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Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’

It’s hard to get it right.

Relationships are messy.  Families, friends, neighbors.  Even long-term ones can be fragile.

Words spoken in innocence, meant to say one thing, but conveying something else to the listener.

Actions intended to help, but received as control.

Feelings hurt. Trust jeopardized. Love strained.

Excuses. Explanations. Justifications.

But love and history win out.

Repentance.  Going both ways.

“I’m sorry.  Please forgive me.”

Then sweet words:

“I always forgive you.”

What about you?  What words have hurt you, or someone you love?

C2012 Judy Douglass

Related posts:

A Prayer for Forgiving

What I Do When Someone Hurts Me

Grace Forgives

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Please welcome Redbud Writer Dorothy Greco as a guest writer on Kindling today.  I love what she has to say about forgiveness.

True confession: I was venting, maybe even railing, yesterday during the time I had set aside to be still and try to connect with God. Due to some unfortunate and protracted circumstances, I feel backed against a concrete wall with no visible form of egress. And I’ve been in this position for too many months to count.

As I was detailing my complaints and the impossibility of the situation to God, I lofted a simple question in his general direction, “What do you want me to do?” God’s response? “Forgive them.” (For those of you who don’t buy the possibility of connecting to God in this way, I realize that sharing this dialogue may damage my credibility. Hold off on coming to any negative conclusions until you read through to the end. Then, feel free.)

In the gospel of Matthew, Peter inquires of Jesus, “How many times shall I forgive my brother or sister when they sin against me? Seven time?” I’m certain that Peter assumed others would find him quite magnanimous for his suggestion. Jesus multiplies Peter’s figure by 70. A shocking number given its application.

My husband and I have been married for more than 20 years now. I don’t think we would have lasted more than two if we did not admit our mistakes and forgive each other. We tend to be quick to do so, fully understanding that delays potentially widen the chasm between us. Over the course of these 20+ years, we have probably each wronged and forgiven one another at least 490 times.

It’s really not that remarkable because we always (well mostly always) admit when we have failed one another and ask each other for the gift of forgiveness. Given the current mess, I find myself wondering, did Jesus leave any loopholes for situations where the one who wrongs me fails to see or admit their mistakes?

The process of forgiving someone does not deny that an offense was perpetrated, even though that’s how modernity most often views it. Many years ago, I had an assignment to photograph a top executive. His assistant repeatedly communicated, “You will only have 15 minutes with him. You have to be completely ready when he walks in the door.” Being the obedient type, I was ready and promptly waited for more than an hour. He waltzed in and breezily said, “Sorry for being late.”

Normally, when we find ourselves in such predicaments, we try to make the offender feel better by saying, “That’s OK,” even though normally it isn’t OK. Since he had inconvenienced me, I sincerely responded, “I forgive you.” Dead silence. Then he narrowed his eyes and nearly hissed, “Who gave you the power to forgive me?” I balked. Was he inviting a theological debate or asking a rhetorical question? I ventured in and humbly explained that I believed Jesus gives us authority to extend forgiveness when someone hurts or wounds us. And then I apologized if my beliefs offended him – he was Jewish after all. He softened and miraculously, the shoot went well.

By dropping the charges against those who have sinned against us, we are not excusing their actions, minimizing the damages, or as many fear, opening ourselves up to further mistreatment. We actually go on the offensive, spiritually speaking, when we choose to cancel the offender’s debt particularly when the other refuses to see that their actions or words have stung, or in some cases, drawn blood.

Un-forgiveness is like a land mine. The anger, frustration, hurt, and confusion all serve as explosives packed tightly together with a short fuse. One false move and we all blow. (It’s messy but does have moments of carnal satisfaction!) I’m not proud to admit that I sometimes find excuses for not forgiving. I feel somehow justified because, after all, THEY wronged me! Jesus doesn’t seem to share my perspective. In his economy, holding onto wrongs ultimately leads to death via bitterness, health issues1, and fractured relationships. Not great options.

Conversely, forgiveness disarms the mines. Forgiveness lifts us above the fray and permits us to gain objectivity and sometimes, even empathy for the one who has wounded us. In light of this, I would be a fool to resist God’s directive. Perhaps the suggestion to forgive was his way of dropping a ladder over the concrete walls that have become my prison. Though it would be infinitely more satisfying to have the ones who wounded me at the top of the wall, extending their hands to help me over, I can’t wait for them. Hand over hand, I’m climbing out.

Dorothy Greco is an extraordinary photographer who also writes.  She lives with her husband and three sons outside Boston.  You can see more of her beautiful work at http://www.dorothygrecophotography.com/

1 According to an article in the January 2004 issue of Harvard Women’s Health Watch, forgiving those who hurt you can improve your mental and physical wellbeing. http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/power_of_forgiveness and from the Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/forgiveness/MH00131

Photo by Dorothy Greco

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I should have known it would happen.  It almost always does.

