Thursday, June 19, 2008

Going Beyond Forgiveness

As I have been meditating on contentment; in my circumstances, with myself, and in relationships, I am forced to consider that there is "something" beyond just forgiving and forgetting. Did I mention that everytime I pick up "Calm My Anxious Heart," I am constantly rebuked, but yet encouraged? It's a good rebuking. I think everyone can say that they all have or have had relationship struggles either with spouses, co-workers, or friends. Maybe you're experiencing rejection, betrayal, or some other deep hurt. Or maybe you were the one who has wounded or betrayed another. All of these feeling are hard, especially when they come from those you love versus strangers or those you just met.

When we love, we open ourselves up to the possibility of being hurt. Much of our (my) discontent comes from expectations in relationships. Some of those expectations are legitimate, such as I expect Joey to provide financially for us as Scripture has commanded him to do, but it's going beyond those legit ones to ones that those we love might not be able to meet. Jesus in the garden the night before He was to be crucified, asked His friends to wait up for Him while he went alone to pray, but when He came back He found them asleep, not just once but THREE times. It's one thing to be disappointed once, but can you imagine if your friend's continued to fail you?

Maybe you were one of the friend's who feel asleep when you were asked to watch and pray, or maybe you were like Peter disavowing allegiance to a friend in her time of need. The barrier in the relationship is your fault or perhaps both your faults. You're in a stand-off and and no healing has soothed the hurt.

I've been there. I've been betrayed, rejected, hurt. Sometimes the hurt has been deep and yet other times maybe I just overreacted and got my feelings stepped on a bit by something that wasn't intentional. Jesus asked His friends to "share the load" with Him and they abandoned Him. His response? "Rise, let us go." (Matt. 26:46) I would have said, "Forget you. You weren't there when I needed you. You couldn't have even stayed up for one hour with me when I needed you the most. Good-bye. See ya." Jesus reached out to His friends even in the midst of betrayal. He could have left them sleeping and disowned them, but aren't you glad He didn't because if He had done it to them, He could have done it to you or to me.

For the Christian, forgiveness is not an option. Philip Yancey calls forgiveness an "unnatural act." It's so very hard to do depending on the depth of the pain and hurt. It doesn't feel natural, but it's a secret choice of the heart; not a feeling. If we wait until we "feel" like it then most of the time we never would. We like holding on to our grudges, our bitterness, our selfishness. It's natural...feels good. It takes work to "let go." I'm finding that I must continue to choose to forgive. It's difficult to forgive once, but what if the hurt just keeps on coming? Jesus said to keep on often as it takes (my paraphrase.) It's what He asks of me and you.

Does forgiveness always mean restoration or restitution? No, it doesn't. What about a situation involving business partners. One partner steals from the company and leaves the other one hanging. Should the offending partner forgive? Yes, but would it be wise to enter into another business transaction with him again? Or what about a friend who spreads lies and gossips about you around town and has repeatedly done so. It's probably not a wise ideas to remain in a friendship with that person.

Does it stop there? "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:9-10, 14, 18). These verses didn't say I had to feel loving, but that I was to decide to love, decide to honor. To bless is a choice of the will. How can you love, honor, and bless when you still don't feel like it. 1) Pray for the one who hurt you for God to bless them 2) Seek to do acts of love, acts of kindness. As you pray, ask God to give you creative ways to bless those around you. Going beyond forgiveness is more difficult than the initial act of forgiving. Do not let anger, pride, or not knowing how to respond or what to say stand in the way of offering forgiveness to others. How can we ask our Heavenly Father to forgive us if we can't forgive a brother? Maybe you didn't mean to offend, but they took it the wrong way. Go and seek forgiveness. Admit wrong even if it was unintentional. Relationships are precious to me and worth the work.

I'm so thankful the Lord thinks I'm worth the work.


Scott said...

You've probably seen it in a lot of my stuff, but forgiveness can be immediate when we don't try to lump these things into it:
1. remove the hurt
2. say that it was ok to do it
3. forgive just this one last time
4. trust them immediately
5. make them ask for it
6. understand why they did it
You'll have a hard time forgiving if you try to make these part of that forgiveness.

And I think for those that go to the other extreme and DO just forgive everyone and but still try to lump these into it, they are ignoring the wisdom of Proverbs 13:20 - If they hurt you because they are foolish and destructive, you'd better be wise enough to stay away from them...and even seek help staying away from them from those that do care about you...don't even give them a foothold into your life because, if they've used you once, they've found what it takes to get to you and will do it again and again until they've hurt you and the one around you and they have nothing else they can get from you. Then they move on to their next victim.