The Comfort of Offense

Teenage girl disaster survivorHave you ever wondered why, after forgiving someone, the thought of them, the sound of their voice, the mere mention of their name can set off a chain reaction of negative emotion and stinking thinking ad nauseum? Sometimes, it can get to the point of having conversations in your head … you know the kind … the things you wished you would have thought of when you were first offended. The kind of conversations where they never get a word in and you are always the victor … oh, and you have some doozies ready – just in case. If we’re being honest, we’ve all been there, haven’t we? We have all planned out our vengeful little schemes in our fantasy world. Oh sure, we forgive, but there is no way we’re going to forget. We can’t! It’s just not wise … they may do it again. For some people, the down side of forgiving and forgetting is that  you can’t stack up the incidents of offense against you if you’ve forgotten them. Forgetting those offenses would mean that everyone who has ever hurt you gets a clean slate each time. Preposterous!

Listen, let’s be clear. I’m not talking about the the guy in the elevator who steps on our new Manolo Blahniks. He didn’t mean it. He apologized profusely. Besides, he’s a guy, what does he know about shoes. It’s not like we have a relationship with him. Hating this guy would be a waste of energy….right?

I’m talking about when our best friend divulges one of our most embarrassing secrets publicly at a gathering.We get angry, hurt, embarrassed, maybe even mortified! We try and shake it off; we rationalize about why she did it … too much wine perhaps? She later approaches us with her head held down in shame – she’s betrayed a confidence and ridiculed the one person she loves most in the world. She’s too ashamed to even expect forgiveness. We forgive her, but secretly we tell ourselves, “I’ll never forget what she did to me. I’ll never get over that humiliation.” And we don’t.

Each time we see her, things seem a little more back to normal. We feel magnanimous about our ability to forgive. What a good friend we are to forgive that kind of indiscretion.

Months pass by and we have another secret. We’re about to call her when we remember what we promised ourselves. We said we’d never forget! We forgave her, but the wound never quite healed. Every time the opportunity to prove to her that we really did forgive her came along, we picked at the scab and it bled. After a few years, though the scab finally healed, there remained an indentation – a scar. This is the place where the pain lives and thrives – where the pain has become a monument to what once was a flourishing friendship. We re-hash and re-hash until the offense has taken on a life of its own – it’s called unforgiveness. Our life, the one we once knew – the vibrancy of life – has been ebbing away. We are slowly being gobbled up in a bed of quicksand. Everything we do to rescue ourselves only sinks us deeper in the mire.

We think that if we allow ourselves to forget the past, we are condoning it. That is not the case. Erecting a monument to pain is a slow suicide. After a while, people don’t want to be around the person who is always rehashing the same old same old. It’s unhealthy. It’s like drinking a poison tonic and expecting everyone to take a sip. We end up hurting ourselves more than that friend originally hurt us and we blame it on the very person we said we forgave.

Eventually, we’ve done such an outstanding job of never letting anyone forget we’ve been offended that people know our stories by heart. Some of them actually begin to feel sorry for us and that – pity – is the anchor of offense. That is what perpetuates the pain and gives it life.

So, we meet some one new. A new friend. We have a lot in common. But there is something about her that we just can’t put our finger on. Maybe she sounds like, looks like, or has a habit like our old friend. Suddenly, everyone we meet who reminds us of the pain we’ve been tending to will end up making us run our fingers over that spot again. We don’t even know what’s happening. At some point, we might even become so hypersensitive about our own pain that we don’t even recognize when we do the same thing to others – we become self-centred. We take comfort in our pain. It becomes a blanket that keeps us warm when we no longer trust anyone else.

Forgiving without forgetting is like trying to strain play dough through a colander. It isn’t meant to be. I’m not saying it’s easy. I confess to you that I have stacked upon stacks of many offenses that I have nurtured over the years but you know something, it is bloody exhausting and leads to physical, emotional and spiritual illness of untold proportion. We can’t do this alone. It’s much bigger than we are. We need to realize first all that we have been forgiven for – our indiscretions and our sins – wiped clean as far as the east is from the west.

