Lets get right into it shall we? No need to lollygag.
When I was about 2, my parents got divorced. Throughout my childhood there were things that happened between my father and I that made me feel neglected and like he didn’t care. Though that wasn’t true, as I grew older and was mature enough to understand those feelings instead of reconciling, I held onto offense. My dad and I were civil, but there seemed to be something looming in my heart. As things would happen in our relationship, I would keep it fairly bottled up inside. Bad idea folks, bad idea.
Right before my husband and I got married, my dad and I were having issues. With his permission I will share a bit of what happened. Long story short, he didn’t feel included in the planning or process of the wedding and didn’t feel like he needed to come to our wedding. As I sat in my car responding in a very ugly way - cursing, crying and manifesting all over the place more hate and anger filled me. Was this right? Of course not, but that isn’t the point. Stay with me, and don’t get upset.
Looking back, my reaction wasn’t solely based on this news alone, but rather surfaced all the other feelings I had stuffed down deep inside. I was facing years of unkempt emotions that I hadn’t reconciled. To this day, I am not even sure if my dad knew how I had felt for so many years. In the past I had felt abandoned, I had felt alone, and like he didn’t care. The anger that I had held onto for so long was now in my mind being justified by what he had just told me - that he wasn’t coming to our wedding. I wish that I could tell you that everything was smooth sailing from there. It wasn’t. I pretended that I was OK. I pretended that I didn’t care and did my best to protect myself from all the despair swirling inside. As the wedding approached, he did decide to come, walked me down the isle, had a daddy daughter dance, and we were civil once more.
When I started ministry school, I started to read the bible and what I was reading that I was called to be, wasn’t aligning with what I was. I looked in the mirror, and it wasn’t pretty. The way I had coped in the past, by burring all this deep inside and declaring that I was fine even though I wasn’t, just wasn’t cutting it anymore.
One afternoon I was praying and was prompted to call my dad and ask him to come to therapy with me. As I am sure you can imagine, I wasn’t too happy about this. I argued with God, and wrestled with the idea. Now, at this point I had been seeing a therapist for about a year and we had processed a lot of what was going on within me and this dad situation was one of many things troubling my soul. I had shed many tears and really wanted to reconcile, but I was afraid. I was afraid that my dad wouldn’t show up, or that he would say no. These thoughts were probably justifiable, but I knew that if I kept buying that excuse, nothing would change. As I restlessly paced back in fourth, I shakingly dialed his number, and I took the deepest breath and the hardest swallow of my pride as the violin ring back tone was interrupted as he answered the phone. I beat around the bush for a while, as I worked up the courage and rehearsed what I would say in my mind. To the best of my knowledge, the question sounded a little bit like this:
ME: “Umm…. so as you know, I have been seeing a therapist…. and umm well, I was hoping we could get together and talk about some things with her, would you be willing to come?”
DAD: “sure, we can do that.”
Simple. The Lord knew, and He always does. In my arguing and doubting I created my own chaos rather than trusting that good would come out of the question He prompted me to ask. Sometimes the Lord asks us to do something, and what happens after doesn’t seem fair, or right. Continually remember that He always has a great purpose and the best in mind for you, no matter if what is happening around you doesn’t match up with what you think is best or right. He knows.
As the day of our appointment got closer, I started to feel anxiety and doubt test me and ask me if it was worth it. See, the enemy knew how powerful the reconciliation would be, so naturally the jerk was trying to talk me out of it. Yes I just called the devil a jerk. On the day of our appointment I got a call from my dad stating he might not make it. I was crushed. Devastated. As my head hung low, and doubt started to sink in, my husband reminded me to cling to hope. That day I saw my dad go out of his way to make it happen. He made it. He sacrificed for me and he didn’t abandon me.
As we approached the building and I settled into the large familiar chair, my stomach started filling with butterflies, and a knot started to form in my throat. I pressed forward and poured out what I had been wanting to say for quite a while now. I offered an apology for the way I had acted, and the way that I had responded to my feelings. I wanted to make it abundantly clear that no matter what had happened in the past, that I had forgiven him. I truly didn’t expect anything in return, and I didn’t see him the way I did before, I just wanted to move on. I don’t tell you this detail to display that I was the bigger person, or to be braggadocios but rather to explain that I chose to forgive no matter how he responded to our meeting. I had set my feelings aside, my offense that had been stewing inside and chose him still. This is what Jesus did for us, right?
