Tag: forgiveness

Maundy Thursday

When you’re worried about making a big mistake

Last night my husband and I went to our church’s Maundy evening service.

A Maundy service commemorates the ceremony of washing the feet of the poor, especially commemorating Jesus’ washing of His disciples’ feet on Maundy Thursday, the night before his crucifixion. 

Our service was a combined service along with twenty other local churches. We expected a big crowd so my husband and I got to church early only to sit and wait for the church to fill up. It didn’t. But there was a nice diversity of people.

At one point there was a re-enactment of the washing of feet with four pastors taking turns. But the best part was the service of Tenebrae.

The word “Tenebrae” comes from the Latin meaning “darkness”, or “shadow”.  The Tenebrae is an ancient Christian Good Friday service that makes use of gradually diminishing light through the extinguishing of candles to that symbolizes the events of Holy Week from the triumphant Palm Sunday entry through Jesus’ burial. Lights are gradually diminished with the increasing darkness symbolizing the darkness of Jesus’ death. When the church gets dark, worshippers are encouraged to take that time to reflect on their life in light of the death Jesus and what it means to them personally.

Maundy Thursday

We had seven different pastors read portions of that week’s events, from the betrayal to the crucifixion. The readers were particularly good. Some of the headings of the Scriptures were, “The Shadow of His Agony and Arrest in the Garden”, “The Shadow of His Death”, etc.

A young man from our church sang some “dark” songs in between each reading. However, at the end, a man from one of our local black churches sang “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” I can only say, it sent shivers down my spine. This version will, too.

But here’s what it meant to me.

I’ve struggled with some things surrounding my mom’s declining health, including taking care of her finances and getting things in order. It’s been very stressful for lots of reasons I can’t share. I’ve struggled with the “unfairness” surrounding some of these issues.

Ordinarily, I never consider whether I’m being treated fairly or not. It’s not who I am usually. But it has been with this experience.

While I sat there last night, it occurred to me that these circumstances are allowing me to experience on even the tiniest scale how Jesus must have felt about the unfairness of what was happening to him. There is, of course, no scripture to suggest this, but I don’t think it’s too far a stretch to think that Jesus might have had a moment when he thought that way. Remember, Jesus was as human as he was divine.

I felt properly chagrined at my attitude when I considered what I was dealing with compared to the unfairness of a crucifixion of an innocent man.

We usually don’t attend the Maundy service so I surprised myself when I told my husband I wanted to go. Now I know why. I needed a “slap up along side my head”, and I got it.

But as the service went on and I was feeling pretty bad about my former attitude. (Part of being forgiven is thinking seriously about our sin.  If we really are aware of our sin, there should be some feelings of sadness. That’s how change usually happens and accepting forgiveness means a change is needed. We just don’t accept forgiveness and go one making the same mistake. We might for a while till we get it “licked” but it’s not something that continues. If it does, we weren’t serious when we confessed it.)  It also occurred to me that I had been worrying I would make some really wrong decisions during this season of my mom’s impending death.

During the service, I felt God saying to me, “I will never let you make a big mistake if you just keep listening.”

I know that now.

We can trust God to lead us in the right way, if we follow his voice. And following his voice means, praying and listening, and reading his word. There is no other way.

I’m so glad I was there last night. “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” took on new meaning.

God bless and I hope the miracle of Easter Sunday has special meaning for you.

forgiveness

How to really forgive and should we forget?

(This is a long post today but not nearly long enough. The subject is forgiveness which certainly can’t be thoroughly covered in one post.)

Forgiveness is such an over-used, over-applied, and misunderstood word I can hardly bear to hear it spoken. People use the word so casually anymore, it’s lost its meaning. I’m a Christian and I believe in forgiveness but I have big issues with how the word is bandied about these days.

First of all, forgiveness should be considered a serious issue. God thought it such a serious issue, he sent his son, Jesus, to die to pave the way for our forgiveness. And that way was death. So when we haphazardly and casually use the word, we ought to be ashamed. After all, God apparently spent centuries considering forgiveness and what He needed to do about it. So if it was that hard for God why shouldn’t it be for us as well?

Secondly, forgiveness should never be given easily for a serious offense. If someone has truly hurt you or someone you love, it needs to be addressed first. Before you forgive, you need to let the person know exactly what was said or done that offended you.

A blanket “I forgive you” without the offense being clearly defined, is a forgiveness that isn’t a healing kind of forgiveness. It’s shallow and doesn’t enable long-lasting healing. 

