ID-100161689I’ve often said, forgiveness is rarely a one-time event. Nor is it an emotion, at least originally. It usually begins with a choice, sometimes a teeth-gritting, white-knuckling, Lord Jesus please help me, choice. One that must be made again and again and again, every time old wounds and negative emotions resurface.

Forgiveness is rarely easy, but it is possible, with God’s help.

Today my friend, Janet Sketchley, Author of Secrets and Lies, shares her thoughts on Janet Sketchley headshot 350x350 (1)how we can begin to move toward forgiveness, and the freedom and healing that offers.

BUT FIRST I wanted to announce last week’s give-away winner.

LoRee, congrats! You won a copy of When Dawn Breaks! I’ll shoot you an email so we can talk about the best way for me to get that to you. 🙂 In the meantime, you can read the first two chapters here. 

And now, for Janet’s encouraging thoughts.

Forgiveness by Janet Sketchley

“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12, NLT

Someone hurts you. Next day, she apologizes. Do you say it’s okay, not a big deal? Pretend nothing happened, for the good of the relationship? Or do you refuse to forgive? Can you forgive, if it’s a major hurt?

Forgiveness is more about the victim than the offender. We’ve all been both. As the wounded parties, we can find healing and wholeness by acknowledging what happened and letting it go. Otherwise it stays inside us and continues to do damage.

“But you don’t know what she did!” No, but I know the hardest things are beyond our power to forgive without Jesus helping us. It can take years to start forgiving a traumatic hurt, and that may be just the first step. It may need regular repetition until that forgiveness “takes” at our deepest levels.

Forgiveness (1)

Dismissing a hurt, or learning to work around it, isn’t forgiveness. Honest forgiveness is a hard choice and it takes time, and we still have the after-effects of the hurt. If I steal from you and you forgive me, wisdom says you shouldn’t put me in charge of your bank password.

God’s forgiveness is different. If we accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross to buy us back from destruction, He forgives us. Every time we ask with a sincere heart. Even for the same offense, again and again.

He never denies the effects of our sin, and we may live with  its consequences. He forgives, but He doesn’t brush it off—the chance at forgiveness came at a great cost. But He removes it.

People may struggle to forgive, or may say they do without really meaning it. With God, we can believe that once He forgives, He truly does put the matter away. Not forgets, not dismisses. He marks it “paid.” That allows us to see the depth of the cost, the strength of the offense. But it doesn’t leave us with a burden to prove ourselves or to earn our way back into His good graces.

God knows our hearts and intentions—and our weaknesses. He likely wouldn’t put an embezzler, for example, back into the same position of trust. There are consequences in our world. But He regularly forgives and cleans us up, knowing that despite our best intentions we’ll mess up again. He doesn’t keep a tally that will eventually cut us off. Instead He offers as much help as we’ll take. As often as we need it.

In the mean time, He acknowledges the weight of what we’ve done, minimizing nothing. Jesus Himself paid the price. Now He works in and with us to remake us. How strong a love is that?

***

Janet Sketchley is the author of Heaven’s Prey and Secrets and Lies, two novels of suspense and redemption. She also blogs about faith and books. Janet loves adventure stories, worship music, tea and Formula 1 racing. Like Carol in Secrets and Lies, she loves music and tea. Unlike Carol, Janet isn’t related to a dangerous offender, has a happy home life, and has never been threatened by a drug lord. May those tidbits continue to hold true! You can find Janet online at janetsketchley.ca. Fans of Christian suspense are invited to join Janet’s writing journey through her monthly newsletter: bit.ly/JanetSketchleyNews.

Visit Janet online at:

Website: http://janetsketchley.ca/

Join Janet’s author journey – sign up for her monthly newsletter: http://bit.ly/JanetSketchleyNews

Secrets and Lies page (includes purchase links): http://janetsketchley.ca/books/secrets-and-lies/

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livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! We’ve all been hurt, betrayed, let down by someone we love. So how do we handle that? How have you dealt with past pains? Did you find forgiveness took effort and perseverance, or did God grant you a miraculous emotional healing and change of heart? Or perhaps you’re still hurting, still trying to fight for forgiveness. If so, did Janet’s post help you? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook. 

Other posts and articles you might find helpful:

Fighting to Forgiveness

490 Forgiveness

Freedom in Forgiveness

How to Trade Bitterness for Blessings

For those of you not on Facebook but who would like to follow my book-launch blog tours, signings, and interviews and such:

Yesterday on Bonnie Leon’s blog, I shared the time I asked God for permission to quit. You can read that here.

