Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dysfunctional Forgiveness

This morning our pastor spoke on forgiveness.

I smugly sat there thinking I knew all about the topic.  Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t sitting there with an attitude.  I wasn’t being a jerk and with arms folded and a sour expression.  I was honestly happy to be in the house of God.  When I realized what the message was about I remember thinking that we can all use a reminder to pray about whatever cancers we are letting eat away at us.  But God did not just show me a face or two.  I was struck by a tsunami.  To be honest, I’m not even sure I could describe the flood of faces, names and emotions that were pouring through me.  I was overwhelmed.  I was broken.

When I say broken, I’m not exaggerating.  I was destroyed.  Tears streamed down my face.   I was a sobbing mess.  I cried and snotted (calling it like it was) so hard I had no choice but to make my way to the altar because that’s where the tissues are located.  I know my husband loves me, but I thought he might frown at his sleeve being used as a Kleenex.  Finding myself at the altar, I figured I probably needed to go ahead and kneel for some Jesus time.  I’m only half kidding.  Truth be told, I was on autopilot at this point.  My emotions had taken over.

So I cried out to God.

What was so different about this message?  I could tell you before I went today that we should all forgive.  I know revenge hurts us.   I know God calls us to pray for and love our enemies.  I’ve even done some of that.  It wasn’t the part about forgiving that broke me.  It was the part about what forgiveness is NOT that hit me to the core.  I’m going to discuss the main points that really hit home to me this morning.  If you want to dig further, please follow the link and watch the sermon from 9/29/13 (once it is uploaded).  I recommend it highly!

Later in the sermon, pastor pointed out that forgiveness is not overlooking, excusing, minimizing or taking blame for the wrong.  He then pointed out what forgiveness does look like…but this part of the sermon is what knocked me over the head.  I do all of those.  I realized my forgiveness is dysfunctional. 

I am a peacemaker.  My nature is not one of conflict but of reconciliation.  While this is not a bad thing, there are times I let it turn me into a doormat.  I am terrible about doing every one of those things.

“Oh, it’s over.  No big deal.” (Overlooking)

“Hey, I know you were going through a lot.” (Excusing)

“I probably overreacted.” “I know you didn’t mean to blah blah.”  (Minimizing)

“I know I could have been more blah blah.” “It’s my fault.”  (Taking blame)

I go a step further.

I realized today that I have refused to deal with serious hurt because I never acknowledged the wrong that was done to me. 

It is difficult to explain, but I will share a few examples God brought to mind:

I had a great position at work.  It was nothing I’d get wealthy at, but it was perfect for me.  I was helping others daily.  I felt I was in line with my calling.  Right after my father died and my life was turned upside down for an emergency surgery, they “promoted” me…to the one place I absolutely did NOT want to go.  I realized today I had never dealt with the anger.  I was so busy dealing with the stress and mourning my other position.  But it hurt.  They were confident in my ability, so they refused to hear me.  I was healing.  I was exhausted.  I was not ready.  They did not care.  Looking back, they did me a grave injustice.  I had a rough time in that new location and ended up requesting to step into another position.  So I turned it all inward and beat myself up.  I thought of all the things I could have done differently.  I never just acknowledged the wrong that was done to me. 

After that, I was offered a “dream” position elsewhere that turned into a nightmare.  It did not end well.  I thought I had forgiven them, but I haven’t.  What they did to me hurt my family.  It sent me into a spiral of depression, and it was just plain wrong.   I won’t go into details, but I’m not the first or last of their victims.  I realized today that I need to seriously ask God for help with this one.  I’m NOT over it, but I will no longer torture myself about what I did wrong.  I didn’t.  THEY wronged ME.  Yes, I need to let it go.  But they are in the wrong.  I acknowledge that. 

There are many other examples that are too personal to share at this time.  (Tsunami, remember?)

Pastor said, “When you minimize the wrong you cheapen the forgiveness.”   Think about that.  Jesus never made light of anyone’s sin.  He just accepted it and forgave them.  We are to look to Jesus as our example.  I’m working on it…

Though details will stay at the altar, I am praying for God’s healing and the ability to move on.  I see now that a lot of the blame I’ve been holding onto is not mine at all.  I’m not healed, but I will be.  I am standing on God’s promises.   He will get me through this, and I will come out stronger.