Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Learning to Forgive - a MOPS devotional

I'm cleaning out my computer files and came across a devotional I'd written to deliver to my MOPS group a couple of years ago and thought I'd share.

Learning to forgive

I’ve been through my fair share of trials and tribulations in life… I’ve seen my parents divorce not only each other… but also their secondary marriage and apparently both have decided not to marry again. Watching them go through that… now I know was easy.

While living in Colorado Springs, Colorado, I worked a very stressful job as a basically a 911 supervisor where I’ve talked to people in crisis about to lose or take their own life… helped police, fire and medical through harrowing experiences. The police dispatchers you hear on the radio while officers are in pursuit… that was me… shots fired…. That was me… he’s running… that was me. Major accidents on the highway involving multiple fatalities… we got those calls too. Women in labor during a snow storm… been there done that… diabetic patients slowly slipping into a diabetic coma… not knowing where he is… but he’s behind the wheel of a car… and you are this person’s last hope… yeah, that’s stress. But that was easy.

I married a man who was not only emotionally abusive but was a sex addict. I allowed him to manipulate me to the point of stripping away my self esteem… my friends… almost my desire to go on. Because of that marriage I was transplanted to two different states knowing absolutely no one and ultimately having to build a relationship of friends that I knew would only be short term. Because of that relationship, I lost a lot of friends that I held close and dear. That was easy.

The end of that marriage was a true test of faith for me as my own mother sided with my ex… Yes, you heard me right. I lost the one person I was hoping I could count on. My mother took him into her home, gave him shelter, and food (no, I didn’t kick him out), she found him an attorney to fight for custody of my son, Joshua. She became evil and conniving. … that… that was not easy.

Time went on, my ex graduated dental school and moved away to Iowa with his new wife… and my mother was left alone with nothing to show for her arrogance but an empty house and two yappy little dogs that drove me insane.

I didn’t feel sorry for her though, but I realized that she had just made a mistake (a HUGE one, but a mistake none the less). I prayed about it… for a long time… days… weeks… months… years… and ultimately realized that forgiveness was the only answer because harboring the contempt and ill will towards her was just poison to my soul. I have realized that I am NOT capable of a grudge longer than a few hours. Thankfully God didn’t give me that kind of will (or heart).

Ephesians 4:32
. . . forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Elaine Olson wrote -- Forgiveness is not a feeling; it's not forgetting; it's not pretending you weren't hurt; it's not trusting the person again; it's not even reconciliation. Forgiveness is a DECISION you make to obey God. Noone, not even God can make you forgive someone. You must decide to give up your right to hurt the person back. I forgive those who hurt me because God has forgiven me for the hurts I have caused him. Forgiveness protects the forgiver from himself. Forgiveness cancels a debt like Christ cancelled our debt. God says, "I do the punishing; all I want you to do is the forgiving." Forgiveness is a process, it takes time, but it is an act of grace that reflects God's treatment to us. When I forgive, I release God to work directly on the other person.

When I refuse to forgive, I create a barrier between God and me and I can't pray. When I don't forgive I'm saying that what that person did to me is more important than going on with God.

I know I have truly forgiven when the love of God can flow through me to the person who wronged me. When my decisions are not controlled by the other person's behavior, I know I have forgiven. When I am free from the pain, anger and hatred towards that person and experiencing God's peace, I know I have truly forgiven.

Once I chose to forgive my mother, we were able to start trying to rebuild our relationship and she could realize what she had the potential to lose had I not had Jesus in my heart – a relationship with two boys that truly loved her. Do I hope she’s seen the error of her ways? Absolutely. Is it my job to judge whether she has or not? Of course not. I know that she has to live with the burden of her own guilt for what she’s done for the rest of her life… and I’m free of the guilt, grudge, hatred to just go on and enjoy my life. What a blessing it is to have Jesus in my life.

Mathew 6:14-15 says:
14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

1 John 1:9 says the same message of forgiveness: 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Romans 5:8: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us….. talk about forgiveness… are we even remotely deserving?

I think that’s why I feel such a special connection to my MOPS friends because they are friends that I have chosen… Unfortunately, you don’t get to choose your family. 

So those that know me… know that I tend to be a bit loud… I tend to talk -- a lot... I have a horrible habit of interrupting (usually, though, to make people laugh) (see … I just interrupted myself!!!) but I know these faults…and I’m working on them every day… and my real friends… my MOPS friends… they forgive me!

My friends know that I tend to find some reason to laugh about anything I can because it is said that laughter is the best medicine… but I am starting to believe that it’s really forgiveness.

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