Tuesday I chatted with Greg Vogt, station manager of Omaha’s KCRO about my new release and the inspiration behind it. You can listen to our on-air discussion here:

Monday and Tuesday I participated in two blog interviews.

Join me on Kelly Liberto’s blog here.

Join me on Grid-iron Granny’s here.

On Saturday, I visited with Alexis from Capturing the Idea. You can read our chat here.

Time is a funny thing. It zips by when you want to hold on to it most and drags when you’re in a hurry.  Lately, I feel

Me, Steve, and Ash on our way to tour School of the Mines in Colorado
Me, Steve, and Ash on our way to tour School of the Mines in Colorado

as if I’ve been in the zip stage. In fact, the clock started ticking louder the moment our daughter started touring colleges. She has one more year. One more year of family dinners, of guaranteed family vacations, of her coming into my room at night to sit on my bed and dialogue with me about all she’s learned and experienced and all she hopes to become.

When she first entered high school, I heard a lot about “empty nesting” and how difficult it could be. Funny thing, I never understood it. I thought it was about a mother not having ways to occupy her time or, having centered her identity in parenting, now felt empty and without purpose.

But as my daughter grows, I’ve gained a new  understanding. It’s not about losing the what but the who. It’s about releasing a child

MeandAshyou adore with your entire heart, releasing those moments of your day you cherish most, knowing this relationship will soon become one of periodic phone calls and occasional visits.

I know this is a normal part of life–this leaving; maturing; launching into adulthood. In truth, it’s what my husband and I have spent years–her entire lifetime–preparing her for. We’ve prayed, read umpteen parenting books, sought wise counsel from others, at times asked for help. In everything, we’ve done everything we knew to do to help her reach this stage and beyond.

And  yet, that’s not entirely true, that we’ve done everything we knew to do to help her, for there were times, many, that I failed. That I let selfishness creep in, choosing the convenient over the best. There were times when my selfishness infected my attitude and my words. There were times when my mistakes and weaknesses caused her pain.

We’ve all done it, and we’ll do it again, because were imperfect, selfish beings. But that’s where humility comes in: dialoguing with our children openly (and age-appropriately) about all those times when we’ve failed and asking them to forgive us. (I also suggest opening a therapy fund as soon as they’re born. Kidding. Sort of.)

That’s where prayer comes in, confessing our shortcomings to God and asking Him to buffer and strengthen our children’s hearts, using every struggle, every parental failure, every weakness for their good.

Because that’s what He’s good out–making beauty from our messes.

Moms, I have a feeling you can relate. None of us our perfect. None of us our patient 100% of the time. There’s no fail-proof book on parenting that promises if we do X, Y will occur, and though we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, much of the time we still feel like we’re playing a guessing game. Except this isn’t a game. In fact, it’s the most important job we’ll ever have. It’s the one area we hope and pray we won’t fail in. Then one day, our children stand at the door, bags packed, and we hope we’ve done enough.

Isn’t it great to serve a God who makes all things beautiful and who showers us and our kiddos with grace?

A God who loves our children even more than we do, who created every fiber and cell of their being, and knows exactly where they’ll be ten years from now and what they’ll need to get there?

A God who, though we want to hold tightly to these precious, growing children, gives us the strength to release them when that time comes.

 

Oh, my do I love that child!

HappyMothersDayHappy Mother’s Day, my friends. If you’ve got kids at home, hold them time. Take the time to enjoy every giggle, every snuggle, every late-night awakening.

 

And moms of any age, I encourage you to read Eileen Rife’s post on Faith-filled Friends about letting go.  You can read it here. Plus, return on Saturday to learn who one our May gift-basket!

If you’re getting tired of my “Time is Short” motherly posts, sorry! I’d say they won’t continue, but I have a feeling they will, growing all the more frequent as her graduation day appears. 😉

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! If you are a parent, what are some of your most  precious memories? What areas have been hardest for you to “let go”? How have you seen God redeem some of your shortcomings and blessings in your child/children’s lives?

Grown children, what are some of your most precious memories of you and your mother? I encourage you to call her or send a card listing telling her of three or four of them and why they meant so much to you. If your mom is not around anymore, I encourage you to share those memories with your children. Time passes quickly, but aren’t you glad we’ve been granted the gift of memories?

For those raising children, find a way to make a memory this week.

You can share your comments here or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Understanding God knows everything about me–my dreams, my thoughts, my fears, my deepest secrets, and darkest sins, yet loves me anyway, is freeing. It frees me to live an authentic life. No hiding. No pretending. Just me and God, doing the best I can each day to follow His leading. Do I make mistakes? Wow, too many. But that’s the beauty of grace–a mistake is an opportunity for grace, when handled correctly.