And if it’s us that needs the forgiveness, we need to be willing to listen and offer a genuine apology with the intention of not committing the same error again. If we continue with that behavior, we might still be forgiven but we can’t expect the relationship will certainly deteriorate or terminate altogether. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we keep “stepping in it”.  And a “my bad” is not an apology.

And finally, too many people like to say they forgive because they are afraid to confront.

I know way too many people like that and sometimes I’m one of them. Sometimes we say we “forgive” because we simply don’t want to confront. 

But that’s dishonest.

We say we forgive but we hold in our hurts and they end up weighing us down. Unless they are addressed and discussed, forgiveness becomes only an exercise in using the word. The perpetrator thinks they’ve been forgiven when they’ve only been dismissed. And if we’re the perpetrator we operate under the same illusion. And our behavior is held against us when we thought we were forgiven.

All you have to do is see what happens to families when someone dies and there’s a little money left over and someone doesn’t get what they thought they should. Wow. Every old hurt comes to the surface. Every little thing that was swept under the rug is shaken out from under that same rug. Wounds fester and sometimes families fall completely apart.

When Jesus forgave it was always with the condition that the behavior would change. Even when those words weren’t spoken, one only has to read all that Jesus said to know it is true. We are always held accountable. Forgiven, yes, loved, yes. Accountability, yes!!

The timing of forgiveness is crucial. If we wait too long, we will simply forget about it and the offender will never know of his need for forgiveness. If we forgive really serious offenses too quickly, we cheapen the meaning and price of forgiveness. 

Let’s also remember that every little thing that offends us doesn’t require forgiveness. I mean do you go to the Emergency Room for a minor cut when a band-aid will do?  Truth is, we might be offended too easily. That’s our problem. If you find that you’re always having to forgive others, maybe you’re just too sensitive.

And some things just aren’t that important. I mean look at Facebook. The things that people get offended over these days is just ludicrous. What happened to a sense of humor?

I hope you don’t think I’m suggesting we don’t forgive. What I am saying is that forgiveness is a serious act as demonstrated by the cost Jesus paid. We shouldn’t treat it lightly. If we say we have forgiven someone, we’d better be ready to live it out. I can’t think of any offense greater than to “fake” forgiveness. And I think it happens all the time.

  • We can choose to overlook a lot of things. That is not forgiveness.
  • We can choose to ignore a lot of things. That is not forgiveness.
  • We can choose to “go along” to “get along”. That is not forgiveness.
  • We can choose to pretend it never happened. That is not forgiveness.

So how do we know we’ve forgiven someone? I think it’s when we feel a peace within ourselves. It’s when we can genuinely wish the best for that person. It’s when the offense no longer occupies our every thought or keep us awake at night. We know we’ve forgiven when we get on with our lives. You notice I didn’t say forget. I can’t think of a scripture verse that says we have to forget and I do believe that we can remember without having it affect us negatively.

How do I know? Because I’ve had to forgive some very serious offenses over my lifetime. I can tell you today that my life is one hundred percent better because of it. Some of the forgiveness took years to accomplish. In most cases, I was not given the opportunity to discuss anything because the other party wasn’t willing to have that conversation. As I wrote in the beginning, it would have been so much more healing if we could have.

But I didn’t do it flippantly. I took my time to think it through so that when I finally uttered those words, they meant something.

Probably most people confuse forgiveness with absolution. When we forgive we don’t absolve anyone of their behavior. Only God can do that and God only does that if asked. Remember that. When we forgive, we aren’t saying we condone the offense. There might well be legal and moral consequences. People are still accountable whether forgiven or not. That includes us.

And the final thing about forgiveness is how to do when it’s so hard to do. I simply remind myself of all I’ve already been forgiven. If I got what I deserved, I probably wouldn’t be here. Most of us wouldn’t. God is that good.

I hope if you’re struggling today with this whole subject, you find this helpful. I highly recommend this book called “Forgive and Forget”, by Lewis B. Smedes, for an in-depth study of this subject.

God bless and I hope you have a good day.

ashamed

What to do when you’re ashamed of yourself

Boy, have you ever gone through a spell when you were thoroughly and completely ashamed of yourself?

ashamed

I sure have.

I sure am.

Not because I’ve done anything to be ashamed of but because I feel my heart has been so lacking in compassion.

We can be so hard on ourselves. We prefer to punish ourselves rather than confess our dark heart to the Lord.

In our humanness, we feel we need to be punished. Isn’t that the way the world works? Isn’t that what we deserve?

I'm ashamed

To bring it to God and have it washed away just for the sincere asking seem preposterous to our feeble minds. And yet that’s what God says we are to do. That’s why his son was sacrificed, that’s why his son was resurrected.

