The Process of Forgiveness: Steps 1 to 70×7

steps Recently I’ve had a few people tell that if I’ve forgiven my husband I should be in a better place.  From what I’ve heard I shouldn’t be angry at him again.  The only problem with this idea is that I gotta deal with the man and he’s difficult so that’s gonna be real hard.

It isn’t so much how he treats me – honestly, whatever.  But I do have a hard time with how he treats my kids.  So being human, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna have to forgive him repeatedly and sometimes I’m gonna even get angry before I forgive.

I think there is this thought that once you forgive you forget and live happily ever after.  I wish that was the case.  It’s really more like this:

Forgive…move forward…something unpleasant happens…forgive again…move forward again…something difficult happens…forgive again…repeat until heaven…

I think if you are to a place that you don’t have to repeatedly forgive an unrepentant person for their continued rotten actions – you rock!  And I mean that! And I do truly wish I could be like you.

But I’m finding forgiveness to be a rather long and arduous process.  But God in his infinite wisdom, grace, love and faithfulness has some instructions and some encouragement for me (and you if you are like me).

I guess the first thing is this

Forgiveness takes time, effort, intentionality and God.

I don’t have it in myself to be a completely forgiving person, but God is utterly and infinitely forgiving and I have Him so that makes all the difference.

God can enable me to forgive anyone, but He also allows this whole forgiveness thing to be part of my sanctifying.  Do you remember how many times Jesus said you have to forgive?  70×7.  (Matthew 18:21-22) His point was that we need to forgive a lot.  Why would He say that we were gonna need to forgive so much if we weren’t gonna need to forgive so much?

I think that if Jesus was just talking about how much we forgive in general he wouldn’t have even needed to say 70×7.  I can absolutely forgive one person one time…it’s having to repeatedly forgive the same person that’s tricky.

In my situation with my ex – forgiveness must be offered without request or repentance.  In fact, I think we have been moving farther away from repentance rather than closer to it over these past few years.  So forgiveness is challenging – and continually choosing to forgive is also challenging (sometimes almost as much as the first time).

In marriage we must continually offer forgiveness.  It is the same in divorce.  But I’m kinda getting the impression from people that it is not okay to have to repeatedly forgive my ex.  That I should forgive and move on already.  (I think that is a message I’m getting about a lot of things, but I will hit that in another post.)

When I forgave my husband’s adultery and then his abandonment I didn’t’ understand the nature of forgiveness…at least not totally.  I kind of expected some warm fuzzies and some serious peace about things…a happily ever after of sorts.  Although I did experience that peace which passes all understanding, it came with a cost.  I had to and continue to have to lay aside my feelings in order to embrace the gospel as it relates to forgiveness.  And boy does it!

God has modeled forgiveness for us…and to us.

Forgiveness requires sacrifice on the part of the forgiver.

God sacrificed His son and Jesus sacrificed His life so that we could be forgiven.  God didn’t want to be separated from us so He made that sacrifice.  So that he could have a relationship with us.  That forgiveness offer is available to anyone who accepts it, but it only changes the nature of our relationship with Him when we accept it.  If someone doesn’t accept it – the relationship is not restored…in fact, there is no relationship.  And that sin still separates and grieves the Lord.  In fact, my sin still grieves the Lord even though I can ask for forgiveness and receive reconciliation.

Forgiveness is offered over and over again.

God continues to forgive me even when I sin repeatedly.  He accepts my repentance every single time.  He never says, “Sorry that is the 70×8 time you’ve done that…we are done.”  Oh my, I’m so thankful He doesn’t.

The difficulty we have…those of us who forgive because we are called to not because it was asked for by the offender…is that we must often deal with repeatedly being offended and continually having to offer forgiveness.

What has helped me immensely is understanding that I have truly been forgiven so very much and that, but for the grace of God, I could be that offender…that person who rebels.  I could be rotten…well rottener.  That gives me a measure of grace for my ex.