We can either run from God, like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden (which didn’t turn out to well, btw) or we can run to God in honest repentance.

Honest living–truly honest living, is hard. We want to present an image of goodness. We want to hide our bad traits–the selfish thoughts that fight for dominance in a given day, the times when our mouth flies and our actions resemble more like gut-punches than acts of love. But God sees it all–the good and the bad. And He’s not surprised or shocked. He remembers who we are–fallen man desperately in need of redemption!

So what does He do? He doesn’t ignore our sin or minimize it. He’s too honest for that. But He doesn’t crush us, either. He’s much too loving for that. Instead, He made a way, through Jesus Christ, to fulfill His justice–the necessary consequence for man’s rebellion against a Holy God, while demonstrating the amazing depths of His grace. Jesus’ death and resurrection allows the Christian to live a totally authentic live.

Psalm 32:2 “Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty.”

Knowing we are loved, forgiven, and accepted encourages us to remove the barricades of self-protection.

But unfortunately, we live in a fallen world with sinful man. Which means, humans are going to misunderstand and misjudge us. So how do we continue to live authentically when surrounded by judgmental, critical man?

We keep our eyes on our Redeemer, the only one worth pleasing.

I have a phrase I often repeat whenever I’m in an uncomfortable situation or around people with a critical spirit. I say, “Just you and me, God. Just you and Me.”

2 Timothy 2:4 says, No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs–he wants to please his commanding officer.God is my commanding officer. God is the only One who truly knows me–all of me. And He is the only one I must please. Knowing this allows me to rise above the opinions of man, living authentically, with complete honesty, in God’s grace.

What about you? How does it feel understanding God knows you intimately, and loves you deeply?

And are you living honestly? According to 1 John 1:8, If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. (NLT)

Authentic living, then, begins with honest evaluation. Honest, heart-searching evaluation leads us to genuine repentance, and genuine repentance leads to freedom and authentic living.

When we confess our sins and turn from them, God forgives us of our sins and cleanses us of all unrighteousness. He doesn’t offer us a bandage to hide our nasty filth. Instead, He washes us clean, reaching to the deepest recesses of our heart, so we can hold our head high and say, “I’m forgiven! I’m accepted! I’m loved by the King.”

What about you? Are you living authentically?

I’ve heard one of the greatest barriers to accepting Christ is the feeling of being unforgivable. One of my favorite songs is, “Love Me” by J. J. Heller, and although all the words are beautiful and reveal God’s amazing, initiating, redeeming love, it is the final verse that threatens tears every time.

It says, “I know you’ve murdered and I know you’ve lied. I’ve watched you suffer all of your life. And now that you’ll listen, I’ll tell you I will love you for you. Not for you have done or what you will become. I will love you for you. I will show you what love, what love really means.”

That verse reveals God’s heart. Grace doesn’t say get your act together, then I’ll love. It says come as you are, I’ve always loved you. Grace says there is nothing you could ever do to make God love you more and no matter what you do, God will never love you less. But my favorite part of grace is the promise that when I turn to God for forgiveness, He washes me clean and makes me knew. Every sinful stain, eradicated by the blood He shed for me, leaving me clothed in radiant white.

As you read Paula Petty’s story below, let the grace of God wash over you and hold tight to what you know is true–what He says is true. If any man is in Christ, He is a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come.

Forgiving Yourself by Paula Petty

I stepped out of the car and into a wad of gum. I went to the edge of the concrete and stroked my foot back and forth in an attempt to scrape the sticky residue from my shoe.  That didn’t work.  The gum stuck to the asphalt with each step and made a snapping sound that aggravated me.  I spent the rest of the afternoon walking on my heel.

My life was much like the gum on the shoe. I didn’t feel forgiven. With each step I took, I felt the weight of the sin sticking to me like the gum on the shoe. Confusion and doubt settled in my mind causing me to lose focus. Each mess in my life brought me before the Lord in repentance, and the weight of my sin brought me further down until my life spiraled out of control and sent me into depression. I wanted to feel forgiven.

As I moped around the house one day, a song popped into my mind about being redeemed. I started singing with barely a mumble. Then I suddenly realized that my Father had forgiven me. It was time that I forgave myself and let it go so that I could move on. I uttered another prayer to the Lord then forgave myself. Immediately, I felt a peace like nothing I had felt before.

