Revisiting Forgiveness

Last autumn I wrote a post on Forgiveness in my <30-30 series> My Top 30 Life Lesssons in 30 Years>. To this date it has been the most trafficked post I have ever written. It seems that I am not the only one who finds forgiveness a relevant and difficult topic to wrestle with. 

Tonight I gave a talk at our weekly student gathering on the topic of forgiveness. Maybe I was asked to deliver it because I have wrestled with it so darn much. I won’t give you all of it.. but here are a few things that have stood out to me over the year as I have had to forgive again and again one particular person who brought me much pain as well as the many others I’ve forgiven or had to apologize to in the tides of what makes for normal relationship breakdowns. 

What forgiveness is:
– Forgiveness always costs someone something. 
– Forgiveness is costly to the one givingthe forgiveness. The wounded broken party has a cost to bear to give forgiveness.
– It always costs the forgiver to give forgiveness.  
– They are absorbing something in a way. 
– They are saying “you no longer owe me.” 
– I can stop beating you up or verbally assaulting you in my head.
– I can release you from the debt you owe meand instead turn you over to God, knowing God is good and a judge, and will bring ultimate judgment or repentance to that person
– Forgiveness promises to not use it against you
– Forgiveness promises to not gossip to others about it
– It is a promise to not dwell on it personally
– Depending on the level of the betrayal or wound that was incurred, forgiveness is often not a one time event. It often has to be revisited by the one giving the forgiveness who might have a lot of wrestling and “forgiving again” in their heart to do… the worse the offense, the longer it will take. 

What forgiveness is not:
– Forgiveness is not cheap.
– Forgiveness is not free.
– Forgiveness does not mean there is not damage.
– Forgiveness is not pretending it doesn’t matter.
– Forgiveness is not denying the hurt. “Oh it’s no big deal.” Yesit is.
– “Forgive and forget” is a lie.
– Forgiveness does not erase wounds.
– Forgiveness does not mean you will allow someone to continue to abuse you.
– Forgiveness doesn’t guarantee a continued relationship **
– Forgiveness is not light.
– It is not being a pushover.

Forgiveness is grace. It is giving someone what they do not deserve.

Forgiveness is cancelling a debt or absorbing a cost.

In addition, I have learned in the latter part of this year that there is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation.**  

I am a total people pleaser. I love people. I want to be in good standing with people. I want people to like me. I almost always like people. I have been told off for thinking the best of people and choosing to trust people when others think I am a fool for this, which is why this has been a difficult lesson. Just because you forgive someone does not mean you need to be in a reconciled relationship with them. Reconciliation, or the restoration of the relationship is dependent on the one who has done the harm. You can forgive someone for their actions but not everyone you will be able to restore the relationship with. Reconciliation is the goal. It is the pattern of relationships for Christians because of our model of God coming to us and seeking a reconciled relationship through Himself absorbing the cost and punishment for our sin.While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” 

But not everyone we need to forgive we will be able or will it be helpful to have a restored relationship with. Differing from forgiveness, reconciliation is often conditioned on the attitude and actions of the offender. The process of reconciliation depends on the attitude of the offender, the depth of the betrayal, and the pattern of offense. Some behaviours need time to see if there is change before trust can be restored. If someone is truly repentant and has caused harm to someone, they should be able to give someone this time and space. In the case of addictions one might need to see time and change before they allow themselves back into a relationship again so as not to be an enabler to someone’s alcohol or drug addiction. In the case of rape or verbal or emotional or physical abuse it is dependent on the offended party as to whether there is restored relationship. It might be more harmful than good for the victim to experience a relationship with their abuser. It is still good and necessary and healthy for the victim to come to forgive but that does not guarantee a reconciled relationship. If someone is not repentant, or is lying, or there is evidence that their behaviour is an unending pattern, it might hinder the one injured from trusting again or being willing to reconcile the relationship. 

“If we can restore to full and intimate fellowship with ourselves a sinning and unrepentant brother,” John R. W. Stott wrote in Confess Your Sins, “we reveal not the depth of our love, but its shallowness, for we are doing what is not for his highest good. Forgiveness which by-passes the need for repentance issues not from love but from sentimentality.”

My thoughts on reconciliation have been shaped by a lot of painful circumstances, learning healthy boundaries, counseling, and wise friends. I read some interesting things here that I poached that you might find helpful in more depth as well. How to Move from Forgiveness to Reconciliation . Praying to be a person who loves deeply, forgives authentically, and seeks reconciliation. But I am wiser to want to love rather than reach for vain sentimentality… 

                                   click: A sketch I did for a friend’s music project a few years back.. 


My Thankfulness Walk..

God will take you where you haven’t intended to go in order to produce in you what you could not do on your own.
 – “The theology of uncomfortable grace” – Paul Tripp

I hate this. 

I don’t like the idea that God takes me where I don’t want to go. This is not a quote full of “yayyyyyys” in my head. It is a reality of the Christian life. Of life in general. I think of people like Elijah and John the Baptist. God took both of those men through things they didn’t want to go through…. and he produced in them character and lives that reflected his glory… but man.. they had some rough times… 

Or Ruth. 