The problem with writing and speaking and teaching is that God seems to want to check me out:  Do I really believe this?  Do I live this way?

So last week I wrote about “What I Do When Someone Hurts Me.”

And Sunday night my husband and I taught at church on unselfishness and humility in relationships.

So why am I surprised that today I got to live them both out together?  I suppose I should be grateful He combined them into one opportunity for me to know if I am being authentic—walking my talking.

Someone who matters to me hurt me yesterday.  Today I went through all five of my actions to take when I am hurt.  One by one:

1.  I told God my real feelings about it all.  No holding back.  Raw emotion.

2.  I thanked Him–by faith–that He was in this situation.

3.  I looked for some glimpses of good, and I actually found some—at least the potential for good.

4.  I forgave the person who hurt me.  Not hard to do.

5.  I spoke blessings over this loved one.  Also not hard.

Then I realized that I—in my selfishness, my holding on, my grasping—was part of the problem.  I needed to humble myself, ask forgiveness and open my hand to the Lord, so He could give or take as He chooses.    So I did, rather reluctantly.

All okay now?  No. Not yet.  But better.  It is a process, a journey.  Tears return.  God has tissues.  The open hand already wants to hold on tight.  God’s grace entreats me to  let go of my rights, my desires, my needs—and trust Him.

People say I’m known for my realness.

I guess God wants to hold me to that.

What about you?  Has someone hurt you?  Are you holding on to that hurt?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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Life includes plenty of pain.  Much of it comes from the realities of life in a fallen world:  illness, accidents, natural disasters, financial crashes…

Sadly, too often, our pain is caused by other people.  I am horrified at what people will choose to do to each other:  theft, lies, abuse, slavery, rape, sexual trafficking, torture…

But the most painful is usually that inflicted by those we love—and we think love us.  That pain is often unbearable, barely endured, deeply grieved, scarcely survived.

God’s Word has given me real help.  I may not be able to control the cause of my pain, but I can choose how I respond.

So here are some responses that have made a difference for me.

1.  Tell God the Truth

How do I feel about what this person has done to me?  God knows what is in my heart and mind, and He can handle my rawest emotions.  I tell Him the truth.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. “ (John 4:23)

 2.  Thank God in the pain, the hurt, the person who has hurt me.

Thanking God helps to refocus my mind and heart.  It tells God that I know He is God and He is good.  And giving thanks opens the door for what God wants to do in the situation.

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

(More on giving thanks: In All Things)

3.  Look for the good that God is doing.

Sometimes the good is hiding for a later time, but often I can see glimpses of positive results:  changes in my life or the life of the one who hurt me; insight into my past and my future; resolution of unhealed wounds; opportunities to encourage others.

“I will never stop doing good to them…” (Jeremiah 32:40)

4.  Forgive the one who hurt me.

Really?  Do they deserve to be forgiven?  Probably not.   But I’ve been given repeated admonitions to forgive and a powerful model.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’” (Luke 23:34)

(Some help: A Prayer for Forgiving)

5.  Bless the person who hurt me.

Once again, God is clear in His impossible requirements.  He tells me to bless my enemies, and yes, even this one I love feels like an enemy when he hurts me.

My tendency is to strike out verbally, to accuse, to blame—to curse.  But God says to leave the consequences to Him—He is a much better justice maker than I am.  When I choose to bless, amazing things happens—my attitude begins to change, the person receives my blessing and that blessing invariably comes back to me.

Jesus:  “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.“   (Luke 6:28)

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)       

(More on blessing:  Scattering Blessings) 

When I do these things, does the hurt go away?  Not usually.  But these responses open my heart and mind to receive the love and grace God wants to pour all over me.  And grace and love are powerful healers.

What about you?  How does God help you when you have been hurt by someone you love?                         

C2012 Judy Douglass

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I wrote this post months ago, but it continues to draw many readers.  It seems that we often need to forgive.  I know I do.  And I think the grace extended in forgiving expands into gratitude–especially appropriate at Thanksgiving, but needed all year long.

Steve and I had the privilege of teaching at our church—Antioch21—on Sunday.  Over the summer the theme is Relationships, and we are teaching on two of the Sundays.  This Sunday we talked about forgiveness.

One of our main points:  Relationships require forgiveness.

We focused on the importance of forgiving—in big things and in the little every day irritations—for all relationships, but especially in marriage.  We are flawed people who hurt others—even those we love.

Scripture is abundantly clear that God wants us to learn to forgive, even though people have wronged us and don’t deserve forgiveness.  Paul sums it up with this instruction:  “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

And of course, our model is Jesus Himself, who said from the cross:  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

We spent a lot of time talking (conversation is always part of the sermon time at Antioch21) about forgiving—the big, seemingly impossible to forgive things, and the little hurts that happen every day.

