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There's a scene in the 1988 movie BIG that best illustrates my struggle to understand what I'd always been taught about forgiveness. A young boy named Josh Baskin (played by Tom Hanks) awakes to discover he is trapped inside the body of a thirty-year-old man. He later acquires a job at McMillan Toys and finds himself in a meeting where a co-worker utilizes charts and graphs to communicate the value of a product. Sure of his sales delivery, the man smugly asks in closing, "Any questions?"
Josh uses his peripheral vision to scan the room for someone--anyone who appears to be as baffled as he is, but there are no visible signs of camaraderie. Still a child on the inside, he half-raises his hand, and in a sheepish tone, says, "I don't get it."
For many years I sought the wisdom of what "grown ups" had to say about the topic of forgiveness. I read their books. I prayed their prayers. I recited their words of affirmation, but like Josh, the child inside me didn't get it. Not once did I raise my hand and confess the struggle; I tried harder. My adult efforts to get forgiveness "right," muffled the sound of Christ calling to the confused kid in my heart. The one who like Josh Baskin, failed to grasp what I was taught even as I longed to understand.
I can't tell you how to forgive in a single-prayer-filled bound because that's not my story. All I have to offer is my witness--what happened when I became like a little child, half-raised my hand toward heaven, and confessed: I don't get it. And I really don't get Mark 11: 25--26. It's a real heart crusher, Jesus.
"And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone,
forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive your trespasses."
Why would Jesus tell the brokenhearted and exploited that if they do not forgive, God will not forgive them? I'll say out loud what a lot of folks ponder: What an insensitive thing to say to someone who is clearly suffering!
Bingo. When I read the eleventh chapter of Mark in its entirety, I see that Jesus was not addressing a battered women's shelter that day.
He'd just come from the temple where he'd overturned the tables of money-changers, and the seats of those who sold doves. He was fed up with the hypocrisy of the scribes and chief priests, and with bull-whip in hand, expressed his Father's hot displeasure. Jesus was angry.
Within the context of pride and arrogance stern and admonishing words are often necessary. Jesus sees the contents of my heart. When I'm hypocritical and judgmental, he turns the tables over in my heart, and I find out in a hurry, I'm not too grown up to be disciplined. The nature of this circumstance merits stern words of caution, however, when my heart is broken by the careless sin of another, Jesus draws me with cords of loving-kindness.
It is not the nature of Christ to point a condemning finger at a little lamb who's caught in the thickets of an honest struggle to forgive. It's his nature to untangle these little ones and carry them home.
Often times, well-meaning clergy and lay ministers are quick to affirm the benefits of forgiveness but fail to recognize the validation and comfort many need to fully heal and forgive as Christ commands--from the heart.
Mark 11:25--26 may not have been directly spoken to victims and secondary victims of abuse/betrayal that day, but the fact remains; the Christian imperative to forgive is directed to all believers. Today, I see this passage in a way that is relevant to the struggle without compromising its integrity.
"And whenever you stand praying,
if you have anything against anyone,
that your Father in heaven
may also forgive your trespasses" (Mark 11:25).
Forgiveness is GREEK to me!
The Strong's Greek transliteration for stand is to stand firm; persevere.
Forgive (aphiemi) translates to: lay aside, leave, let go
af-ee'-ay-mee (phonetic spelling) derives from apo and hiemi. (to send; to send forth, in various applications (as follow): cry, forgive, forsake, lay aside, leave, let (alone, be, go, have), omit, put (send) away, remit, suffer, yield up.
It's origin is apo; a primary particle; "off," i.e. away (from something near), in various senses of place, time, or relation; lit. or fig.) In composition (as a prefix) it usually denotes separation, departure, cessation, completion or reversal, etc. (copyright 1995, 1996 by Thomas Nelson.)
As you can see, there's a bit more to forgiving one's enemy than mere words we speak from our lips with hearts in protest. Jesus says we must forgive from our hearts. What I've come to realize in my faith journey is that when my heart is too broken to forgive, Jesus will wipe my tear-stained cheeks, offer his sleeve in place of a tissue, and invite me into the heart of the matter. Will I follow?
