Tuesday, December 8, 2015
One Word Redux: Forgiven to Forgive
It's a ritual I am about to engage in for a third year in a row. Joining the #OneWord365 Movement has helped me to begin each new year with determined character formation and not thin resolutions that will be broken by February.
As the conclusion of 2015 comes more clearly into focus, I can't help but marinate on the ugly reflection God has made me observe, long and hard, this past year. FORGIVE was the one word of my focus the past 12 months, and what a festering, angry heart this word has begun to expose. Every evening when I e-mailed my accountability partner my list of 3 things I was thankful for that day, I also included 1 person I forgave as well. Oh, my goodness, the people! My children, my spouse, certain Facebook friends, neighbors, people passionate about different beliefs than mine all litter my journal as I cried out each day to forgive.
I stopped reporting the 1 person I forgive each day to my accountability partner in early July. Maybe it was because I was still walking wounded from a really unkind remark my mother made about me behind my back in June. My mother has been one of the hardest people for me to forgive. Candidly, I was never going to put something like this in writing while she was still alive on this earth, but I think it is critical to do it now.
You see, my mother is 88 years old and is currently in the hospital as she continues to wage her battle with congestive heart failure. Without getting into details, I will just tell you that life with her has never been what one would hope to have with their mother. The difficulty in forgiving for me has been the fact that there is no improvement, no softening of the demeanor, no admission of having wronged others. It is HARD to forgive someone when they just keep hurting you.
THIS is where God has met me. I am not perfect yet. I have to confess that I still majorly struggle with a daily love-hate relationship going on here. But our Faithful Father, my perfect parent, shows up and asks me to FORGIVE even if nothing ever changes. His Holy Spirit is the only one Who can make it possible for me to love "in spite of."
I need to forgive as I have been forgiven, in spite of ALL my imperfection.
After all, He reminds me in Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (NIV)
This sort of forgiveness may be most perfected in the person with whom I have the most difficulty, but it doesn't end there. This habit of absolution needs to be practiced with other kids who give my children a hard time at school, or with doctors who are sometimes arrogant, or with the cashier at the grocery store who just says something rude about my complex child. It's a daily releasing of others from the debt I think they owe me, because it is a debt they will never likely repay.
As the year draws nearer to a close, I find myself transformed by this often-painful process of forgiveness. It has required me to pry my clenched hands off the wheel and lean into my fear of being wounded again and again. It means setting aside my pride to make God proud.
Still, forgiveness is really the gift I give myself. I find myself more easily softening towards others than I did a year ago. Irritations and frustrations slide off of me more easily. I am able to more fully love others with whom I disagree.
In regards to my difficult relationship with my mother, forgiveness has allowed me to see beauty in the broken places. I can see that my hurts with her have actually made me a better mother. In an effort to spare my children what I have endured, I have made a much more concerted effort at loving them as is and being supportive of them every step of the way. I am able to see the traditions she passed on for me to enjoy with my family. I can surmise that she didn't grow up in an optimal situation either and did the best she could bringing up her own children with her disjointed frame of reference.
I don't know what One Word 2016 holds for me yet. I'm still praying and listening for God's insight. I do know that my journey through a lifetime of forgiveness has only just begun.
PRAY: Oh, Jesus, we humans surely know how to push each others buttons and rub one another the wrong way, especially during the holidays. Make our hearts blossom with forgiveness this Christmastide to honor the gift of Your earthly arrival. Show us how to forgive just as You have forgiven us.
~ Barb Dittrich
*Join the #OneWord365 movement this year by visiting http://oneword365.com/.