Forgiving and forgetting is not something we do for others, we do it first for ourselves to restore our health, our sanity, and primarily to maintain and grow in our relationship with God.

“But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and wilful sins, leaving them, letting them go, and giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.”  Matt. 6:15 AMP.

The Refiner’s Fire

Recently, a show aired on television that showed how the ancients refined gold and silver. The refining of metals dates back to 550 BC at Sardis, where the first coins were minted. The refiner would heat the fire to 700 degrees to melt the silver and then pour it into clay jars. The impurities would float to the top and stick to the edges of the pots. How did the refiner know when the silver was pure? He knew when he could see a perfect reflection of himself in the silver.

I have to admit that I often struggle with the knowledge that I have been made in God’s image because at any given time I can take a spiritual look at myself in the mirror and I have yet to see His perfect image staring back at me. After watching this show, it became clear to me that the fact that I do not see His reflection it does not mean that I am not made in His image and it does not mean that I will never see His reflection looking back at me. Refining gold and silver is a process.

Malachi 3:2-3 describes Yeshua’s coming as follows: “For He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.”

When I accepted Yeshua into my heart, my life changed immediately. My image did not. I became a child of God, but I did not always look like one to those around me, especially in the beginning. The process however commenced immediately.

I look at many circumstances, events – and from time to time – a crisis here and there. In retrospect, I can see that in all of things, God has allowed the heat to be turned up in order to separate the dross from my character by this very process. I am called to reflect grace and mercy, not unkindness and judgment. I am called to reflect courage and faith, not cowardice and fear. I am called to live and walk in integrity, not dishonesty. The purification or refining in my life is a continuous process, one that deepens my dependency on Him, one that brings me into a more intimate relationship with Him, and one that brings me closer to having His reflection look back at me in that spiritual mirror.

Knowing Him is loving Him. Loving Him is doing as He did in the same nature and spirit as He did. His Refiner’s Fire is not limited to the Levites….

Fight for Life

Image

Fight for your life

There’s something visceral about emotional pain. It can take on a life of its own. If it’s not dealt with quickly and in a healthy way, it can convince us that the situation causing the pain will never stop, that we’ll never stop feeling the way we do right now. Right now seems to be ripping us to shreds. The life of our pain becomes like a parasite, feeding off our emotions, our spirit, then our energy and health. While the pain feeds, we look to fill the voids it is leaves behind – we pursue a seemingly unattainable and illusive hope.

Sometime later, weeks, months or even years, it seems like there’s nothing left of us – all hope seems to have dried up with all the tears we’ve shed. Life is too difficult to bear. The decision to stop the pain is left in our hands and leaves us little choice. We’ve tried everything we know to stop it – therapy, stuffing our feelings down, maybe alcohol, maybe drugs, maybe a little cut here and there. All these things end up being an anchor and, while they helped for a few minutes or even hours, the pain only became worse afterward. We tell ourselves what we’ve been thinking for a long time: “I wish I was dead.”

But we don’t really want to die, do we? We don’t want to live … this way … but we don’t want to die. We want the pain to end. We want someone to fill us, to understand and to love us. We need someone to hold us – someone who understands without our having to explain it. What we really want is to live – not survive – but thrive.

I promise you that there is One who knows, understands and loves us without condition. God never lets a hurt go to waste. He is waits for us to acknowledge Him, to invite Him into our lives. From the moment we began to suffer, He waits for us to call out to Him. His Son, knows all too well our suffering – He suffered for our eternal life. One thing I do know from experience is this: what feels as if it will last forever will not, no matter what our feelings or logic tell us. He has plans for each of us; an early death is not part of His plan. All we have to do is call out His Name and believe. Fight for life.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Psalm 46:1-3