Hard Lessons On Forgiveness

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My four year old is a natural musician. He turns on his music and runs to the keyboard to play out the song, then turns around and hits repeat on the CD player so he can do it again… until he’s memorized the song. I have yet to teach him where the “repeat” button is because I tire of these songs after the tenth time and I’m certainly not going to enable him! Right now, the song he has on manual repeat is, “If your brother sins against you, seven times a day, seven times a day, forgive him, forgive him, the Bible tells me so, and everyone should know, forgive him, forgive him, seven times a day.” He’s dancing the hallway, singing at the top of his lungs with his arms spread wide. I made a mental note to use the words of the song to teach him a lesson next time someone sins against him, and then realized that I am not a funnel. These lessons I teach my son are meant for me too. Sometimes I get more out of his children’s Bible than I think he does. And honestly, the lessons my son teaches me right back are meant for me too.

Several months ago, he had a bad day and after several corrections it was finally bedtime. He snuggled into me and started praying, “God, forgive me of my sins. Please help me to do a better job tomorrow because your mercies are new every morning.” What? I’ve never taught him to directly ask the Lord for forgiveness. I have prayed forgiveness out loud when I’ve sinned against him. We have a corporate confession of sins at church… but at that point, neither my husband nor I had directly told him he needed to ask God for forgiveness.

How amazing that my son has taken it upon himself to pray for forgiveness! How amazing that he is dancing, arms open wide, to a song about forgiveness! If God has taken my son’s heart into the palm of His hand and has begun to foster a pure and holy faith, then maybe God is doing the same for me. Maybe God is using my circumstances, just as God has used my son’s circumstances, to bring about repentance and faith.

I often think of As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another in respect to my marriage. One day recently when I was falling apart, my exasperated husband yelled, “God gave you me to help you grow! He could have given you someone to coddle you and hold you when you are self-pitying, but he gave you me instead! So get up and do something instead of sitting there like you’re worthless, because you’re not!” He has also shoved the verse, But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses, in my face more than once (usually at least once a week, actually).

So today, I will follow my husband’s lead and I will forgive 70×7. I will open my arms wide and receive the very joy my son has… And yes… he is still dancing to that forgiveness song. And singing at the top of his lungs. With his arms spread wide.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. -1 Peter 1:6-7

Photo credit: http://www.creationswap.com/media/8764

A Lot Like Jonah

The following story is taken from this book, with a few changes.

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God had a job for me. But I didn’t want it. “Go to Nineveh,” God said, “and tell your worst enemies that I love them.”

“NO” I said. “Those are bad people doing bad things!”

“Exactly,” said God. “They have run far away from me. But I can’t stop loving them. I will give them a new start. I will forgive them.”

“NO!” I said. “They don’t deserve it!”

I’ll run away! I said to myself. Far away- so far away that God won’t be able to find me. Then I won’t have to do what God says! It’s a good plan! I said, because, as far as I knew, it was a good plan.

But, of course, it wasn’t a good plan at all. It was a silly plan. (Because you can run away from God, but he will always come and find you.)

I went ahead with my not-very-good plan. “One ticket to NOT Nineveh, please!” I said and boarded a plane flying in the very opposite direction to Nineveh.

Well, it wasn’t long before a fierce wind blew, and my home started to lurch and pitch and roll – and everyone started turning green. I sat bolt upright in my bed. You see, the first thing that went wrong with my not-very-good plan was that God had sent a big storm after me.

My family couldn’t function properly. “We’re sinking!” they screamed, and started trying everything they could to calm the storm.

By now I knew that the storm was my doing. “Throw me in, instead!” I shouted to my family (for it seemed we were now on a feeble boat in a tumultuous storm). “And the storm will stop!” My family wasn’t sure. It’s the only way you can be saved!” I cried.

And so, one… two… three… SPLASH! No sooner had I hit the water than the waves grew calm, the wind died down, and the storm stopped.

Just then, when I thought it was all over, when I was sure I was going to drown, God sent a big fish to rescue me. The fish swallowed me whole- with one big gulp.

I must have thought I’d died, it was so dark in there, like a tomb. But then I smelled the rotting food and felt the slimy seaweed and knew I wasn’t dead. I was in the belly of the fish!

And here I sit, waiting to watch God’s plan unfold. Tonight, I have my first session with my new therapist, a Christian who will openly bring faith into the counseling room. We will see where the fish spits me out.

Ashes On My Heart

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I have previously fought our attendance at a reformed church, and a church that uses the church calendar. However, today is the start of Lent. Today is Ash Wednesday. Tonight, we will go to church where we will listen to a sermon on our sins and the darkness that led Christ to the cross. Tonight, the four of us will have crosses of ash placed on our foreheads in reminder that we are all in need of Christ’s grace. This is entrance into a grieving and humbling period in which we prepare to observe Christ’s death on the cross, and three days later celebrate His resurrection.

Over the next 40 days, I have resolved to seek Christ with all my heart. I am tired of this in-between faith I have been taking part of over the last year and a half. I am not the type to forgo material things for lent, because as I said, I have fought the church calendar. However, for the next 40 days I have resolved to give up fighting God with every ounce of my being. I will seek Him for healing of my trauma. I will grieve for my sins and the sins that have been committed against me, and I will pray to forgive. I have resolved to humble myself and listen to what He has to say to me. For the next 40 days, I will make sure my family is ready to leave for church on time, I will not complain about the church I attend or its distance from my home. I will listen to the pastor’s words to the best of my ability (with 4 year old and 6 month old in tow) and I will sing with all my heart. I will not fight my husband or speak poorly of him for any reason. I will not yell at my son and I will take the time to meet his emotional needs. I will seek God and fill the role He has for me with my whole heart. I can do anything for 40 days. For 40 days, I resolve to give myself to God. This may start as an endeavor in the flesh, but I pray God would enable me to follow Him once again through His grace.

Someone said to me that Matthew 27:27-31 is a picture of where Christ meets us in our physical suffering; of our past trauma. So I leave you with the verses:

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe around Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.