And yet some make forgiveness so cheap. Ask and you will receive. But it isn’t quite as casual as it sounds.

With confession and forgiveness must come a change. James McDonald, famous author and pastor, says, “If you’re faith hasn’t changed you, it hasn’t saved you.” I buy that.

Words are cheap. Maybe we can’t change all at once but if we’re not seeing any progress, our sincerity might be in question.

And I think sometimes we are too quick to ask for forgiveness. If we give ourselves a little time, we might learn that what we think we need forgiveness for is not where the real problem lies. For example, a person might ask for forgiveness for snapping at someone when the underlying issue is really jealousy. The first requires an apology; the second forgiveness.

So let’s not be too hard on ourselves but let’s be honest and thoughtful with our confession.

forgiveness

sad/2017

Does everything HAVE to be discussed?

There are all kinds of people in this world. Agreed?

There are people who like to “hash out” things.

There are people who never want to discuss anything of any substance.

Which is right, do you think?

Is it better to talk things through or just let things be?

I’m a big believer that nothing ever gets completely resolved and that relationships are seriously compromised unless issues are brought out in the open and there is honest and sincere communication. I think that’s how we grow as human beings.

But if you’re not interested in growing and being the best you can be, then maybe it doesn’t matter.

Sometimes Christians call this lack of confrontation, “forgiveness.” I would suggest that’s it often just a case of “I don’t want to deal with it anymore so I’ll use the words “forgiveness” and hide it under the rug.”

dandelion

Then there are other times when letting something go might just be the thing to do. Not every innocently misspoken word, untoward glance, or unintentional hurtful act needs to be addressed. There are more things that need to be simply ignored than there are those worthy of confrontation.

But when it’s serious enough to cause deep hurt, when it’s caused a deep rift for years, when the behavior is particularly egregious, when there has been no asking of forgiveness, I feel there’s no way we should ignore it. I don’t think relationships ever get resolved permanently without communication. Although I will be the first to admit that because communication is a two-way street if one of the people involved won’t talk, we can’t force it.

But in any such relationship, it will never be authentic. It will always fall just a little short of true intimacy.

I find that incredibly sad.

I also find it inevitable. There are people in all of our lives who are like that. We can only get so close before they put up that wall.

For a long time, I would try to scale those walls but I’ve learned that after too many scraped up knees, it just doesn’t work. Plus, it hurts.

hit-up-alongside-the-headWe feel rebuffed and put off. We feel rejected.

But the one thing we need to remember is that while it is about them not us, we can’t say it’s their problem and pretend it doesn’t affect us. A lot of things can be someone else’s problem and still affect us. I wish we could say, “Hey, it’s their problem.” and that would be the end of it. But it never is.

So what do we do?

I think we acknowledge our hurt feelings to ourselves; we acknowledge we feel distanced from these people who remain closed up.

But we also do something else.

We remember that people will share their feelings only when they are ready to do so, that sometimes it’s all about the timing more than it is the situation.

Personally, I feel very hurt when I sense that someone has put up that wall.

sad/2017

I find I often return in kind and withdraw myself. Can you see what happens if this is allowed to continue? The gulf gets wider and wider.

And that’s how relationships deteriorate. It’s almost always because the initiator in the relationship grows weary of trying to crack open the melon. So either the relationship ends or it changes.

And guess what?

The only person that knows the relationship has changed is the person who worked so hard at it.

As a follower of Jesus, I’m inordinately grateful that God likes conversations. He even encourages it.

We never have to worry about our words. We don’t have to worry that God will back-off or withhold his love. We never have to worry we’re going to run into that brick wall. I find that so comforting.

And here’s something else we often fail to consider.

If God is working in a life, and we interfere and rescue them by overlooking a serious offense, we have short-changed their opportunity to grow.

Parents of children with drug addictions, husbands or wives whose spouses are gamblers, etc. are aided in their behavior when they are never held responsible. So sometimes, our quick forgiveness robs them of their chance to change.

And sometimes I think we are misguided by our own needs and desires.

Take the example of a lonely person. They are very apt to overlook just about anything in anyone because they are lonely. That’s why con artists have taken advantage of so many people; they recognize their vulnerability. They see the hurt and know they want to believe whatever will relieve their pain.

I really get that. I think I could very much be that way were my circumstances different. But at what cost?

Each of us has to settle these issues within ourselves. We can ask some questions.

  • If I ignore this, how will I feel down the road when it’s harder to address the situation?
  • If this going to change the relationship in a negative way?
  • If the relationship deteriorates, do I even still want to continue the relationship? (i.e., how far am I willing to let this go before I will want to end the relationship?)
  • If I let this go, will I be encouraging further bad behavior?