I love the story of Ruth from the Bible… It is a story of redemption. Of God taking an awful situation and using it to redeem a broken family plagued by death and despair. These women get grafted into the family tree of Jesus. But I don’t envy an ounce of what got them there. 

For those of you who are less familiar with historical characters from the Bible… death, despair, poverty, wicked kings and queens chasing them down, loneliness all marked these three people. Sure Elijah was a prophet that got to see God bring down fire on a mountainside and had amazing encounters with God, John the Baptist was the cousin of Jesus and the predicted character who would “pave the way for the Lord” and Ruth got to be the great great grandmother of the famous King David and way down the lineage tree, in the ancestry of Jesus… but… those good things all were born in much suffering.. 

There are places in my life I have not wanted to go. Even this month. I have questions for the Lord. I have tears for the Lord. I have prayers for situations to change.. to experience redemption.. 

But .. the Lord has not answered all of those prayers yet for me. He has not brought me the redemption I am hungering for. He has not brought an answer to all of my prayers and hopes. So today I read in the Psalms to “wait on the Lord.” 

I often forget the Lord is good in times like these. Or I forget that the Lord is sovereign.. meaning.. he is big and in control. I meditated on the Psalms today to remind myself that those places where I know my sinful heart and mind tend to go to are not what is true about God. 

I have been trying to learn the art of silence and meditation in my prayer time. I have lived a busy life for so long. Stopping and pausing has been a journey I have been on this year. Today was a gorgeous day and so provided the perfect evening for a quiet walk by myself. I found myself walking into the Dene near my house, a gorgeous wooded park and praying and taking in the silence. Then it struck me.. I want to be thankful. There is much I have been sad about lately, fretting about lately, not sure if the Lord will ever answer prayers; but what does it mean to thank God in all things? So I ended up wandering through this park by myself thanking Jesus for dying for me. Thanking him for grace. Thanking the Lord for the overabundance of rocks in England that meant there are gorgeous stone walls everywhere. I thanked him for the beauty of the street light and the loveliness of the warm breeze. I thanked him for the rain on Friday that left the river swollen and wild with rushing water. I thanked him for big things and silly things. 
And then I came home. 

Grace Through The Eyes of the Father ….

This is so good. A good 35 minutes spent.. Makes me want to sing about the grace of God..

“Here’s the thing you always have to watch on external self righteousness. If you’re comparing your righteousness by finding someone else who isn’t as good as you and measuring how well you’re doing based off of how well they are doing, you are already in a scary rebellion against the God of the universe. What He is holding you to is not your idiot friends’ holiness, but His holiness.”  – Matt Chandler 

A Bit of Chesterton Wisdom ..

A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”… perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but he has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore. – G.K. Chesterton 

Safe People

Who knows you? The real you? The messy you? The broken you.

This week I have been reflecting on the safest people in the world. The safest people in the world I have decided are not ones who are always kicks and giggles with. They aren’t necessarily the life of the party. Some are. They come in a million different personality types and traits and dispositions.

The safest people in the world are those who know the real you and love you anyways. They are not afraid to make you not like them by saying something you don’t want to hear for your good. But even when they say difficult things they are kind because they are “for” you. They don’t enable you.. but they make you feel safe, loved, known, cared for.

I once heard a quote that says something like “I am afraid you’ll reject me and me is all I have..” or something to that affect. Actually that’s not it at all other than the “me is all I have” bit… But it strikes desire in me… deep desire to be known and to know. It highlights the fear we all have.. that if the real me was known, I would be rejected and that would bring shame and I couldn’t bear it.

But what if someone knew everything. Everything to your soul insides and out. And they stayed with you. They loved you. Were for you. Prayed for you. Laughed with you. Cried with you. How would that make you feel?

Intimacy is really what it is. 

I have found safe people. I think of a couple off of the top of my head whom I can bear my soul with and who know my worst and my fears and love me anyways. I am grateful I have people who let me love them in that state as well. I look around the people I work with and actually as an organization…. it is oddly more full of safe people than nearly any place I have known on earth (aside from church). People know one another and not just the good things.. they know one another worst and love one another anyways. It is like an oasis in a desert you didn’t realize you were thirsting in.

Are you a safe person?
Do you have safe people in your life?
Do you hide or let people in?
What are your barriers to emotional intimacy and letting people know the real you?

More Civil Wars.. ! :)

I just got an email that a new album from the Civil Wars is on it’s way. I for one am very excited about it. I have seen them twice in concert. Once in a tiny bar with terrible sound and less than a 100 people and they were still amazing despite the rubbish sound system. The second time they were in the accoustically incredible Sage in Gateshead with an intimate 1000 other fans. I have been following them since their free live in Eddie’s Attic download I got a couple years ago and couldn’t have a band I have been more pleased to follow the last year or two. 🙂 
authentic music
one of the best things on earth…