Forgiveness is being set free from sin. Jesus sets us free from them. It does me no good to ask for forgiveness if I don’t forgive myself. When I ask for forgiveness, I am laying my burden down—all of it—at the feet of Jesus. I leave it with Him. He frees me from the guilt so that I can focus on a life filled with His love.

Oh, Lord, forgive me for whatever I have done that has not brought glory to you. Empty my heart of the bondage of sin and free me. Fill it with the peace that comes from being free. Guide me so that I can focus on a life dedicated to you. Amen

*     *     *

I’d like to close out Paula’s story with a promise God made to each of us: 1 John 1:9 “But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all wickedness.” (NLT)

Paula Petty has had articles and poetry published in several magazines such as Christian Woman. A former vacation Bible school director for ten years, she coordinates the ladies’ ministry at her church and speaks at ladies’ conferences in this country and Cuba, Jamaica and Honduras and is currently working on her Christian living book In Need of a Compass. Paula can be reached on her blog http://www.paulaspocket.blogspot.com or on her website www.paulapetty.com.

As an FYI, we’re getting some work done on our house starting today, which will interfere with our internet connection. Therefore, I may not post anything for a while. Have a great week!

I’ll admit, today’s story is very difficult for me to post. As I read Martha Rogers’ testimony, numerous emotions surfaced and to be honest, I strongly contemplated sending her an email telling her I couldn’t post her story. I believe to do so would cause her pain, yet I am equally concerned her testimony may hurt some of my readers. Her testimony raises a key question well worth addressing: Is anyone beyond grace? Now, before you answer the evangelically correct, “Yes, for God’s arm is mighty to save!” let me color it with the added question: What about the serial killer or pedophile? Now the question becomes more difficult, doesn’t it? Not because our view of God has changed, but because our emotions are charged.

Someone I care about very deeply was forever changed by a pedophile, and although this individual has experienced great healing thanks to God’s mercy and grace, many of her wounds remain, thirty-five to forty years later. As I read today’s submission, she was the one I thought of. Yet, I need to remember the truth that launched the series–there is freedom in forgiveness. As I mentioned in Freedom in Forgiveness, yes, we forgive out of obedience for God, as an active demonstration of our love for Him and in gratitude for all He’s done, but we also forgive to free ourselves from the root of bitterness that threatens to destroy us.

Another reason I chose to post this testimony is because it reveals an even greater truth: God’s grace extends to all, even the “worst of these”. No one is beyond forgiveness and no life is beyond hope. And when God gets hold of a life and a heart, that person experiences radical transformation. He doesn’t just help them “do better”. He changes them from the inside out, taking away their old heart and replacing it with a new heart.  I look forward to hearing your comments, and welcome all, even the angry ones. I know many of you may be greatly offended by this post, and for those of you standing on the other side as the offended, I am so very sorry. Please know it is not my intent in any way to hurt you.

Forgive As the Father Forgave by Martha Rogers

Forgiving others for wrongs they do is one of the most difficult things that many Christians have to do. When we or those we love have been deeply hurt, embarrassed, or humiliated by another, forgiving is the last thing on our minds. God’s forgiveness is unconditional, and quick to be given when we ask Him, so why then is it difficult for us to do the same?

I had this lesson brought home to me in a very real and meaningful way with my brother. Ever since he was a teenager, he’d been in trouble with the law. He was in and out of juvenile institutions until he reached adulthood. What happened to him in those places is too horrible to even describe now, but we didn’t know those things then.

When I married, he was at my wedding, but not many months later, at age fifteen, he was once again in detention. When he was finally arrested as an adult on drug charges and sexual crimes, I gave up on him and turned my back on him.

Off and on for the next ten years he tried to rehabilitate, and we’d once again have contact, but I didn’t want him around my sons. His lifestyle led him in the wrong direction that completely alienated me from him. My mother and father were deeply hurt by his actions, but they never gave up on him and supported him whenever they could.

However, at one point I decided I’d had enough and wrote him out of my life. I no longer had a brother and never talked about or mentioned him to anyone. To me, he no longer existed. That went on for many, many years until the year our oldest son planned to be married. Two weeks before the wedding, my mother called to tell me that he had been arrested again. This time he’d taken a young boy and left town with my dad’s credit cards.

 His name, crimes, and arrest were all over the front pages of the newspapers and on TV news reports. I was thankful my last name was now different and no one would connect him to me. No one did, but God knew.

Very early one morning, mother called to tell me that he’d been visited in prison by her pastor and that Johnny had made a confession of faith and asked forgiveness from the Lord. I told her that was impossible and didn’t want to talk about it.