Then we provided a prayer to help us to take the step to forgive someone who has hurt us or offended us.  (I first shared a similar prayer in my recent post “Grace Forgives.”)

Perhaps there is someone you will want to forgive.

A PRAYER FOR FORGIVING

Father, thank You for Your mercy and grace toward me, and for forgiving my sins through Your Son’s death on the cross.  Thank You that You forgive me over and over, for repeated sins and for new sins, big or small.  I am so grateful for your grace.

Lord, I need to forgive ___________, who has wronged me, hurt me, betrayed me, offended me, sinned against me.  It is hard for me to do this—I am still hurt, angry, confused.  So I come asking You for the power to forgive ____________.  Fill me with Your Spirit and remind me of Your love and mercy to me—and to _______________.

By Your Spirit, I choose to forgive ________________.  I choose to extend grace and mercy to him/her, even as You have done for me.  I choose, as You enable me, to live at peace with this person.  I ask that You bless ____________ in Your love.  Please may we be reconciled and our relationship healed.  And if that does not happen, may I continue to love and forgive.

Thank You that this is possible in the power of Your Spirit.  In Jesus’ name.

 

What about you?  Is there someone you need to forgive?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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This is the sixth in a weekly series of mini-devotionals on GRACE, which is the theme of the 2012 June 2 Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.

Dear Lover of Prodigals,

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo is a powerful story of forgiveness and redemption.   When Jean Valjean is released from a 19-year prison sentence for stealing bread, he is a hardened man.  Looking for a place to sleep, he is invited in by a kind bishop.  In the night, though, Valjean stole silver from the bishop and sneaked away.

In the morning the police brought him to the bishop, silver in hand.  The bishop’s response:  “So there you are.  I’m delighted to see you.  Had you forgotten that I gave you the candlesticks as well?  Did you forget to take them?” And to the police:  “This gentleman was no thief.  This silver was my gift to him.”

That was the beginning of Valjean’s transformation.

Err on the side of grace

That story had a powerful impact on my response to our prodigal.  It coincided, in the darkest days of our journey with our son, with a strong word from God:  When you make mistakes with this boy—and I made many—err on the side of grace.

What?  What about consequences?  Of course there were consequences.  What about enabling?  No, we didn’t want to enable.  It takes supernatural wisdom to blend these things.

But God was clear:  Forgive.  Extend grace.  Seek reconciliation. Pursue conversation, not conflict.  Keep your doors—and arms—open.  It’s not a balancing of truth and grace—it’s a blending of 100% truth and 100% grace.

God is our model here.  When I want to make sure my prodigal experiences what he deserves, I think of how God has responded to my many bad choices:  Mercy.  Forgiveness.  Grace.

Keep on forgiving

His Word is equally powerful:

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14)

“Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” (Luke 17:4)

“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’”  (Luke 23:34)

Philip Yancy, in What’s So Amazing About Grace,” writes: “Like grace, forgiveness has about it the maddening quality of being undeserved, unmerited, unfair….The gospel of grace begins and ends with forgiveness…grace is the only force in the universe powerful enough to break the chains that enslave generations.  Grace alone melts ungrace.”

Henri Nouwen defines forgiveness as “love practiced among people who love poorly”  He goes on:   “…even as I have said [I forgive you]…I still wanted to hear the story that tells me I was right…I still wanted the satisfaction of receiving praise in return…for being so forgiving

“But God’s forgiveness is unconditional; it comes from a heart that does not demand anything for itself….It is this divine forgiveness that I have to practice in my daily life….it demands that I step over that wounded part of my heart that feels hurt and wronged, and that wants to stay in control and put a few conditions between me and one whom I am asked to forgive.”

And again from Philip Yancey:  “…forgiveness is an act of faith.  By forgiving another, I am trusting that God is a better justice-maker than I am…I leave in God’s hands the scales that must balance justice and mercy…Though wrong does not disappear when I forgive, it loses its grip on me and is taken over by God, who knows what to do.”

Finally, a word from Lewis Smedes:  “The first and only person to be healed by forgiveness is the person who does the forgivenss….When we genuinely forgive, we set a prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner we set free was us.”

A Prayer of Forgiveness

Following is a brief prayer that you might want to pray, expressing your choice to forgive your loved prodigal.  You may have to pray it many times.

Father, thank You for Your mercy and grace toward me, and for forgiving my sins through Your death on the cross.  Thank You that You forgive me over and over, for repeated sins and for new sins, big or small.  I am so grateful for your grace.