All my life, deep down, I felt like I deserved, and was owed an apology. Though it would have been nice and wouldn’t have been wrong to get one, doesn’t mean it was OK to hold onto offense because I didn’t get one. True forgiveness doesn’t have debt. Bitterness holds accusation that the one who holds the offense is owed something. True forgiveness doesn’t owe a thing, the debt has been paid.
We get to choose what to do with the way we feel. Just because someone may have a reason to feel negative feelings toward someone, doesn’t mean it’s a good choice to do so. I don’t know about you, but the moment I face offense, there is a feeling deep inside in that moment, and I know I have a choice to make. The longer you hold onto bitterness and offense, the deeper it grows.
I was recently talking to my husband about someone he was struggling with. He saw their actions, and explained to me why he felt what they were saying didn’t match up with what they were doing. What he had to say made complete sense, I saw it myself. He definitely had “probable cause”. His feelings weren’t unreasonable. I could see where he was coming from, however as I prayed I was reminded of the verse in Matthew about being a hypocrite.
WHY DO YOU LOOK AT THE SPECK OF SAWDUST IN YOUR BROTHER’S EYE AND PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE PLANK IN YOUR OWN EYE? HOW CAN YOU SAY TO YOUR BROTHER “LET ME TAKE THE SPECK OUT OF YOUR EYE, “ WHEN ALL THE TIME THERE IS A PLANK IN YOUR OWN EYE? YOU HYPOCRITE, FIRST TAKE THE PLANK OUT OF YOUR OWN EYE, AND THEN YOU WILL SEE CLEARLY TO REMOVE THE SPECK FROM YOUR BROTHER’S EYE.
— MATTHEW 7:3-5
I don’t know about you, but I am usually more likely to do just this (try to remove that speck) when I have a giant log in my own. It’s easy to get cocky and accusatory, when I am blinded by a warped lens like this. What is dangerous, is that often times when I am in a situation like this, I don’t realize that I have something affecting my vision. I have found that when I don’t have a skewed perspective, I am less likely to ‘attack’ that person with my opinion, which is why we are probably warned by this very thing in the bible.
I think a good rule of thumb is to inspect your heart first before confronting. Ask questions like, but not limited to :
What am I struggling with personally?
Why am I bothered by what they are doing, and am I walking in this in fullness?
What are the ugly feelings I have inside and where are they coming from?
Have I felt these feelings towards this person before?
How long have I felt this way? When did it start?
These questions are an invitation for your heart and mind to enter a purification process. Normally these questions will get to the root of the issue within me and give me an opportunity to repent, and forgive.
The beauty of taking issues to the the Lord first is that if you are inspected before you open your mouth or your actions cause an issue, you don’t have to go back and clean up a big mess. When I first started this journey of forgiveness, I had a lot of messes to clean up. It’s imperative to clean up any mess you have made — its not fun but it will grow you in humility, freedom, and create a fresh slate. Some of your hearts are screaming as you read this :
“ BUT I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG!”
“WHY DO I HAVE TO APOLOGIZE?!
“IT’S NOT FAIR!” "
“THEY ARE THE ONE WHO NEEDS TO APOLOGIZE TO ME, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND!! “
Sweet friend, let yourself be free. You are not blameless if you are thinking these thoughts. Life isn’t fair, and no one owes you anything.
When we take offense, we have a reason to apologize no matter if we had probable cause to act in a foolish way. Like I said before, just because someone may have a reason to feel negative feelings toward someone, doesn’t mean it’s a good choice to do so. You are only putting yourself in prison.
Seek the Lord in your situation and handle according to what He shows you. Be careful to be intentional about seeking what the Lord shows you in your situation verses what logic tells you. Put your heart and mind on the inspection table, and wait for a diagnosis. Don’t let temporary uncomfortability rob you of the freedom that results from it.
Once I have repented I do my best to do a couple things to make sure my mind is renewed.
Ask the Lord how He sees that person.
This give you the opportunity to align your heart and mind to the one who created them.
Agree with what the Lord has to say about them.
This gives you the opportunity to speak fourth what may not be true in the physical, and renew your mind at the same time.
Pray for them.
Praying for someone does more than I am accurately able to put into words. When we pray for someone else, we invest in their change through the power of Christ in them. We partner with the faith Christ has for them and fuel the fire of change to burst forth in their lives. Prayer changes everything. Prayer is an investment with an eternal reward. When we pray, we invest in their life through the promise prayer provides.
Choose Forgiveness, it will change your world. Don’t let your feelings rule you, but instead make your feelings follow rules. Admit to your shortcomings, don’t blame them on other people. Handle your business, clean up your messes, and as our pastor says well, if the shoe fits wear it.