Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Act of Forgiveness

For the first time in my walk with the Lord I have been asked to share my testimony. Here is the twist, I am sharing it in regards to how it relates to relationships such as those of Ruth and Naomi. To say that I am a bit nervous about putting my last 20 plus years out there for my church friends to hear is a little bit of an understatement. When my friend Alex asked me to do this it was honestly an answer to prayer as I had been asking God to allow me to use my story or to develop my testimony.

It is hard to know where my testimony begins because as far back as I can remember I have loved the Lord and knew and accepted that He is my savior. I do remember going to church in my young years and being asked to "pray the sinner's prayer," but otherwise I always have known in my heart that my decision has been to follow God. My friend nicely told me to share about my childhood, relationships, and how those have impacted my walk with the Lord. This has at least given me a place to start. If you have been reading my blog for a few years you know that I have had my share of trials, but I honestly feel that those trials added to the testimony of my son and sister and I was fortunate to see God answer prayers over and over again.

To start with sharing how forgiveness has impacted my walk with the Lord I have to share that I was blessed with the ability to be a part of Andy Stanley's forgiveness series a few years ago. It came at a time in my life where I was faced with lots of unknowns including the release of my father from prison. I struggled with how to mend our relationship. I also struggled with creating healthy/yet loving relationships with others in my family as I had been hurt over and over again. This study led me to the conclusion that there was NOTHING in life that required me to carry a grudge. Jesus had made the ultimate sacrifice for me and I owed it to Him (as my savior) to do the same.

I went online to see if I could find Andy Stanley's series and I ran across the following Life App: Forgiveness by Jeff Henderson: His introduction states: "Holding a grudge is a guilty pleasure. We all love to think about how we would have just the right words to say at just the right time to make our enemies feel small in front of all the right people. But what if holding a grudge is more sinister than we think? What if the grudge is less about the other person and more about us? What if there is a better way to handles these kinds of situations?"

Jeff Henderson goes on to ask some of the similar questions that Andy Stanley does in his series. The following questions hit straight to my heart: What does the cross have to do with our ability to forgive? Read Romans 12:19-20. Do you find comfort in this verse? Do you believe that God will avenge the wrong done to you? How does the thought of meeting your enemy's needs feel to you? What is really tough with the term "enemy" is that often times that enemy is a very member of our family. I firmly believe that this grieves God's heart. He does not want there to be hate amongst us. In the study that I did years ago the most powerful activity that Andy asked us to do was to bury our grudges; literally. He gave several examples of ways that we could do this. I chose to do it the most useful way; I wrote it all out. Take a piece of paper and write the person's name at the top of the paper. In some cases this might require several pieces of paper (especially in areas of childhood abuse). Next start writing every single thing that this person has done to "wrong" you. Next pray over each and every one of them making it right between you and the Lord. Andy says that some people benefit from then taking this piece of paper and burying it outside and marking it with a cross. This step was not needed for my heart because I realized as I slowly asked the Lord to fill the gap in my heart that was so hurt that I truly felt a lifting of a heavy feeling that I had been holding on to for far too long. I urge you friends and family, forgive. There is nothing in life worth carrying around the cross that has already been done for us.

One final note: there is nothing to be gained by keeping this piece of paper or sharing it with the enemy or others. The step of reaching out to them will come later. In my case an apology/forgiveness (short and sweet) letter laid heavy on my heart and I later sent it. It was well received and allowed another piece of the puzzle to be made whole. Reach out in love and take the full forgiveness that the Lord has to offer.

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