The Heart of Mark 11: 25--26
1) When I pray fervently in daily distress, I am standing in prayer.
2) When I tell God what I hold against the person who harmed me, I am "sending, remitting, yielding up"--to Him, my grievances.
3) When I am willing to "lay aside" the belief that it is immoral to feel intense emotion when I have suffered harm, I will "cry." I will "suffer." I will "yield up" to God exactly what I think and feel about the harm done to me. I am free to confess my destructive re-actions under no condemnation (Romans 8:1).
4) I allow myself to experience the daily conversion of heart.
5) When it's time. He prompts me to forgive from my heart. And it is an honest gift, not given begrudgingly, but with the love Jesus first gave to me.
This is the miracle of authentic forgiveness. This is my prayer for you.
Peace and good to you,
Published on Tuesday, October 1, 2019 @ 11:10 AM CDT
A friend of mine is trudging through the devastating effects of infidelity. I've been there. It's a difficult and painful process. Some spouses forgive immediately. It is possible, but I don't personally know anyone who has, and God knows I didn't. Thankfully, Christ's strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Even when marriage partners decide to work it out and stay together, it's tempting to give up during moments of despair. And I'll be honest, there will be moments of despair.
If you can relate, let me first say, "I'm so very sorry for what you're going through." If you and your spouse have decided to work it out, I encourage you to down shift and accept the fact that healing takes time--and lots of it. There will be moments when one of you is "up" and the other "down." Days when you're both optimistic and convinced you're finally "over it," followed by weeks when you're both down and one of you is convinced that the only way to restore your soul is to bury your spouse in the backyard while you can still plead insanity!
Through it all, the Creator of the universe hovers over the darkness . . . waiting for you to confess everything you think and feel. Waiting for an invitation into the mess in your hearts and in your home. Humble confessions are the mark of authentic healing. And healing of this sort takes time.
"It takes time" is difficult to hear when all in the world you want to feel is better. You'll get there a lot quicker if you don't tell yourself that good Christians shouldn't have destructive, angry thoughts. The truth is, we're not to meditate on angry thoughts.
2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to "take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ." That's why it's so important to talk to God about everything.
The enemy wants us to believe that the thoughts he interjects rise from within our spirit. This is how he sets up road blocks to confession. He knows we cannot heal from what we attempt to guard or heal in our own strength.
My friend tells me everything. "This is how I feel. This is what I think. These are the conflicting and stinging thoughts that swarm me like bees. I want my marriage to heal. I hate my spouse, I want a divorce!"
One day I asked her, "Do you talk to God the way you talk to me?"
"I can't! I'm not supposed to have these thoughts, I'm a Christian. I'm supposed to forgive. I just keep asking God to heal my marriage."
"I see. But you do have these thoughts.Who cares whether or not you should. Stop showing up for prayer, dressed in your "emotional Sunday best." Confess your thoughts and sinful re-actions to the wounds of infidelity. Christ will forgive you, and that will pave the way for more healing and forgiveness than you can imagine.
Go cry the ugly cry. Confess the ugly circumstances, the ugly thoughts, and the ugly reactions--in the event that you've lost your temper, broken objects you wish you hadn't, or let a few F-bombs fly. I've been there and done it all. (Trust me, it only makes a bad situation worse.)
Practical solution: Show up before God and tell the truth-- again and again. Every time "ugly" rises, bow and confess at the feet of Beauty. We cannot overcome what we deny." Counseling is a good idea, but couple it with intimate confession, or you'll run the risk of inching Christ right out of your Christian counseling.
For how long? For as long as it takes. Confession bridges the gap between the Christian commandment to forgive and your very human, very instinctual desire for apology, restitution, and revenge.
"The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit." (Psalm 34:18 NKJV).
Prayer: May the saving strength of Your right hand guide us through this journey. In Jesus' name, Amen.
What's happened to you matters to God.
We get better together,
(from my archives)
Published on Sunday, September 29, 2019 @ 8:26 AM CDT