I see that often forgiveness is like love…it’s a choice I make, something I do even if I don’t feel it.  I decide I’m going to be gracious and kind and I act that way.  But that gracious kind way might have to come after a little bit of fussiness and anger.

But honestly, to think that the lousy things my ex-husband does are not gonna bug me?  Really.  (Please comment if you have no problem with that sort of thing and tell me how you do it!)

I love my kids and when they are hurting my mama bear comes out…can’t seem to help that.

And that brings me to my second point…

Anger isn’t bad.

It’s what we do with that anger that can be very bad.  Feeling a justified emotion is not a sin, but acting bitterly, unkindly, rudely, and punitively is.

God doesn’t say, “Don’t get angry.”  God says, “Don’t sin in your anger.”

It isn’t a bad emotion, it’s a valid emotion God gave us to signal that something is wrong…something needs to be dealt with.

God gets angry…and I am made in His image.

What about the Old Testament?  God has some righteous anger at Israel…it’s justified and often acted upon but always with the purpose of drawing His people back to Him.   Responding to my anger with the purpose of just simply punishing is wrong, but taking my anger to God and asking Him to give me wise ways to deal with it…that’s good.

I have read back through my blogs and I don’t see that I’m sinning in my anger at my ex-husband.  I admit I have anger towards him at times…again, human.  But I truly am trying to not sin in my anger.

The amazing thing is that God uses my anger to draw me closer to Him.  He’s cool that way.  He uses everything in our lives – if we will let Him – to draw us closer to Him.  He sanctifies us in the most amazing ways.

So despite what some people say or think, I do think I’m in a good place.  I’m forgiven and I’m learning to continually forgive…so far I think I’m on step 659… 🙂

Father, guard us against being prideful, bitter, and angry.  Soften our hearts, “renew a right spirit” within us, and give us compassion for our ex-spouses (Psalm 51:10).  Please help us be like Christ.  It seems impossible at times, but You tell us that we “can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens” us (Philippians 4:13), and we ask that You would give us strength to forgive 70×7 times because forgiveness gives us the ability to move forward and enables us to be used by You.  God, help us give our children the gift of a forgiving, loving parent.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Prayer adapted from When Happily Ever After Shatters: Seeing God in the Midst of Divorce and Single Parenting by me 🙂

A Quiver Full of Wonderful

family shot for churchRecently I was interviewed for an article in an absolutely beautiful Christian magazine. It was a pleasure to speak to the interviewer and I hoped that my message would be a blessing to anyone who read the article.

Unfortunately, I was not blessed by reading the article. I was distraught. I was so surprised by the things I was quoted as saying. I can’t imagine saying them. In fact, I’m pretty sure I didn’t. If I did, I need to apologize to every reader. I really truly hope I didn’t.

There were several quotes that frustrated me but one that simply pushed me over the edge.

“I don’t think I was a bad wife. We just had lots of kids,
and life got in the way of our marriage.”

WHAT????? I can’t believe those words would have come out of my mouth! Lots of kids…well…yeah, but they are a BLESSING!!!!!

And life got in the way of our marriage? Our life was part of our marriage…the choices we made together to raise children, adopt children, homeschool children, work a high-pressured job, and be involved in our church and community were things that together we decided would enrich our marriage, our family, and our life.

I NEVER EVER EVER want my children to think that they in ANY WAY had ANY PART in the divorce of their parents. THEY DID NOT!!!!

My husband leaving was solely his deal. His issue…not mine and most definitely NOT THEIRS!

I’m not sure if you can tell that I’m quite passionate about this…quite annoyed too.

This is exactly the message I hear so often – “Well, your life was really full…” as if full is a bad thing!?!

Full of what?

Children?

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. Psalm 127:3-5

God has a wonderful way of describing a house full of children – a heritage, a reward, arrows, a blessing…what’s not to like about that!

YES! Our life was full…it was full of…LIFE!

Meals shared, prayers uttered, stories read, games played, hugs and kisses given, bedtime snuggles, wrestling matches, workdays, school book studying, chores nagging, yard work doing, church services worshipping, Bible study learning, small group getting-together, pool splashing, bike riding, football throwing, soccer ball booting, basketball shooting, scraped knees and broken bone comforting, vacation loving, family visiting, being and growing and doing this whole living thing together!

