Saturday, September 15, 2007

Forgetting What Lies Behind

Entire books have been written describing the forgiveness process, so there's no explaining it in a blog post. But what it comes down to for me is that forgiveness is not a feeling. It's a choice. It's saying before God that you forgive the other person, and then choosing to treat the other person like there's nothing between you. As you honor God by making that choice, He changes your heart.

This is definitely a simplistic explanation.

But there are a whole host of very painful, life-shaping incidents from my past that God's grace has given me the freedom to let go.

There are other things I am still working on letting go of. Things that will most likely take years. And only in heaven will I be able to forgive perfectly.

God's been taking me through the forgiveness process in a whole bunch of areas, some big, some small. Sometimes it's easy to let stuff go, and sometimes it's the hardest thing in the world.

But I've asked Him to help me forgive everyone who has ever hurt me, and He answered with a resounding YES. I don't want to be an old, bitter woman, clinging to hurt from my past. I want to be a sweet, caring, warm, thoughtful woman. Part of becoming that woman is forgetting what lies behind.

God keeps bringing random people out of the woodwork. A business associate who was horrible to my husband three years ago. A teacher who forgot a special day. An old coworker who wrote me off. A self-focused friend.

With each person, I've prayed basically the same thing.
"Abba, I forgive that business associate and choose to treat her like we're fine."
"Abba, I forgive that teacher and choose to treat her like we're fine."
"Abba, I forgive that coworker and choose to treat him like we're fine."
"Abba, I forgive that friend and choose to treat her like we're fine."

This is not just a commitment to treat that person like we're fine TO THEIR FACE. This is a commitment to treat that person like we're fine IN MY THOUGHTS.

Each time, God has faithfully allowed my heart to be filled with compassion for each of those people. And He is giving me freedom! Freedom to continue to relate to them without being bound by past events. Freedom to become warm, caring, thoughtful, sweet.

So I've been going along, battling through the forgiveness process as opportunities present themselves. It's getting to be old hat because I was holding on to a lot of stuff. Each time another incident comes to mind, I'm starting to be able to say, "Oh, here's another one to forgive. I know what to do." It's always ALWAYS a battle to do it each time, but I know the steps by now.

HOWEVER.

This past week, God has thrown me completely for a loop.

He pointed out to me someone I have never forgiven for anything. Someone I hold everything against. Someone I never treat like there's nothing between us. Someone I constantly criticize and belittle. Someone whose flaws I parade in front of others. Someone I shame on a regular basis. Someone I scorn and spurn. Someone I disrespect. Someone I usually refer to with derision.

That someone is me.

Me, Becky Frame, daughter of God, covered by the blood of Christ, heavenbound, beautiful, stainless, spotless, faultless to stand before the Throne of Grace.

God pointed out to me that if I were to treat anyone else as cruelly as I have treated myself, they would be crushed. Defeated. Beaten down.

Horrifying! I would NEVER deride someone the way I deride me.

More than that, though, it makes God sad. He loves me so much and He thinks I am so beautiful, and I make Him smile, and I am a delight to Him. And He doesn't like His kids to get picked on! By anyone!

But even more than God being sad that I hold my every mistake against myself, He is also offended by it. Essentially, I have been saying that His forgiveness isn't enough. A stinging slap in the face to Almighty God.

So I hit a big roadblock along my merry path of my steps to forgiveness. It was one thing to forgive someone else and choose to treat them like we're fine - even in my thoughts. It seemed nearly an impossibility to apply the same to myself.

But knowing the freedom on the other side of the forgiveness fence, I wanted to give it a try. Couldn't hurt, right? So I prayed my forgiveness prayer, feeling slightly weird and very sheepish. "Abba, I forgive...me...and I choose to treat me like...I'm...fine...even in my thoughts..."

Coming swiftly to my aid, God swooped down and wrenched the biggest weight of all off my shoulders. He commanded me to give myself the grace He helps me give to others. How I have been longing to do just that!!!

At first, I had to make the choice to forgive myself every twenty minutes or so. Sometimes more often. That negative self-talk is deeply ingrained.

But over time, as I have tried to honor God by making the choice to forgive myself for all the hurt I've caused in my life, He is faithfully changing my heart. Just as He has given me compassion for those around me that I've forgiven, He is giving me compassion for me.

This is a brand new concept. I marvel at how long it has taken me to simply let go and enjoy having been cleansed!

To rest my clean head upon God's clean chest and let myself be covered by His divine love.

To be HIS!

Now I have a peace I've never known before.

As ever, a song lyric sums it up for me:

Take this world from me
I don't need it anymore
I am finally free
My heart is spoken for

And I praise You
And I worship You

Covered by Your love divine
Child of the risen Lord
To hear You say, "This one's Mine."
My heart is spoken for

Now I have a peace
I've never known before
I find myself complete
My heart is spoken for

And I praise You
And I worship You

By the power of the cross
You've taken what was lost
And made it fully Yours

Now I have been redeemed
By You that spoke to me
Now I am spoken for

Covered by Your love divine
Child of the risen Lord
To hear You say, "This one's Mine!"
My heart is spoken for

-MercyMe

PS The self-focused friend I mentioned is not you. It's someone from my distant past. :-)