Later, as I was praying and getting ready for my day, a feeling came over me that I cannot describe. It was as though I was suddenly completely alone. After seeking out our chaplain at school and telling him about my brother, he handed me his Bible, open to a verse in Matthew, and simply said, “Martha, you know what you have to do.”

I read the words of Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Tears filled my eyes and I sobbed to my Heavenly Father and asked his forgiveness for my actions, and then forgave my brother and let all the bitterness flow from me.

That feeling of being so alone disappeared and once again the arms of our Lord wrapped around me and assured me that no matter what my brother had done, he had been forgiven. I wrote a letter to him and told him what had happened. He was convicted as a pedophile and sentenced to sixty years in prison. Since that time we have corresponded regularly and since our parents’ deaths, I’ve been the one to support him and make sure he has what he needs while in prison.

The ironic thing is that my friends didn’t turn away from me in disgust when they learned about John, but surrounded me with love and compassion and admiration. My testimony in the months since then has touched many lives and became the basis for my writing theme of forgiveness and reconciliation. Johnny is still in prison, but he is also a son of our Lord Jesus Christ and my brother.

*     *     *

Martha’s book credits include the novella, Sugar and Grits and A River Walk Christmas, as well as the historical romance series, Winds Across the Prairie. She had also written seven Bible studies, contributed to compilations by Wayne Holmes, Karen O’Conner, and Debbie White Smith. Martha has also written devotionals in several anthologies including recently released Blissfully Blended, Devotionals for Step-moms from Barbour. Martha is currently working on another series, Seasons of the Heart.  Book one, Summer Dream, will released in the summer of 2011.  Martha sings in the choir at her church and is a co-leader for a First Place 4 Health group. She loves to scrapbook when she has the time. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex where they enjoy spending time with their grandchildren and attending football and baseball games when one of them is playing.

Her latest release, Caroline’s Choice, is about a young woman trying to move forward after a painful past:

At age twenty-six, Caroline Frankston is certain life is passing her by in the town of Barton Creek. Matthew Haynes has made no indication of his feelings for her, so she decides the time has come for her to move away from her family and friends for a fresh start. Once in Oklahoma City, Caroline is fascinated by the many opportunities there and begins moving on with her life. Meanwhile, Matt realizes his true feelings for Caroline and plans to tell her on her next trip home. When Caroline’s train has an accident and she goes missing, Matt sets out in search of her, wondering if any chance of spending his life with Caroline has disappeared.

Visit Martha’s website and blogs to find out more about her and her powerful writing. Martha Rogers: Touching Hearts…Changing Lives
Her other books include: Becoming Lucy (January 2010); Morning for Dove (May 2010)  Finding Becky (September 2010) Realms;  Key to Her Heart in River Walk Christmas (September 2010) Barbour; Summer Dream (Summer 2011) Realms

Forgiveness itself is hard enough, but what about those wounds that continue to occur? I don’t have an easy answer for this one, except to say, according to the Bible, there’s no disclaimer on forgiveness. I don’t read, “Forgive, unless the person is unforgiveable.” Or, “Forgive X amount of times, then, if the person refuses to change, walk away.”

Now, there may be times when you indeed need to walk away, if, as my mentor puts it, the person is toxic. Meaning, if their behavior causes harm. For example, if you are with an abusive husband. Then, forgiveness still must occur, but perhaps without reconciliation.

Other times, God calls us to forgive and endure, as He does with us. For me, it helps to bring it back to a human level. By this I mean, first, I remember my actions toward God. Perhaps someone continually rejects me or pushes me aside. Standing as the offended, it’s easy to walk away from the offender. Standing as the offender in the presence of a Holy God, however, alters my perception. The pain of the situation may remain, but it is colored by understanding.

Second, I remember the extent of sin.

According to the Bible, unregenerated man is sinful to his core. And even the regenerated man still fights against the flesh, not always victoriously. We operate from a sinful nature, often causing pain to ourselves and others. When I view people through this biblical lense, their sinful behavior and callus actions are less likely to catch me by surprise. To the contrary–I come to expect them.

Let me illustrate. A few weeks ago, I volunteered in our church nursery. The children ranged from infants to toddlers, and a few toddlers in particular had a bit more of the terrible twos than others. Imagine my frustration if I’d expected them to act like miniature adults!

False expectations often cause just as much pain, perhaps even more, than the actual offense itself.

A few years ago our daughter transitioned from homeschool to institutionalized schooling. This was a very difficult transition for her. Not only was everything done in cursive (which I never taught–I spent more time teaching typing and computer skills. grin.) But she also had to learn to manage homework, learn the expectations of teachers, assimilate with other students, and the list goes on. Initially, she messed up, forgetting to turn in papers, completing the wrong math assignment, things of that nature.

