In the past few months especially, I’ve had several of those conversations that leave you reflective, and desiring to help others through these murky, messy complicated heart, mind, and spirit battlegrounds. This topic I’m about to share my thoughts on, is one that I understand can be quite controversial with people.. I’m quite certain that there are many who will read this that are much more educated, theologically more sound, and all-around possibly more skillful to speak to this subject. But, this is the clumsy offering of a person who has wrestled through some of these pathways. I’ve listened to many pain-filled stories, and have talked to my Heavenly Father often about it, and now I can sit with coffee cup by my side, peace in my heart today staring at this screen sharing my heart with you.
One such recent conversation began in a group-class, where we discussed the topic of forgiveness. A friend of mine, who has suffered sad, devastating abuses.. emotional, physically, and spiritually looked up with tear-filled eyes… “How can I forgive? When I make myself be around him, I feel panicky and my mind feels so confused. I feel so wrong. Why can’t I love stronger? I thought I’d forgiven him, yet everyone tells me I need to forgive and forget and move forward..”
And, looking into those pain-filled eyes, my heart broke for the condemnation she and others were heaping upon her, adding to the years of pain she had endured. Oh, my Father, now we are heaping heavy burdens onto her weary soul in your name? In the name of love?
Oh my precious friend, what my Father has lovingly shown me through many pain-filled tears of my own is that forgiveness and reconciliation are two very different things. By summary of definition; Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. John Piper suggests that some of the following may be indicators that forgiveness has taken place; resisting revenge, not returning evil for evil, wishing them well, grieving at their calamities, praying for their welfare, seeking reconciliation so far as it depends on you. We also would do well to remember that this is a spiritual journey that we each individually walk through in our own way, in God’s perfect timing as He is our healer and help. We don’t “fix” others, we have the beautiful opportunity to love, LISTEN, contribute what we can to help, and to encourage others. He doesn’t fix… He heals! Forgiveness is a beautiful work that God does in our hearts — It’s truly a miracle that we can all experience, and the freedom releases us to soar!
——- > Reconciliation is the restoration of friendly relations.. So, our hearts and minds can most certainly be in a place where we do not wish for revenge, and even our heart may break for those who have wronged us. We might even be in a place in which we pray and hope and believe for God’s very, very best way of love for that individual, whatever that might look like. But, we must also with caution and carefulness seek reconciliation to the level that is safe for our heart, mind, and life. There are many reasons for which I believe in some situations “restoring a friendly relationship” is not best or safe emotionally, spiritually, or mentally. Sometimes, it may be that the reconciliation process just needs a more lengthy time to build trust, and security… Sometimes, it will never, ever be healthy to reconcile. Especially, if the abuser is unrepentant and continues to wound, justify and blame-shift. Often, we might get confused with what love is, and what love isn’t. Making someone feel good about themselves, isn’t really love… and a person who has destructive mentalities and behaviors often continues on in their pathway, being enabled to continue by all the “feel-goods” from well-meaning people who think they are loving. “Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). Love is glad when truth is spoken. Therefore love aims at truth. It supports truth. Sometimes the truth is that the damaging behavior of another person cannot be in our life at this time, even though we have forgiven, or are working through that process.. Drawing close to the Father’s heart, knowing His freedom, seeking for truth in His word (and maybe less of other’s opinions), and resting in His love is a beautiful time of healing.
Forgiveness like a crown….
Reconciliation as an option..
Freedom to heal.
It’s ok, my friend, that you aren’t “strong” enough to sit at a Christmas dinner across from your childhood abuser (and actually facing and speaking the truth to say you don’t want to is being brave, truthful and courageous!) It makes sense, my dear friend, that you feel panic attacks when feeling pressured to be “friendly” with someone that has given you tremendous pain in your life, and you are still trying to heal from the wounds. You aren’t flawed when your heart requires needed time, space, and the ability to process. Our Father weaves beautiful grace through these processes..
A few weeks ago, a helping friend of mine sat with me in my place of tears. She reminded me that Christ not only died to set me free from the wrongs, and yucky messes my heart cooks up, but all those atrocities that were done against me. The shame I carried for that which I have done, and the shame for that which was inflicted on me…. ALL taken care of at the Cross. He traded my sorrows, my pain, my burnt-up ashes of dreams and innocence, the wrongs, and torment… HE TRADED IT ALL for my freedom. For me, and for you.
All. Traded for the crown of beauty.
Not only the wrongs I have committed, but those that were committed against me… I am laying at His feet. “Here it is, Jesus. You paid, what those who hurt me could never repay, and I don’t know how to get rid of.. You died to set me free. All the brokenness I’ve created, and the life-whirlwinds others have created for me… you want me to trade for YOU. You died, so that I may live. The acts of others may try to slay my very soul in ugly, dark brokenness, but my Saviour lives through me to make ALL new and beautiful and ALIVE.”
“Trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down.”
“The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me,
because the Lord has anointed Me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of our God’s vengeance;to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair.
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the Lord
to glorify Him.”