My one word for 2014 had been "Order". Although my crazy life as a ministry leader and mother of 3 medically needy children is anything but orderly, embracing the Holy Spirit's call to that focus created a sure footing during a tumultuous year. Had I not fixed my eyes on God's view of order, I never could have created good boundaries and worked 2 jobs for half the year while caring for everything else. Neither could I have heard the Lord's voice when He asked me to trust His provision and return to one job at the start of this new year. Surely this one word focus helped shape the changes in me that occurred the past 12 months.
As Christmas grew closer, I found myself contemplating what God might be calling me to in 2015. Although I thought I might be going in one direction, the Lord continued to reveal a more difficult path for me. I hated having my ugly sin exposed to me in God's mirror, but I couldn't escape the Truth -- my One Word for 2015 is "Forgive". Mind you, I have given talks on this topic before, about the healing power of forgiveness. I have attended retreats with forgiveness as a theme. And as compared to my peers as well as some siblings, I have never considered myself a grudge-holder.
As I've shared before, my friend Margo Fieseler always says, "What spills out of you when life bumps into you?" That, my friends, is where the Lord revealed past offenses, past hurts to me which I have not fully released. The Christian that took advantage of me and unapologetically stabbed me in the back; the neighbor who continued to falsely accuse my child; the employer who was happy to collect $260,000 per year of our son's clotting factor purchase, but then show my husband the door; the fellow church goers who saw us seeking ministry support who refused to give us a dime despite knowing of our work; these are the things that I have forgiven, but still somehow continue to gnaw at me, telling me I haven't fully absolved as God intends.
Jesus set an example for each of us that I find myself so far from replicating. I am in such awe of examples like Corrie Ten Boom who directly forgave one of the prison guards who had been a part of her horror at Ravensbruck concentration camp, or Louis Zamperini who directly forgave the Japanese POW camp soldiers who were a part of his two year torture. Perhaps this is a year of learning to pray like Corrie, "Jesus, help me! ...I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling."
As I pondered this word "Forgive," it occurred to me that not a day goes by in life where we are not required to forgive in some way -- whether it be other people, God, or even ourselves. Then I thought, How odd! I have done the "Joy Dare" by listing ONE THOUSAND GIFTS as suggested by Ann Voskamp's book of the same name. But have I done the harder daily work of finding true joy in forgiving? It's no irony that with both the challenges of thankfulness and forgiveness, there is the matter of letting go of an attitude of entitlement, expectations that we insist must be met.
So as I lean into this 2015 call to forgive as Christ has forgiven me, I invite -- and even dare -- you to join me on the journey. I challenge you to set yourself free by setting another free with forgiveness, listing at least one person whom you have forgiven before the end of each day -- a doctor, a school staff member, one making a hurtful comment, your insurance carrier, a family member, yourself. Think of how LIGHT you and I will feel by this time next year! Use the hashtag #Dare2Forgive on social media, and let's start a ripple of healing this year -- healing ourselves and others with the POWER of forgiveness which is our legacy in Christ Jesus.
PRAY: Jesus, You assured us when You taught us to pray that if we did not forgive others, our sins would not be forgiven. I don't want to "drink the poison, hoping the other person dies." Holy Spirit, I trust You to supply the feeling when I can only go through the motions. And when those old feelings of hurt creep up on me, give me the strength to push back, forgiving "70 times 7." I want to look more and more like You, Lord, and less like my sinful self. Transform me and make me a ripple of healing to a hurting world!
~ Barb Dittrich