Forgiveness

Today’s piece was birthed from a short string of correspondence that I had with my beloved. Though emotionally and physically estranged from one another, we have maintained communication. And as a result, I haven’t completely been able to move forward because my heart longs for this man who made the decision that we should split. That being said, I wanted clarity. I know from the past that unanswered questions have the potential to drive me crazy, so I wanted to ward off a return to entertaining old strongholds. Nevertheless, in asking questions, I have also learned that we may not receive the answer we hoped to hear. So here is the message I sent to him just yesterday. Mind you, I prayed that God would help me accept whatever response was returned, and to move forward in peace and love.

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While it wasn’t exactly the response I was hoping for, it wasn’t a “no”. At the present moment I am not sure that the “maybe” I received has brought me solace or more confusion. At any rate, what latched onto my spirit was my beloved’s statement, “I just need time to heal and clear my head so maybe one day I can forgive”. Forgive.

Forgiveness seems so very simple in theory, but the reality of the action can seem insurmountable for many. I heard somewhere that forgiveness isn’t for the other person (the one who “wronged” us), but forgiveness is something we do for ourselves. I agree with this logic because when we harbor feelings of unforgiveness, it is only stunting our growth and development. All too often those we feel have done us wrong may have no idea that what they said and/or did impacted us in such a profound way as to leave us crippled or damaged emotionally and/or psychologically. Words, which have the power to uplift or destroy, have lasting conscious and subconscious effects on our psyche.

As part of my healing process, I have immersed myself in the music of India Arie, a kindred spirit. Ironically enough, the lyrics to India Arie’s “The Heart of the Matter” rose with me this morning.

I got a call today, I didn’t wanna hear/but I knew that it would come/An old true friend of ours was talkin’ on the phone/She said you found someone/And I thought of all the bad luck,/And all the struggles we went through/How I lost me and you lost you/What are all these voices outside love’s open door/Make us throw off our contentment/And beg for something more?

I’ve been learning to live without you now/But I miss you sometimes/The more I know, the less I understand/All the things I thought I knew, I’m learning them again/I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the Heart of the Matter/But my will gets weak/And my thoughts seem to scatter/But I think it’s about forgiveness/Forgiveness/Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore…

These lines capture the Sound Track of My Life. On the heels of healing from this recent break up, I do find myself missing my beloved sometimes. My thoughts are oftentimes scattered. My will to remain positive does often get weak. And I know with all certainty that forgiveness is at the heart of this matter of brokenness.

After I listened to the song a couple more times I sent the link of a live performance to my beloved. I’m not sure he understood where I was coming from, but I’ve recently decided that I won’t take anything personally. And that includes the lack of response. Afterwards, I went in search of scripture on the topic of forgiveness. Below are those that resonated with my spirit.

Forgiveness Scriptures

Matthew 6: 14-15 (MSG)

“In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.”

Mark 11: 25 (MSG)

“If you have anything against someone, forgive—only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins.”

2 Corinthians 5:17 (MSG)

“We certainly don’t look at him [people] that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!”

Isaiah 43: 25 (Amplified)

“I, even I, am He Who blots out and cancels your transgressions, for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

Daniel 9: 9 (MSG)

“Compassion is our only hope…”

If we work with the logic that forgiveness is something we do for ourselves, then Matthew 6: 14-15 proves that unforgiveness leaves us at a deficit with God—making it impossible for Him to send us the healing that will propel us to our “next level” experience.

Likewise, Mark 11:25 is also proof that we cannot receive forgiveness of our wrongdoings if we haven’t in fact forgiven others.

In the case of 2 Corinthians 5: 17 God is calling us to relinquish our view of the “old man” who “wronged” us. He is calling us to see each other with new eyes. When I woke this morning the following prayer sprang from spirit, out of my mouth, and onto the pages of my notebook/journal:

Lord, help us to see ourselves as you see us. All too often when we look in the mirror the image we see is untrue. We see a fragmented, broken, incapable, unlovable person because of what has been said and/or done to us. But God, give us new eyes that allow us to see our [and other’s] truth—who we are through your eyes.

When we consider Isaiah 43: 25 we find the absolute TRUTH about forgiveness. God himself “blots out and cancels” the remembrance of our wrongdoing(s). And it isn’t for our sake because He says, “…for My own sake…” There you have it right there. Forgiving others is truly something we do for ourselves–for our healing, growth, and spiritual development.

And finally, in Daniel 9: 9 we find the simple solution to the “woes” of humanity, compassion. When we express compassion for our fellow man we are doing what God sent us here to do, love one another as He loves us. When we are able to extend compassion for another person we are essentially freeing ourselves from the bondages that would otherwise keep us from the greater life God has prepared for us. Compassion is a gift, like forgiveness, that we give to ourselves and to others.

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Where Is The Path to Forgiveness?