One night as I tucked her in, she cried and said, “It feels like I never do anything right! It feels like I’m always getting in trouble.”

To which I replied. “You’re a kid. That’s how it’s supposed to be.”

Now, don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying I want her to fail, nor that I don’t train, set boundaries and provide consistent consequences when boundaries are broken. What I am saying is I approach parenting with an understanding that she’s going to mess up. She’s a kid–it’s in her nature. This enables me to deal with each situation from a more rational, less-reactive stance.

I believe that is the same approach we must have when we view others. Humans are going to fail us, gauranteed. We are to love them anyway. We are to seek reconciliation anyway. Unless the individual poses a threat to us or someone we love, God wants us to forgive 70 X 7 times, and I don’t believe He intends us to keep a tally, washing our hands of the matter after the 490th offense. When God says 70 X 7, I believe He means, however many times are necessary. In the Bible, seven is a number of completion and perfection–forgive perfectly, to completion. Forgive fully.

Forgiving, however, does not mean inviting others to tread on your back. In the story I shared, although I forgave our daughter, I still set boundaries. Sometimes we need to do the same in our relationships. This is often the case when dealing with family. Often in dysfunctional families, family members behave in predictable patterns, ourselves included. If an offense continues to occur, we may need to evaluate our role in it and set boundary lines accordingly.

Although I don’t believe in denying or suppressing emotions, I do believe in approaching them with caution and balance. There are times when our reasoning must over-ride our emotional response. This is often the case with forgiveness. Most often, I believe the determined choice to forgive comes first. The emotions follow as God aligns our emotions to match our choice. Today Ane Mulligan shares how this proved true in her life.

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The Hardest Ones to Forgive by Ane Mulligan

Sometimes, the hardest person to forgive is the one we love the most. We expect better from them. I can’t even remember what the argument was about, now, or what he said that hurt my feelings.

But I definitely remember the feelings. You know the “poor me” ones. Why is it wallowing in self-pity feels so good? I stood at the kitchen sink, long after he’d gone to work, washing the same cup over and over again and crying.

Of course, y’all know that’s exactly when the Holy Spirit decided this was an excellent time for an attitude adjustment. Well, I couldn’t agree more. The hubs certainly needed one!

Oh … You meant me? ME?

 

I argued with the Lord for a while. I mean really. After what I’d been subjected to, I needed some more wallow time. Finally I said, “Okay, Lord. Take these feelings from me. I forgive him.”

I dunked the cup back in the water, splashing soap bubbles up in my face. As quickly as I’d handed over my feelings to God, I snatched them back. “But he was so mean.”

Disclaimer here: the hubs was not mean. It was a clear case of I was right and he was wrong and refused to admit it—wink.

This tug-of-war with my self-pity went on for another 20 minutes. Finally, I gave up and gave into God. I let Him take my feelings and work on me. He could work on the hubs later.

I dried the cup and put it away. Then I tried to tap into my feelings again, but the Lord had done what He promised. They were gone. There wasn’t one iota of self-pity left. I’d truly forgiven.

What a freeing feeling. I had to laugh. I could hear the Lord chuckling at me and laughter is so contagious.

Hmm … I may try that next time.

Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, she’s worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), business manager, drama director and writer—her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for fiction (try saying that three times fast). She’s editor of the popular literary blog Novel Journey—one of Writers Digest’s 101 Top Websites for Writers, a humor columnist for ACFW’s e-zine Afictionado, and a past Board member of ACFW. She’s published dozens of plays and numerous articles and won several awards in contests for unpublished novels. A mom and grandmother, she resides in Suwanee, GA, with her husband and one very large dog.

You can find her at:
Her personal website Southern-fried Fiction
Come back tomorrow as we discuss how to handle perpetual wounds. What do you do when the one you’re trying to forgive continues to hurt you?

It was a beautiful spring day. Praise music drifted from my car speaker, and I didn’t have a care on my mind…until I stepped from the car. Standing with my hand on the gas hose, my thoughts took a wayward, and very unexpected turn. Out of nowhere, a memory resurfaced, bringing with it a surge of anger.

Dazed, I finished filling my tank, got back in the car, and tried to make sense of the situation. I’d forgiven this person long ago. Lord, don’t you remember all the prayers I sent out? Don’t you remember the tears I shed? Don’t you remember my surrender?

At first I felt defeated. Maybe my forgiveness hadn’t been genuine. So I poured my heart out to God once again, asking Him to remove this sudden surge of anger, committing myself, yet again, to forgiveness.