It was not perfect, but it was beautiful. It was crazy. It was fun. It was frustrating. It was difficult. It was loving. It was a blessing. It was our life. And it was worth fighting for.

I guess I just want to say that I don’t believe that I was perfect nor do I believe that our life was perfect, but I do believe that it was just right for us. I believe that our children were and still are blessings…wonderful, silly, sometimes stinky blessings.

I believe that the challenges are worth it.

I believe that the day to day living of life as a family is exquisite.

I know I cannot go back and fix my family or that article…but I can tell you that it has given me a new resolve to enjoy my family…all the exhaustion, all the chaos, all the challenges… it has reminded me that this life is a blessing that I don’t want to miss.

Lately I’ve uttered words to God like, “I don’t want to do this anymore,” and “I can’t do this anymore.” But God is reminding me that I do really want to do this life…that I love this life. And He is showing me that I can do this because I have Him…and it is worth the fight.

I might have lost the fight for my marriage, but I did not lose the fight for my family. I have them right here with me and I’m proud to say that I have a full quiver of arrows! I will be the mighty warrior in this family and protect and fight for it!

Leaving is Not an Option…This Family is About Staying

no exit picThere is something profoundly painful about a child saying they want to leave. It cuts to the core.
I know that when my children say things like, “I’ll just go live with Dad,” or “I’ll just go live with insert name” or even “I want a different mommy,” it’s more about being frustrated than actually leaving…at least I hope so.
Lately two of my children have said those words to me. It causes me to gasp inwardly. The pain is acute. I believe this falls into the category of you hurt the ones you love. Again, at least I hope so.
Children can use words frightfully well to hurt, and they certainly know the words that push the most buttons. Oh how I wish they wouldn’t push this button. It hurts too much.
My teenage daughter said it last night. She’s in a tough spot in lots of ways and I know I’m a safe place to vent, but dang it, ouch! It hurts because it means I’m not enough…just me being mom isn’t good enough. And instantly I go to just like me being wife wasn’t good enough…I know that those things aren’t necessarily true, but they are thoughts I have…thoughts I need to take captive.
Maybe for children of divorce this is a “weapon” in their arsenals? It would make sense. It’s a stronger version of pitting parent against parent.
When my daughter uttered those words I didn’t respond. I didn’t know what to say and I feared I’d just start weeping buckets if I opened my mouth. Thankfully I was driving so I kept my eyes on the road. And I prayed.
I don’t want my children to think that leaving our family is actually a viable option…a reasonable option. It’s absolutely not. Their father used that option with disastrous results for all of us. I refuse to let this be a generational sin…it will stop with him! So what do I do?
I know my first course of action is to pray and pray hard. And I need to trust God. Trust Him with my children and their future.
And I will try to hold my tongue and my temper. And I will listen. And regardless of how unkind my children are, I will love them. Regardless of how tired I am, I will love on them. And I will model that love is a choice…a choice to stay regardless of how you feel or what you want to change or not change.
Maybe I need to share openly with my children about how their comments hurt? I’ll have to think about that one. Maybe I need to tell them gracefully and gently that leaving is NOT an option. Period. Ever.
And I definitely need to remember that my children are hurting. That my children are confused and scared. Just like me Lord, they long for life to be different. I pray that my children will find their hope and strength in the Lord and Him alone and that they know with certainty that their Heavenly Father will never leave them nor forsake them. (Joshua 1:5)
And no matter how often they declare they will leave me, I will not leave them.
Father, my sweet children are living such a different life than I had hoped and planned. We’re all struggling. God, I need wisdom to do this well. I need strength and patience I don’t feel capable of exhibiting. Father, I pray that you will protect my children and guide their decisions. Please reveal your love to them in unexpected and amazing ways. Please help them to know that you have a wonderful plan for their lives and that the struggle is doable with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.