Co-authors Stasi and John Eldredge noted in the text Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul that, “Until you forgive, you remain their prisoner.”  I have been harboring ill feelings (unforgiveness) towards another human being for the past seven months.  Why?  You ask.  Because he was one more man on the growing list of many who have discarded my heart, love, and affections.  Recovering from the rejection and loss hasn’t been easy.  It’s never easy to bounce back from disappointment.  But it is true that time heals all wounds.  What I have learned is that some wounds take longer to heal.  To this day I am unable to watch one specific commercial because it reminds me too much of the last man who walked away from me.  Because I turn the channel or divert my attention each and every time that commercial comes on, simply proves that I haven’t completely forgiven this man.  I have backed myself into a corner and the only way I can get out is to forgive him.  But the truth is, I don’t know how to get onto the path of forgiveness.

The last man’s rejection left me feeling like the fourteen-year-old version of me.  Once again I was that girl searching for guidance from a father that wasn’t available—physically or emotionally.  Each time a man has chosen to leave, the pain of that initial rejection from my father resurfaces, and I once again question my self worth.  When my father divorced my mother he divorced himself from me too because our relationship hasn’t been the same ever since.  While we have made some headway over the years, the little girl that lives inside me wants her dad(dy) to be there to shield, rescue and comfort her from the harsh realities of life.

I remember vividly the moment when I knew my father wasn’t returning—not just from the trip he’d gone on—but to his family.  My family had recently returned from a three-week cross-country vacation in our motor home.  My older brother had just graduated from high school, and I was fourteen years old.  My father had left for Michigan (not sure if it was business or pleasure that time) and when he didn’t come back when he was expected, I knew that my nuclear family would be forever changed.  One night I awoke to odd sounds downstairs.  Slowly, I crept down the stairs to find my mother on the floor in the living room shredding—quite literally–my father’s hunting rifles.  Without making a sound I sat there on the steps for a few moments.  My mother must have been in a trance because she never noticed me, never heard me, never turned around, and never stopped hacking.  As she hacked away at the guns, I knew with all certainty that their marriage was in serious trouble.  When my father finally returned home a week or two later, he merely came to retrieve some personal items.  Just like that I had become a statistic.  I was one of those kids whose parents divorced.  I was one of those kids growing up without a father in the home.  Sure, he lived in the same city, just a few miles a way in fact, but from that moment forward our relationship was strained.  I was a girl without her father’s guidance.  I was a teenage girl who was clueless about navigating the interests of the male species.

I think I’ve spent the past twenty-something years running from the pain of being the statistic—the 50% of North American children whose parent’s divorce.  Along with that, I presume that I’ve subconsciously, and to some degree, consciously feared that every man who walks into my life will do the same thing my father did—unexpectedly leave.  It’s the classic case of the self-fulfilling prophecy.  Psychologists define this phenomenon as the process in which an individual’s expectations about another individual eventually lead the other individual to behave in the way that confirms their expectations.  This is to say that I expected every man who entered my life to also one day exit my life because they were men, just like my father, not capable and/or interested in maintaining their commitment.

I don’t want to be a closed flower or a caged bird.  I don’t want to be hard and calloused.  I don’t want to stop feeling.  But I do want to know love, security, protection, passion, and commitment.  I want the freedom to love without the fear of being rejected.  I want the freedom of being quirky.  I want the freedom to express myself without being misunderstood.  I simply desire to be free from other’s judgments.  I seek to live a life without regrets or condemnation.  I admit to making my fair share of mistakes.  I am far from perfect, and I’m okay with that.  I want to also be okay with life’s disappointments without them decimating me emotionally and psychologically.

I’ve come to realize that I’m that little girl who’s craving for her father’s attention.  I’m the same little girl who followed her father out into the garage or out into the yard.  I’m that same girl—only now a woman—seeking her father’s validation and love.  If my father had let me, I probably would have followed him everywhere.  It didn’t matter if he was tinkering with one of his motorcycles or playing with a turkey call, I wanted to be right there stealing away some of his love, time and attention.  Perhaps I’ve been doing the same thing all these years later.  Though every man has been different, the desire has remained the same—maintain the commitment and give me the attention and love I didn’t get from my father.

Today I’m asking God to heal my heart once and for all.  I’m asking God to give me all the love and attention that I lacked from my earthly father.  I undoubtedly love my earthly father, but have come to understand that we cannot go back in time to reclaim what has been lost.  I forgive him for his humanity and hope that he can do the same for me.  If there is one thing I have gleaned over the years, it is that we are all doing the best we can with the information we have obtained.

As I close, there are questions that I need God, The Father, to answer.  What is it that makes me special?  What do you see in me?  What makes me captivating?  When the answers to these questions are revealed, I am confident that the constant yearning in my heart will dissipate and a peace I’ve never known will fill me to overflowing.  And so I ask you dear reader, what question(s) do you need The Father to answer?