Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day 17: Nitty Gritty

It's Day 17! I always feel happy when I see that number, but I'm not sure why. So I'm oddly optimistic as I type here today, even though we're going to talk about one of the hardest spiritual demands Jesus places on us. (I guess it's because I know that as hard as this can be, it's also one of the things that has brought the most miraculous results in my life.)

Today's reading jumps right in and talks about forgiveness.

If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him."

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"

That's usually what I need to say, when face-to-face with the need to forgive. I love forgiveness in theory, when no one has hurt me recently and I'm in some conversation tossing about spiritual maxims like so many bits of lettuce in a salad. But when I've been wronged (or I remember something from the past that I thought I'd forgotten) I don't want to forgive. I want to seethe. I want to wallow in my righteous indignation. I want to tell other people what has happened to me so they can add their seething and righteous indignation to my growing puddle of Whoa Is Me. I want revenge.

Jesus is not into this at all. He says:
1. Forgive.
2. Repeat as necessary.

Don't worry: he doesn't call us to be doormats--as a friend of mine once pointed out, there's nothing in this passage that says we have to do lunch with people who've hurt us (which means it's okay to hit "ignore" when some awful guy from the past tries to friend you on Facebook). But we have to forgive, all the time. Not for them, but for us.

Have you ever met someone who hasn't forgiven, and lives in that seething, damaged place? Someone who, before telling you their full name or what they do for a living, regales you with the full story of their awful breakup, terrible childhood, and/or chronic struggle not to give up on life? These are all cries for help. I've been there. The radical thing about Jesus is that he doesn't perpetuate the lie that more talking is what will help us in this state. He brings the spiritual truth: that forgiveness will set us free, AND the spiritual power to help us forgive.

Spiritual Truth + Spiritual Power. That's quite an offer.

Here's what Jesus told his disciples:
If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you.

In other words, we don't need huge confidence in our ability to forgive (because when you're in that moment, such confidence is nearly impossible). We just need a tiny seed of faith: that Jesus' promise is true, his power is real, and that he'll help us if we ask. We plant that seed when we say, "I choose to forgive X for Y. Jesus, please help me. I release them... Jesus please release me..." This is how we say to our unforgiveness, "You can't stay here. I'm uprooting you and throwing you into the sea..."

That sets us free.

Try it today. Take a few quiet moments (and I'm using the word "take" deliberately here...the time won't present itself; we have to take it) and ask God to show you anyplace where you're holding on to unforgiveness. Then pray the prayer above, choosing to forgive, whether you "feel" it or not (The great news is that our emotions are not the barometer of whether or not this is a good idea, or whether or not it's working.) Then if bad thoughts come up afterwards, or tomorrow, or next week, simply say, "I've forgiven X for Y, in Jesus' name. That's the end of it..." and move on.

Bless you guys as we dig into this tough work. It's challenging, but worth it.
Let me know how it goes!

Here's to a great Day 17 :)


heiress said...

The principal of forgiveness is an absolute must when you serve Christ.

Mark 11:25 says "And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

It's hard sometimes but I just do it because I know that I am not without sin and I want Jesus to forgive me.

Breeza said...

Good post. Forgiveness is essential when you are following God.
On a side note, Ryanhood is playing in LA on Saturday and I want to go but no one can go with me! I'm debating to go alone...

Abby Green said...

Ack! Why did you have to post on this TODAY!?! :) I was enjoying my pitty party and wallowing in how unfairly I feel that I was treated yesterday by a certain family member. I can say I forgive them, but it's so much harder for me to quit telling people about "what happened". Hmmm...thanks for the post, clearly what I needed. should definitely go see Ryanhood alone on Sunday...I wish I was going to be in LA, and I'd go with you!

Karen said...

By nature I am a complainer. It's easy to look at a situation, see what I don't like about, and tell everyone else about it. I think we all have this in us, at least to a point. I've been recognizing this unnecessary complaining in myself over the past couple of months, which happened to coincide with the beginning of these 40 days. As a result of that, I decided my fast was going to be from complaining. I asked about 4 friends, whom I see frequently, to help hold me accountable. I held the fast for approximately 38 hours before I started in on complaining again. Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely still trying, but it's really, really hard. Today was a particularly bad complaining day. So much of the culture I live in is consumed by complaining, that I can't help but join in on it in order to socialize. As I am reminded today, however, Jesus calls me to forgive, not complain. My goal for tomorrow (one step at a time) will be to pray that Jesus would help me forgive rather than complain to others about the situation. Thanks for a much needed post, Trish.

Oh, and Breeza, you should definitely go see Ryanhood alone. I'm pretty sure the first time I stumbled upon them while playing at my college I was by myself and they quickly became my favorite band. Any opportunity should be enjoyed :) Wish I could see them again. They seem to play everywhere I'm not.

Stella said...

It's taken a LONG time, and I'm still grasping the concept, but I'm getting that forgiveness isn't ALL about the other person but to free me from the trap of reliving the "transgression" over and over and over ...

The Lord has been dealing with me gently about letting go ... usually He gives me a single word whispered softly when I'm in the throes of unforgiveness ... "DRAMA". Stops me in my mental tracks ... reverse course, repent, forgive, move on ...

Thanks TRISH ...