Tuesday, September 13, 2016

This forgiveness thing

Jesus has been really working me over with this forgiveness thing.  For the past few weeks, the subject of forgiveness has been coming up in some form or another.  I'm sensitive to it because I seem to have a little bit of trouble forgiving.

I replay wrongs over and over.  I revisit situations over and over.  I rehash arguments over and over. I "re..." over and over...

Just let it go!

I want so much to let it go, but "something" keeps me holding on.  I now recognize that that "something" is a tactic of the enemy. He is only able to do it because lately I haven't given my mind anything better with which to replace those ungodly thoughts.  Philippians 4:8 says: "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."   I haven't been doing that; I've been foolishly going back to "my own vomit," as Proverbs 26:11 lays out, and falling prey to his schemes that try to lead me toward depression.  I haven't "fixed" my thoughts, I let them come and go, flittering away like a butterfly.  Isn't it funny how the things I should hold onto I easily let go of, while the things I need to let go of, are caught like in a steel trap?  Hmmmmmm...

I say to myself that I have every reason to be angry.  I have every reason to be upset.  I have every reason to be hurt.  I have every reason to react the way I do.  I have every reason to "rage against the machine."  BUT that does not give me the RIGHT!  Because I gave my life to Jesus (coming up on 43 years ago), I gave up that right to be ruled by my own feelings and distorted perceptions.  Because I made Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior, He rules my life, and that includes my feelings and perceptions.  I gave Him my heart, the seat of my feelings and perceptions, I gave Him my mind, the origin of these thoughts and perceptions, I gave Him my soul, the vehicle for those feelings and perceptions.  After all this time, I'm supposed to have a better handle on things, right?

I am still clothed in flesh and so still struggle daily with temptations and distractions, but if I keep my mind stayed...

Wait, wait, wait a minute, I'm doing what I hate to hear other Christians do, spouting scripture when faced with a real, everyday issues.  I'm like a lot of you: I know the scriptures, I've read them numerous times.  I've heard them numerous times.  I've written about them numerous times.  They are imbedded in my memory, but I don't always remember that they are there.  As I get older, if I don't constantly find a way to keep these reminders at the forefront, I will fail, and that's a fact.

Here's some practical advice given to me at various times along my own journey:

1. Start the day in prayer.  This sets the tone for the day.  Prayer doesn't have to be long and drawn out; it can be as simple as "Good Morning Daddy, thanks for letting me sleep and awaken, let's get this day started!"

2. Keep the dialog going all day.  Talk with Him at every opportunity about everything, whether internally or out loud.  Ask Him about your wardrobe for the day, the accessories, have breakfast/lunch/dinner with Him.  Point out different things to Him (it's not like He didn't see it, but it keeps the "line" open).

3. If during morning devotional time, a particular scripture is given to you, write it down (put it in your phone's notepad for quick reference), or somewhere where you can get to it quickly throughout the day.  Refer to it periodically as a reminder of the day's thought and focus.

4. Because prayer is a two-way conversation (imagine that?!!?!  You mean it's not the time to be mesmerized by the mellifluous tones of your own voice?  No. It. Is. NOT! It's the time to speak to God and to be SPOKEN TO BY GOD!), be prepared to quiet your mind enough to hear an answer or an acknowledgment of your greeting.  God loves our conversations, He longs to talk with us, but too many only want to talk, and not listen.  Sometimes we want to blame our overloaded schedules, but if we had placed the schedule in His Hands and asked Him to put things in their proper place, maybe we wouldn't feel so overwhelmed and rushed, and unable to "make time" for HIM.  Hmmmm...guilty...

5. Meditate on HIM and with HIM at times during the day.  Find that morning focal scripture and place it before you.  Speak it out loud.  Pepper the atmosphere with it, and then focus on it.  Let it's relevance wash over you.  Weep if you need to.  Laugh if you have to.  Dance if you want to.  Let it do what it's meant to do for you.

