11 March 2013

Next Step in the healing process: Forgiveness

After a hard week, I am ready to work on our next step in my little mini series about My New Habit - the process of healing. My eyes were opened to many deep hurts, that were then followed by many bad habits. I have ups and downs, but I think I am on the way of healing. But before that can happen, we need to talk about the next step: forgiveness.

"Forgiving everyone who is involved in my problem".
Forgiveness is huge. And it works on so many levels. There is to forgive and being forgiven, to forgive others as well as ourselves, and being forgiven by God, others, and ourselves.

That forgiveness comes with a price tag. The tag reads responsibility. Because when I take responsibility of my actions and reactions, I can't play the blame-game anymore. No more excuses. No more hiding behind the past. If there is something my parents did not teach me, well guess what, it is time to learn it now. If they did something wrong, that does not give me the right to do the same mistake again.

It was an action to take control of that responsibility. And it is and will be an action to forgive. For some people, it is easy to forgive, sincerely. I could even exercise this already (read here) long time before I ever read this book. Then for others, it is rather hard. Actually the thought to have to forgive is stressing me out, and for now, I have pushed it to the side.

A question came to mind. How does forgiveness work? I mean for the real deep hurts. The hurts that sit so deep that for the longest time, I did not realize they were still there. I had not even realized that they had shaped a big part of me, a part that is not so flattering at all. How do you forgive that?

My best friend Beth helped me, in talking it through. We spoke about every step. It is a process. Of the mind. And over time. It is an action that needs to be taken; a responsibility to be chosen over and over again, until it will be done. And once that forgiveness is deep enough, I will feel free again, I will be healed. (#goosebumps)

Whew, that is a big step still to be faced. I am not looking forward to facing it over and over again, but I am eager to reach the end of it. I want to forgive, because that will set ME free. That will heal ME. And that will change MY life for the better. I can not wait.

But.... that is not all. 
What? you ask. Yep, there is more to forgiveness, more to the process of healing:
forgiving yourself

When I read it at first, I was like: what? Why do I need to do that? For what? I didn't do anything to myself, did I? And then it came to me, very clearly......  that I did need to forgive myself!!!
For the sins I have done, resulting from my bad habits - habits that I taught myself because I was so hurt. Habits created by fear. Habits to rather push everyone out of my life before they could hurt me again, making the assumption that's what they were going to do. I needed to forgive myself for the many hurts I have done to others.

I knew what it meant for me. It meant to forgive myself because God had forgiven me already. He also had thrown it into "the sea of His forgiveness and His forgetfulness" as Mr. Seamands calls it, and then had "put a sign on it that read 'No fishing allowed.'" And that is exactly what I had done in the past! I might have thought that I forgave myself, and maybe I forgot it for a while, too, but for sure, I went back after a time and went fishing for those sins. Once I had them in my hands again, I could beat myself up again and again, thinking I would never be enough for anybody, not for God, not for my husband, my parents, my children, or my friends. And part of me felt 'good' in that victim-role, too. It felt like a shield of protection around me. Kind of like 'Life is tough, and so am I'-attitude.

But No More of that! I have asked for forgiveness and received it and accepted it and it is done now!

Yet, there is one more thing to forgiveness.
Now that you know that you can be forgiven and that you are able to forgive, you really need to accept and receive it. God's grace is infinite and we do not understand it. I think, God never intended for us to understand it. His love is never-ending, unchangeable and unconditional. And because He loves us, He can show us mercy and grace. I believe, it is actually easy for Him to do so. The problem is not God's, it's ours! We are either unable to believe Him and His forgiveness, or we can't accept it, because we think our sins were too big. God is doing what He promised, but we are not doing OUR part!

Believe me, I am preaching here to myself!  So now we turn that around: if we are not receiving that unconditional love and forgiveness, we fail to show others that same unconditional love and forgiveness. And that is a sin in itself. Because we are suppose to become more Christ-like: because He showed us mercy (which we need to accept), we can show mercy to others now. (We love because He loved us FIRST. (1 John 4:19))

At first, I did not understand. I was still blinded by my own sin, and the role of the victim still laying on me with the unwillingness to see that this might be true. Blinded by my own pity, I did not want to think of handing out love. My self-centeredness literally screamed for more love for ME - it was not interested in giving love to others. Because that old Self thought that everybody else had enough love already but that I needed more, or any. Really, I was my own worst enemy! But even those enemies, we need to forgive them! I needed to forgive myself.

How wrong I was! How could I have expected to receive love when I did not want to show it. No wonder that most of my relationships in the past drifted apart or broke off. It is unhealthy to only think of oneself in a relationship.
Relationships are a two-way street! They mean taking risks, being vulnerable and open, and to give MORE rather than less. It means to spend hours with my God, building the relationship I want with Him and He wants with ME. It means cooking and cleaning, even if the Hubby does not say thank you each time (which he does!). It means to take care of children that are so ungrateful to the things we do as mothers. (And by ungrateful I mean that they don't understand it yet, but hopefully one day, they will understand the sacrifices we made for them. And if not, that is okay, too, because I get my satisfaction from knowing I did what God wanted me to do.) It means to help a friend in need, even when we do not get anything back in return.

I think I really learned my lesson. Taking responsibility meant to put away anger and resentment and take action to forgive and change and give. It meant to leave the vicious cycle that I was riding (like a merry-go-round) - for a better path, a straight path towards a goal!

There are still days where I ask myself how much God wants me to serve and hold the other cheek.... but then I remember that my strength comes from the Lord (Psalm 121:2), and that His faithfulness is my reward (not human failure or success, or the uncertainty of which one it will be) (Psalm 36:5-6).
AND: God has a purpose "for those sins, failures, and hurts that happened earlier in my life". (Romans 5:3-5) He will wrap them up in His love for me. When He sets me free, He will set free a cycle far less vicious than the one I just came off. A cycle where I can extend His love for me to others, to be able to give grace and love to the people around me.


C. Beth said...

This is so great.... Spoke to me personally. Thank you.