Letting Go

It seems like I am like an onion, with layers that need to be peeled off.  God does some things in a hurry, and others take more time.  I have been going through an intense spiritual and emotional shake-up since Easter, when I had a disagreement with a family member.  The rift dragged up memories from my childhood, of the feeling of never being good enough, and it was like I could hear my family member condemning me and my life in my head.  Every criticism or perceived criticism by this person and other people came to mind, and it was almost unbearable.

For the last few weeks God has been working away at the festering wound of my resentment and childhood pain, getting rid of it for good.  He’s been working on my thinking about my parents, showing me that I need to focus on and remember the good things about them. He has shown me that I needed to repent and change my attitude towards them (Whatever is Lovely…). He’s been reminding me that my identity is in Him, not in my human family (Pain). He has promised me that He’s filling in ‘the pit’ of depression, so that I will be able to jump for joy (God’s Landscaping Business).  And last week, He showed me how to forgive.

Recently I have been reading the book To Forgive is Human, in this quest to forgive and find lasting peace.  It discusses stages of forgiveness and why people forgive, for example, because of social pressures, or because they want peace in their family.

Reading about human reasons for forgiveness got me thinking about God, and why He forgives.  Obviously there is no outside pressure on Him to forgive – He is the one that makes the rules. I realised that forgiveness is part of who He is – it is His nature. He does not experience the struggle that we often do to let go of past hurts and forgive. In fact, His commitment to forgiveness is so great that He paid the ultimate price so that our relationship with Him could be restored. As Jesus was taunted by his enemies on the cross he said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24) He had no desire for revenge, only empathy that pitied His enemies and recognised their blindness.

As I thought about God’s forgiving nature, I heard the song “Endless Hallelujah” by Matt Redman, which speaks of Heaven and the perfection that we will know there. All the resentments and grudges we hold here will dissolve in that place. All of our mistakes and wrongdoing will be forgotten. Then the thought came:

Why not let my resentment go, and let Heaven into the dark places of my heart, the not-so-secret corners, where I squirrel away my grudges and bitterness?

As He is, so shall we be.

My Father’s nature is to forgive, and I am His child, therefore unforgiveness has no place in me.

For some time now (for years, to be honest) I had been holding on to resentment for hurts in my past, knowing that I should forgive but unable to find peace. That word ‘should’ is like a weight around one’s neck somehow – all the things that we ‘should’ do but just can not. It had helped to concentrate on the good things about those who had hurt me, but somehow I was still struggling with forgiveness. However as I thought about who God is, and who I am as His child, I was able to let it go. I saw how much I had been forgiven myself, and the sins of others against me were a mere pittance in comparison. He takes away the burden of resentment and replaces it with joy – the joy of a prisoner set free.

All the pain I caused, the lies I spoke, the hate I breathed,

You nailed on the tree

And said, “Follow Me.”

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Whatever is Lovely….

In a recent post (Pain) I wrote about the difficulties I had been having getting over hurts from my childhood.  Even though my parents have been loving and good parents on the whole, there were painful memories and resentment that I was holding on to from the past.  Every time I visited my parents the old pain would be renewed, and I would come home unsettled and fighting depression again.  This happened many times, so that I began to avoid visiting their home.

The last time this happened was at Easter.  I was bitterly disappointed, because I wanted to be able to move on and not have this horrible pain, dealing with the same thing over and over again.  I felt like a child who couldn’t grow up.  It helped to remind myslf of God’s love and his acceptance, but I still couldn’t let go of the resentment towards my parents.  I asked God, “How can I get past this?”

The answer came when I met with a close friend and her husband for prayer.  My friend asked God for healing for the hurt places in my life, going all the way back to the little girl I was, who believed herself to be unloved.   And then she gave me a verse.  It is very well-known, but I had never applied it in this way before:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

She prayed that when I would think of my parents, I would think of whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, etc: that my thoughts and memories of my parents would focus on the lovely, praiseworthy things about them (and there are so many – thank you Lord!).  I realised that my mind had been set on a certain track, so that when I thought about them I would focus on things that I resented, and each time my thoughts went that way, the groove would become deeper and it became more and more difficult for me to think about them any other way.  God was asking me to consciously change my thought patterns.  I had been asking God for the way forward, and He had shown me the path.

After my friend prayed I realised that I needed to repent of my wrong attitude towards my parents, particularly the way I had judged them and criticised them for years.  So I did that.  When I went home I felt like a huge load had come off me.  I was exhausted, but free.

Since then the pain is gone.  It sounds simplistic, but it really is completely different.  I was a wreck emotionally before I went to that prayer meeting, and since then, I have been at peace.  The real test will be when I see my parents again.  Will the old hurts still sting, or are they healed forever?  At least I now have a way forward.  If I am hurt again, I can choose to think on ‘whatever is lovely.’

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