Sunday, September 30, 2012
The Healing of Forgiving
I thought I knew what forgiveness was. I thought I knew what I had to do to forgive someone, what my thoughts were supposed to be like and how my emotions were to change and catch up to the act of forgiving. I also thought that forgiving was for those things that people did or said to me that were sinful or obviously hurtful. For some reason all my years in church and Sunday school I didn't get the message that forgiveness was also for those annoying and frustrating things...and people. Not that it wasn't taught...it just wasn't caught. Another part of it that I didn't seem to catch that is common to the Christian life is that the power of God is in the decision and act of forgiving. Scripture says God equips us to do His will and forgiving is His will. ( Hebrews 13:20 and 21 ) It is in all the disciplines of the Christian life. ( Ephesians 4:32 ) Since I really didn't realize that I needed to forgive these other smaller things, I didn't recognize the effect they had on my life. I'm beginning to see this and that continually forgiving is a key to healing.
Often Christians don't know what to do with anger so they push it down or call it something else or justify it as righteous. I know I have difficulty with it. Feeling frustrated and annoyed are just lower levels of anger...not different. People get frustrated and annoyed by a spouse who doesn't throw their dirty clothes in the laundry, by co-workers who don't refill the paper in the copy machine, the person who is so impatient in the grocery store checkout line they run into you with their cart...the list goes on and one and on. These things are unfair and inconsiderate and they raise our ire and warrant forgiveness.
Survivors of abuse like myself that know Jesus often focus on the abuse as needing forgiven an the emotions can be a roadblock. It isn't usually a one time thing because the offenders often didn't just abuse one time. There are multiple offenses of physical, sexual, emotional, and/or verbal abuse. There are fear and control tactics, lying, and neglect of all sorts. Forgiving these things can seem insurmountable and it seems that being able to identify the abuse and the emotions that go along with them comes first. I struggle with anger that is disconnected from my memories of abuse. I have forgiven those who abused me and at times have to go back and forgive again as more connections are made. I know I'm just getting started with the real work of connecting and there is no way I could survive it if I didn't learn more about forgiveness and God's presence in it. I'm sure there will be more forgiving and much more crying out to God for the strength to do it. A part of this that gets forgotten is forgiving myself. As a survivor I can often berate myself for my mistakes mercilessly. It's as if those who criticized me have taken up residence in my head...or if I berate myself enough no one else will have to do it.
I have realized I have this internal shaking inside. I don't really know why but lately as I have learned about forgiving these small but not insignificant things done or said by the people around me...that when I forgive this shaking diminishes or stops altogether. I had never realized the relationship between them. There could be a number of other reasons for the shaking as well. I am having it as I write and I have not been able to figure out why and in prayer I haven't been given an answer...yet. I do know forgiving affects this...which means that anything that hurts, annoys, frustrates or outright angers me has gotten internalized over the years. I know deep inside there is a lot of anger and a lot of fear. Only God knows the best way to touch all that in order to heal me and I believe this lesson in forgiving is preparation for it.
Matthew West - Forgiveness