Since then, I’ve talked with others recovering from emotional pain and they’ve often shared similar scenarios. After fighting against it, ranting and raving, telling God how unfair the situation is and how He needs to send lightning bolts from heaven to set this offending person in their place, they surrender with a humbled, broken heart and trembling hands. Then freedom washes over them as God surrounds them with His love and they go about their day, only to be blind sighted a week, month, maybe even years later, when old emotions re-surface.

The truth is, forgiveness is not always a one-time event. Nor does it always begin with emotion. In fact, in my experience, it never starts with emotion. It begins with a rational decision to forgive, a teeth-gritting commitment followed by a desperate cry to God for help. But as we continue to draw near to Him, determining to forgive and surrendering our hurt, angry and bitter thoughts to Him, He begins to align our feelings to match our commitment.

But while God’s working to bring us wholeness and freedom, our adversary the devil’s devising counter measures to keep us in bondage and isolation. The last thing Satan wants is unity, but he probably won’t attack you when you’re in the middle of prayer. No, he’ll wait until your caught up in life to bombard you because then, just maybe you’ll be surprised enough to give in.

Satan is a thief and destroyer. He wants to rob you of your joy, your victory, and your peace. He wants to destroy you and your family. (John 10:10) The minute you take a step towards wholeness, Satan begins scheming how he can steal it from you. But here’s the good news. If you are in Christ, he can only work by your permission–he can only wiggle that foot into the door of your heart if you give him a foothold. Satan wants to destroy you, but Christ, who defeated Satan on the cross, came to give you life. Each day, you have a choice to grab one or the other. You grab onto life by drawing near to Christ in surrendered obedience, regardless how you feel. He takes care of the rest.

James 4:7-8 is one of my favorite verses, one I claim as a promise. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

When I resist the devil he flees from me. Stop and envision this for a moment—Satan fleeing, running fast in the other direction—from you. Now, envision the second part of this verse—God surrounding you. The Creator of the universe holding you in the palm of His hand. The Bible promises me, when I draw near to God, He draws near to me. Whether I feel His presence or not, this verse promises that God meets me the moment I turn to Him. James 4:7-8 is a recipe for victory, but to be victorious, I need to take hold of this promise and put it into action.

That day at the gas station, for a moment, I hovered between abundant life and defeat. Initially, I grabbed onto those bitter thoughts I once fought against with such determination. I held them, worked them, analyzed them…and quickly spiraled into increased anger. But luckily, God is bigger and never removes His lovingly watchful eye. As I sat in my car, oscillating between bitterness and surrender, He gently spoke to my heart, reminding me of His better way.

So, once again, I turned my pain and anger over to Him, asking Him to remove the negative emotions clouding my heart, replacing them with His goodness and love.

Then I prayed for the person who’d hurt me, which, I believe, is where the true power of forgiveness comes. Even if your prayer begins with gritted teeth.

I normally go through a series of steps, as I alluded to in an earlier post. First, I take my thoughts captive and refuse to dwell on or work the injustice in my mind. I tell God, openly and honestly how I feel, reminding myself that He understands. That He cares. Then, I ask God to remove my anger and bitterness and heal my wounds, surrounding me in His perfect love. (For it is His love, filling our deepest need and soothing our deepest wounds that heals us.) Then I pray for that person as I would for my own child, trusting God to align my emotions with my choice and prayer.

Come back tomorrow when Ane Mulligan shares an example of how this worked in her life–of a time when her forgiveness started with a choice and was followed by emotional release.

Today’s post, by Kathleen Maher illustrates the point I’m going to make tomorrow. Forgiveness is rarely a one-time event, as you will see in the following story. Come back tomorrow as we discuss the things that keep us from forgiveness and how we can overcome them. Then, on Thursday, we’ll talk about continual forgiveness–what do you do when the person you’re trying to forgive continues to hurt you? Although in truth, I don’t have definitive answers for these, I’m going to throw some things out there for you to chew on and pray over. Ultimately, only God knows the steps each of us need to take. Ultimate healing and freedom comes through obedience and continual surrender. And at times, as you will see in Kathleen’s story, the journey of surrender will be painful, but God has promised to hold us through it. Through ever tear, every disappointment and rejection, He is might to save and His ear is never too dull to hear.

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490 Degree Forgiveness

Three-year-olds absorb the world from maternal arms, like an extension of Mother’s experiences, going where she goes, seeing what she sees and feeling what she feels.