6. If a crisis arises during the day, don't panic.  I know, your flesh wants to go screaming into the street, "Why me, LORD?  Why now?"  But that is another distracting tactic of the enemy.  Try to refocus on Jesus.  Maybe that's why you were given that particular focal scripture today, to prepare you for what He already knew was heading your way.  Focus your attention on The Answer, not the crisis.

7.  End the day in prayer.  Talk over the day's happenings with Him.  Laugh about the laughable.  Cry over the upsetting.  Talk over the upcoming solutions.  And let it rest in His Hands.  I once heard it said that "A day hemmed in prayer, is like a quilt; it unravels without it."  That is quite true.  Starting the day without it allows the day to meander wherever without a set direction.  Ending a day without it allows the day to spill over into our dreams, or worse, the next day.  At the end of the day, hand it all over to Him, and, here's a novel concept, Go. To. Sleep.

Now you may be wondering, what does any of this have to do with forgiveness?  Well, I'm glad you asked!  Forgiveness is often wrapped up in "me, myself and I."  "They did that to me, and I can't forgive them!"  "I can't believe they did that!  They knew that would hurt me!" "Why would they do that, after all I've done for them?"  The focus is on yourself.  When we start, continue and end the day in prayer with and to the Lord God, it takes the focus off us and puts it where it belongs, on HIM.

When we allow ourselves to see the deeds of others from His viewpoint, the wrongs take on a different meaning and affect us a little differently.  For one, the hurt, though still painful, is not as harsh because the Holy Spirit is right there (because you've been in His presence all day) to help shoulder the load, or, if you let Him, take it all on Himself.  When we see it from His perspective, the lesson may become immediately apparent (notice I said the word "may" because the lesson may be more of a long-term session, rather than an immediate quiz), than it would have without His consultation.  You're able to see more of "why they did it" instead of "why they did it to me."

Given some of these new perspectives, forgiveness becomes a little easier and comes a little quicker.  It doesn't require so much debate and inner turmoil because the immediate discussion with God can eliminate the "flesh, heart and mind inner discussions," if you let it happen.  Letting go of past hurts and pain happens with less trauma because the Doctor has been with you every step of the way: from bringing your attention to the problem, diagnosing the root cause, accompanying you into the operating room, administering the anesthetic, guiding the Surgeon's Hands, removing the infected tissue, sewing up the wound, applying the Balm, wrapping you up in The Comforter, transporting you back to recovery, and being with you every step of the way through your healing process.

This "forgiveness thing" only happens if you want it to.  It's up to you if you want to revisit the places of past hurt and pain after you've already been in the operating room to remove it from you.  It would be your own foolishness in that instance (but sadly, we are foolish beings, and sometimes a trial has to be repeated in order for it's intended message to stick).

We've all heard the adage, "Practice makes perfect."  Well, that is so true in the practice of the things of God.  We have to "practice" being in His presence until it becomes so commonplace that not being there is like not being able to breathe. The same with not revisiting the places and people of past hurts and pain.  If God removed you from that environment and those people from our lives, why go back? Why invite them back into your new peaceful chaos-free zone?  Your compassion may want them to have as much peace as you, but they made that choice, and in inviting them back, they may end up stealing your long-awaited and hard-earned peace of mind.  Don't do it!  Let them be!  Pray for them from afar, but hold onto your peace!  1 Peter 3:10-11 says, "He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.  Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it."  Not everyone is willing to pursue after their peace.  You have!  You've done the Michael Phelps, why would you give up your medals because of the Ryan Lochte's of the world?  Practice holding on to the forgiveness and the peace that comes with it.  You deserve it!  Jesus died for it, and you pursued it.  It's yours to keep!

He leads me beside the quiet streams

Of course, the very same people who hurt you in the past are apt to hurt you again.  The thing about that is if you were able to forgive the first time, and you've practiced this forgiveness constantly, forgiving them again will get gradually easier.  After a while, either it won't even hurt anymore, or the Lord will remove them from you.  But you have to remain in constant communication with Him in order to know the how's and when's of those circumstances.  Practicing being in His presence will facilitate all of that.

The alternative is, well, you know...

No comments:

Post a Comment