Cup of coffee in hand, laptop ready…. Let’s do this!
This year for Lent I decided I was going to work on giving up old grudges, and try to unchain myself from the hurt, brokenness, and damage done to me by others in my lifetime. God kept placing it on my heart, and I wanted to give it all up to God, wanted to finally be free from the anger, painful emotions and flashbacks that were a part of my daily life. One of the things I decided to do for Lent was to ask God to bless each of the names on a list I made. A blessing? My goal was to ask God to bless each one, with Health, Peace, Grace, and Financial blessings. My goal also involved working on forgiving them. I set the rules and prepared to jump in!
I was Excited! On the first day of Lent, I sat down to pray, with bible, tablet, and pen ready. I looked at the first name, closed my eyes and prepared to pray.
I am going to forgive them, ask God to bless them, and…then what? They get off…
They don’t get punished, STRUCK BY LIGHTENING, or anything? Wait, WHAT was I thinking? This was NOT going to be easy, even though IN MY HEAD, I understood forgiveness and what it meant, the act of praying for a blessing on them was different.
Forgiveness is not the warm fuzzies, or a “feeling” for someone that hurt you. Forgiveness is about the releasing of a debt. let me give you an example. Your pal borrows 5k from you, and refuses to pay you back. Okay, you have two choices, try and get it from them, or let it go. Forgive the debt. “Okay pal, you don’t have to pay it back. I am letting you off the hook for it.” Your friend’s reaction is irrelevant because it was never about them. It was always about you. Someone owing you a debt they won’t repay is ALWAYS about you and how you react to that. Now we realize we are not really talking about money, but something they did to hurt you. You are the one that has to get past it, heal, and recover. YOU are the one that must let it go.
You are chained up in a prison until you do. The prison of anger, resentment, hurt feelings, or actual damage done to you by them. So YOU are the one suffering. If the person hurt you intentionally, do you think they are being tortured with thoughts that you may have suffered by their hands? Seriously, that is not likely! YOU suffer, you carry the scars, you are the one weighed down with pain and damage. It can even change your life, but forgiving the “debt” sets you free.
NEEDING TO FORGIVE, AS GOD HAD FORGIVEN ME.
Does it make you feel better right away? Will it take away the hurt? Maybe, maybe not. So why do it? TO UNCHAIN YOURSELF from this pain, to unchain yourself from the person or the memory that is holding you back, from the anger that is keeping you from moving on. To be obedient to God. So this seems hard but I was actually able to do that. I no longer wanted to be held in bondage to the pain and damage done to me. I wanted to be set free from it so I could move on.
That left asking God to bless them. I confess, after forgiving them the debt, even though I still felt strong emotions, I felt like I could do this. After all, some were people I did care about, not just strangers.
Then came the three dreaded names. Actual crimes committed against myself and loved ones. Criminals. SO much pain, brokenness, so much damage in their wake. I really struggled to forgive and ask blessings on them, I am going to be brutally honest, this doesn’t make me sound like a very nice person. I struggled through a few days, feeling stuck, not really knowing how to pray, yet continuing to ask God to help me know how to pray. Do I pray for criminals and ask God to bless them, is that even right? What about any further victims of future crimes? What about others they have already hurt? Should I ask God to bless someone that I seriously feel has hurt others, and will likely hurt more? I was stuck. I had never broken a Lent promise and was a little distressed about this, also I didn’t want to do something wrong by not praying the ACTUAL words I set for myself to pray, and felt in over my head. I waited for God to bring some answers to me.
Someone that I always run to for wisdom when I am lost or in over my head, sent a reply to my hastily written questions. (I will call him “Someone” because I haven’t asked his permission to say who he is on my new blog.) This person has always had a knack of taking something I feel is complicated and beyond me and giving me the answer in such a simple, easy to understand way that I feel it should have been obvious to me! I wish I could just post his complete letter, as his entire emailed letter was filled with great insight and wisdom. Instead I have to find a way to just bring out the wise answers to the specific questions I asked, to keep this short. Part of it will be direct quotes and part will be added to say how I understood, and interpreted his words.
“To pray for their blessing simply means not to curse them or try to get revenge, but to let God deal with it. Beyond that, you should commit them to God for redemption if possible, or judgment if not. If there is nothing further you can do about them, (to stop them from hurting another) then put them behind you and don’t dwell on them.”
I WAS FREE TO MOVE ON! MY rules had been holding me up. Legalism keeping me all wrapped up in MY way, instead of focusing on God.
As for breaking Lent, don’t worry about that. Lent is to help you. It was devised by MAN, NOT GOD, so you aren’t breaking a vow to God. Don’t let Lent, or anything else control you. You must exercise your own self control. (Read Galatians 5:22-23-there is no law against self control)
God may place something on your heart to work on, and you can choose the “Lent Rules” for it, but GOD isn’t about Legalism. The Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ caused the passing away of the old law, we no longer live under it. Therefore, God does not hand us more laws and rules than what is already in the New Testament. WE made them, so that meant it was not wrong to change those “rules” to do what is right. I was still doing what God led me to do, to work on forgiving and moving on. So by changing MY rules I didn’t break any promise, and I only changed it enough to do what is good and right.
By focusing on God instead of my rules, I was actually better able to work on the very thing God wanted me to work on! Makes me pause to wonder, do we need Lent “Rules” to focus on what God is wanting to do in our lives? Lent will not intimidate me like this again.
Because my Mentor is as amazing as he is, his wife too, my questions often get answered with a bonus…an answer and a little bit more! He also talked to me about self control and how God helps and remakes us. He said the following:
“The truth is that God is working with us to lead us into a position of being able to exercise self control; a self control that is grounded in the truth. Since, God is Truth, the only way to do this is to learn to reason and think as God thinks. Since we are talking about GOD, this is tough. Thankfully, God has reached out to us to make this possible. Mainly, this is accomplished by God remaking us. This can be a long and difficult process but it is the only way and we should never despair or be fearful. God is with us and understands our weakness and he won’t allow it to become unbearable, although it may feel that way at times. There are lots of scriptures that support this, if you take the time to look. Read Romans 6,7,8. Because of what has happened as described in Rom 6, we are able to live in Rom 8. However, it is easy to get stuck in Rom 7, as Paul did for a long time.”
Such amazing advice, and seems so simple even I should have gotten it. Do I over complicate things? YES! A huge thank you to God for bringing me wise mentors, because after this letter I was able to pray over these three men, and come to a place of forgiveness. I feel a little more free already!
*I would like to add, that forgiving someone should never mean you would put yourself in a position of being harmed, or abused by that person. It is a release of a debt, not permission to hurt you again. I never would advocate staying in an abusive situation.