Finally, it is as wrong to not forgive as it is to use the word “forgive” for our own purposes. We don’t want to confront because we are uncomfortable with confrontation so we convince ourselves we have “forgiven” them their offense.

What is so interesting about this is that we almost always assume it’s their wrongdoing we are overlooking. We might not want to confront because we might just find out we’re a co-collaborator in the whole situation.

It’s all so complicated, isn’t it?

I wrote about this today because I’m such an observer of human beings. I find people fascinating and frustrating. At the same time, I find them amazing. I would imagine God feels the same way.

Anyway, when you find yourself running into a brick wall time and again, think through what I’ve written and see if it helps.

I hope it does.

God bless and I hope you have a good day.

 

 

 

me and the beauty queen

Me and the beauty queen. A funny story

(About three years ago, WP had a daily prompt where bloggers were encouraged to write a fictitious post about an event in our life that troubled us and for which there had been no resolution. The “fictitious” part was about how we would like it to get resolved. I was digging through some old posts and thought I would share this again.)

I hope you enjoy it. The fictitious part if the elevator scene. The rest is true.)

“Today I was stuck in an elevator. That was bad enough considering I’m  claustrophobic. But when the well-dressed woman in front of me turned around, I was mortified. She wasn’t someone I ever wanted to see again. 

It’s not what she did to me, it’s what I did to her. That was the worst part.

When we were in high school, she was my friend which considering she was very popular and the local beauty queen, puzzled me in the beginning days of our friendship. I figured she was playing with me and that eventually I’d catch on that it was all a big joke. But nope. We remained friends. Maybe it was because underneath her charming appearance she was just like me. From the wrong side of the tracks.

I was the only person ever invited into her home. After the first visit, I realized why. Her mother was an alcoholic. Her father had vanished years ago. The place was a mess. Her mother was a waitress and did her best to dress her daughter fashionably so she could enter one beauty pageant after another. They both knew it was the only way she was going to have a better life than her mother’s. No one but me ever knew what her home life was like. I always wondered how she kept it a secret.

She convinced me I had a shot at not only entering the next local beauty pageant but possibly even winning it. I figured she was kidding. She wasn’t. She found a coach for me and then gave me a “make-over”. From hair to make-up, to the way I walked.

It was the make-up that opened the door to my wrongdoing.

She bought me a lot of it. She had a part-time job. I protested and told her I couldn’t afford it. She was generous and said “I could pay her back in the future. Whenever I got a job”.

I did well in the pageant making it to the top ten. No, I’m not bragging. It’s just what happened. Remember, I didn’t win.

 me and the beauty queen

Anyway, she went away to college telling me to take my time paying her back.

Well, I did.

A lot of time.

In fact, never.

Our paths simply didn’t cross again. I could’ve found her if I’d wanted to. Her mother would certainly have given me her address. But I never even tried and because her mother died and I wasn’t in touch with any of the kids I went to high school with, I lost that opportunity.

Bu I heard about her over the years. She had made it kind of big in California.

I remember seeing her  in a commercial once. She was only in the background but at least she was on the screen. Someone said she was performing in dinner theaters. I could see that happening and I was genuinely glad to hear she made something of her life. I knew how important it was to her. She always wanted to “shine”.

Years passed. High school reunions came and went but I didn’t. Go to them, I mean. What would I have said when I saw her? There was no excuse for my behavior no matter how young and stupid I was.

The elevator was getting hot. Or was it just me sweating? She turned and looked at me. “Is that you, Rebecca?  I can’t believe it. After all these years!”

She was as kind and generous as she’d ever been which was just about the worst thing she could have been. I so needed her to be mean so I would feel properly chastised and could put it to rest. But no.

She had to be nice. And that was exactly what I didn’t want her to be.

Apparently she had long forgotten, or simply forgiven the debt I owed her.

The elevator doors suddenly opened and she got off, giving me a hug before she went on her way, saying how great it was seeing me again. I wanted to hit her and hug her at the same time.

I did neither.

I returned the fond farewell, knowing I didn’t mean a word of it. I felt like I was in high school all over again and had just been made a fool of by the prom queen.

I thought of the things that I’ve begrudged others, debts that haven’t been paid me. Hmmm, maybe what goes around does come around after all….

I often wished this had happened. But, alas, I’m going to have to suck it up and live with my regrets. I have a class reunion coming up next year. I am definitely going. If she is there, I’m going to give her the fifty dollars I owe her. She probably won’t remember I owe it to her. If she doesn’t take it, I’ll make a contribution to some organization. I need to fix this!

me and the beauty queen

God bless and have a good day.

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