit occurring between 2004-2009. I had buckled under the weight of it all and couldn't understand how God, whom I trusted with my whole heart, mind and soul could just seem to let it all happen. Not protecting me. Not defending me. Not helping me. Now to be clear, I had not thought that I blamed Him. I instead blamed those who hurt, betrayed and let me down - and forgave, over and over again... am I the only one who experiences that?
Somewhere driving down the highway I realized that who I was really upset with was God. Why did he allow these hurts to happen? The answer pretty much dropped my jaw.
You never asked ME to help you. WHAT? Yeah, I had a wee bit of an argument about that, but I didn't win that discussion. After more dialog with the almighty creator, I understood what He meant. It had to do with expectations.
I had 'expected' friends, family, pastors, ministry leaders and even my counselor to be always supportive, inclusive, protecting, defending of me, never stumbling, always upholding the truth, never choosing self serving over serving...I expected everyone in my life to not be broken or sinful - I expected them to be what only God could be. And they failed me miserably. And I blamed God. After all, it was HE who pushed me to trust others yet it felt like He had set me up for massive amounts of hurt. How could He lead me into relationship with vulnerability and trust only to be hurt so badly?
When I asked Jesus to be my Savior, to receive his gift of grace and eternal life acknowledging what He did on the Cross for me (giving up His life so I could have a relationship with God), the relationship didn't end there. It was only the beginning. The relationship with Jesus happens only when I exchange my life for a life in Him. (more on that on the Surrender blog). But it requires trust first.
In John 2, it says that Jesus did not trust in man because he knew what was in their hearts. I was always confused as to how to open myself to trust others if even Jesus didn't? I tried it both ways (trusting and being guarded) and it was a bust. I learned the hard way that is impossible to have genuine relationships with others without trust. And when you do trust, you set yourself up for hurt. What the Heck! Have you experienced that conundrum?
I found the resolution in understanding what Jesus means by trusting Him and being open to relationships with others too. Here is the truth: People will let us down, hurt us, wound us, betray us, exclude us, lie to us and for some, even kill us (or lose those we love to death). Our life with and in Christ has no guarantees any of that wont happen. That isn't part of the deal.
"And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it." Mark 8:34-35
To trust means to lose your life and all that surrounds it to follow Jesus. No matter what happens to us or those we love in this life, trusting God as supreme, sovereign and Lord is the ultimate expression of trust - it is the no matter what or as Job said in the book of Job, chapter 13 vs 15 "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him"
The question Jesus posed to me (and I share with you to consider) was - no matter what has happened or what may happen, are you willing to trust Me? Trust Me with the unknown, the painful, the losses, the heinous, the injustices, the betrayals, and the confusing? Will you trust me though I may slay you?
My answer didn't come until I understood what surrender meant....See you in the next post...
Don't forget to pick up a copy of my book, "Confessions of a Feel Good Addict"
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