As a three-year-old, I saw my mother’s world—raging arguments, chaos, turmoil, events I could not understand. Her grief hung like a paralyzing fog over our home, and took siege of my own heart. All I knew is that my father stopped loving us. He stopped coming home. He would call, though, sometimes. For money. For rides from the bar. After a while my mother stopped answering his calls entirely. And I didn’t understand why.

My mother would play Jim Croce’s song Lover’s Cross and I came to understand through the word pictures it painted that my mother had been a longsuffering martyr to an abusive, alcoholic man. When my father left her, it hurt, but slowly, she healed. And so did I. Until he showed up with a new family.

I had been the baby of the family, and now, my Daddy had replaced me with a little baby boy. He had a different wife, too, and though she was kind, she was strange to me. I felt betrayed. He loved her and that boy, but he didn’t care that I’d had a birthday or that Christmas had come and gone for me with no Daddy.

I knew I had to love the baby because it wasn’t his fault. I forgave. And my father forgot—he disappeared from our lives again.

My mother had a little bookmark in her Bible with a picture of a child nestled into a big, masculine hand. The image called to me. I related to that child, because I felt very small and vulnerable. I wanted to be that child, treasured enough to be held in a Daddy’s hand. I remember reading the caption. Isaiah 49:15-16. “Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? Even if that were possible, I would not forget or abandon you—I have carved you in the palm of my hand.”

For the first time I understood that God wanted to be my Heavenly Father. That even though I couldn’t see it, His hands held me, comforted me, and guided me. He wanted me as His daughter.

God had brought me 360 degrees from abandonment to redemption. But I still had a journey ahead.

In my teen years, I learned that my biological father had begun yet another family. His alcoholism and violent outbursts had apparently summoned the Foster Care system to take his new children away. It sickened and embarrassed me. He brought my mother shame in our small community as word of his behavior trickled back like daggers into her genteel heart. I hated that my mother, who had raised me and my siblings all by herself and sacrificed so much for us, had been hurt once more by his evil and selfish choices.

I looked to God for peace and comfort once again, but this time, His hands did not hold a child, they held the imprint of a nail. They held the weight of the world’s sin. My father’s sin. God showed me the price He’d paid to forgive. He told me that my peace would come only through forgiveness. I had to go the extra mile, beyond my 360 degree redemption, to 490 degree forgiveness. Seventy times seven.

I forgave, and it has set me free.

I had the chance to serve him in his old age. I took him food, I prayed with him. I know he heard the gospel on several occasions. My father passed away three years ago, and I attended his funeral. My sisters and I spoke on forgiveness and shared the salvation message to the small assembly.

I think of Joseph in the Bible who endured great suffering at the hands of his earthly family. He forgave, and God was pleased to use him “to save many men alive”, his family in particular. He named one of his sons Manasseh, which means, “I will forget the pain of my father’s household.” His other son he named Ephraim which means “fruitful in the land of my suffering”.

Perhaps like Joseph, God allowed the pain of my childhood so that I would have compassion on others who have suffered. Through God’s grace, I have been blessed to talk with a few of my half-sisters. I Iearned that God reached down into the chaos and pain of their childhood and brought them to a Christian foster family who adopted them. Perhaps God has used the healing He has done in my life to help them.  I earnestly hope so.

Memories still creep up, which can resurface hurt, anger and resentment. When confronted with these, I go back to that simple math equation.

Q: How much is 70×7?

A: It is a lifetime commitment. 490 Degree forgiveness.

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Now, I leave you with this video.

Kathleen L. Maher’s passion for fiction began in preschool with the cuddly hero from The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. Writing soon followed, and she had penned her first novel by the time she was a freshman in high school. Having put her writing on hold to raise her family, she recently picked it back up. In 2009 and again in 2010, her romance novel placed second in the inspirational category of RWA’s Launching a STAR contest.

She’s been an active presence on several writing loops, and will soon mark three years with ACFW. She serves as co-moderator for Civil War HIStory yahoo group, and with her critique partner, Debbie Lynne Costello, founded CROWN Fiction Marketing Network. CROWN promotes the work of a dozen multi-published CBA authors through a quid pro quo system of reviews, blog tours and social network campaigning.

Kathleen holds an Associate degree from Corning Community College where she studied literature and journalism and contributed articles to the school newsletter. She has been an occasional guest writer on blogs such as Uncommon History, and Faith, Fiction and Friends. Her own blog features upstate New York history and book reviews.

She shares her passion for history and writing with her critique partners from ACFW’s Scribes 213 group. She and her beloved husband live in an old country farmhouse with their three children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum, and two “rescue” Newfoundland dogs.