Lord, I need to forgive ___________, my loved one who has wronged me, hurt me, betrayed me, offended me, sinned against me.  It is hard for me to do this—I am still hurt, angry, confused.  So I come asking You for the power to forgive ____________.  Fill me with Your Spirit and remind me of Your love and mercy to me—and to _______________.

By Your Spirit, I choose to forgive ________________.  I choose to extend grace and mercy to him/her, even as You have done for me.  I choose, as You enable me, to live at peace with this person I love.  I ask that You bless ____________ in Your love.  Please may we be reconciled and our relationship healed.  And if that does not happen, may I continue to love and forgive.

Thank You that this is possible in the power of Your Spirit.  In Jesus’ name.

 What about you?  Is there someone you need to forgive?

c2012 Judy Douglass

If you would like more information, to request prayer for a prodigal, or to join our full-of-grace community, please write to prayerforprodigalsatgmaildotcom with your questions or names, or for an invitation.

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Debbie, Josh, Michelle

I have received many wonderful Mother’s Day Gifts from my three children—and I have been grateful for each one.  But they have given me gifts they didn’t even know, and those have been the best of all.  I’m sure I could think of dozens, but here are 7 life-changing presents from my two daughters and my son.

1.  Gratitude

I never get over that God would entrust these little lives to me.  As Debbie and Michelle were born, and as Josh came as a 9-year-old, I have found myself overwhelmed that God gave me such gifts.   And as they have grown up, I have realized what transforming gifts they have been.  Thank You, Lord.

2.  Humility

I knew parenting would be challenging, but I had no idea how totally inadequate I was.  On the days of their births, and every day since, I have been over my head.  So humbling.  Gratefully I have had family, friends and books to help.   But most of all, God has been there every step of the way, giving wisdom, encouragement, strength, love and everything else I have needed.  The humility, of course, is still in process.

3.  Selflessness

I had children later in life, and I thought I had, for the most part, grown out of my adolescent self-focus.  But when I took Debbie, my lovely first child, home, I discovered I knew nothing about selflessness.  Any newborn takes more time, attention, care, patience—everything—than you can imagine.

But Debbie had 24-hour colic and rarely slept.  She required all of me.  For several months there was almost no opportunity for me to focus on myself.  Thank you, Debbie, for taking me giant leaps forward in learning to get over my self-centeredness.  Still growing, of course.

4.  Forgiveness

We all make many mistakes in our parenting.  I have made more than my share.  A few years ago my husband’s radio program was doing a surprise program on our family.  They asked  each of our children what they had learned from us.  Michelle said, “From my mom I learned to ask for forgiveness.”

You see, Michelle approaches life differently than I do, and too often I tried to squeeze her into the mold of my life.   So I often had to ask her for forgiveness.  Which she generously gave.  Thank you, Michelle, for forgiving and for teaching me to ask for that mercy.

5.  Perseverance

Rearing children is a long process.  Though supposedly we have completed our assignment in 18-22 years, those of us beyond that know we never really stop being mothers.  There are many normal days, frequent times of celebration and rejoicing, and always some difficult days.

Because Josh came to us from a difficult situation, he brought with him many challenges.  His challenges, of course, became ours.  We and he had many hard days and hard years as he grew out of that troubled boyhood into the man he has become.  Thank you, Josh, for helping me to learn to never give up, to be tenacious, to persevere.

6.  Prayer

I knew how to pray.  I had been a child of God, and serving in ministry, for many years when my first child was born.  Of course I knew how to pray.

But as each child revealed my inadequacy and my weaknesses, as their needs required more wisdom than I had, as life for all of us included pain and trial, I have learned to go to my Father.  To tell Him how I feel, to express what I think I—and my children—need, to pour out my heart, to beg and plead, to thank Him.  I find my prayers are best prayed with open hands—not holding on to my demands, but allowing God to take out and put in His best answers.  Thank you, Debbie, Michelle and Josh, for teaching me to really pray.

7.  Love

Of course we love our children.  As we carry them for 9 months, when they are first placed in our arms, or if they come to us some other way, we are amazed at the intensity of the love we feel for them.

But life tests that love.  Especially when they aren’t always lovable.  When they are whiny and crabby.  When nothing you do satisfies.  When they are disobedient, even defiant.  When they make increasingly bad choices.  And especially when they yell hateful words at us and reject us and what we stand for.

When those things happen—and they did—God reminded me that unconditional love , by definition, keeps loving no matter what they say or do, or even if they don’t love in return.  Thank you, my wonderful children, for being God’s instruments for me to learn to receive and live out His unconditional love.

Debbie, Michelle and Josh, thank you for being God’s good gifts to me.  And as each of you has entered into this wonderful parenting and journey, may God surprise you with the transforming gifts those children will be to you.  I love you.

What about you?  What gifts have others given you?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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