I was asked a question..."How does forgiveness look ?"
I pray that my actions and what I do and say in private conversations and prayers with friends and family shows WHAT forgiveness looks like...but this question was asked of me from another. Another that does not see me daily... another that God brought into my life maybe for only a short season or maybe on purpose.....and maybe this blog is even for a total stranger that happens to come to this blog and read, maybe she needs to read what forgiveness looks like....
For me.... what did it LOOK LIKE with me? I hope I can explain it.
What does forgiveness look like?
First off, I believe, as HIS word states, that we must forgive - Jesus tells us of a parable in Matthew 18 about an unmerciful servant who does not show mercy and does not forgive. At the end, this servant is tortured and jailed = bondage. I did not want that - who does, so indeed we understand that we must forgive.
And, in my case, I had to forgive after sin was revealed within my marriage but I think something that was very key to my journey or my walk was that I realized very quickly that MY sin was JUST as hurtful to My LORD...that my MANY years of idolatry and my 40+ years of not loving God FIRST and putting other gods before HIM---was JUST as sinful as what was revealed about my husband.
THAT can be hard to understand.
If you can understand and get past that -- read on.
So, I was very aware of seeking God's forgiveness of my sins. And what did that look like? You would of seen me confessing my sin to HIM in private and with a prayer partner. I was raised Catholic and not that I HAD to seek a priest or something to confess, but there is something to be said about speaking out loud -- and telling another what has transpired. It is a good practice. I also went to God in my journal and wrote down stuff that the Holy Spirit revealed to me ...stuff that was my sin. And with a clean heart -- I knew I had to set upon the task of forgiving my husband and the woman who I "believed" set out to destroy me and my family. Now I realize...it was the enemy - not 'her'.
And by the way, I am healed and really feel no malice, anger, or bitterness towards my husband or even the other person...it really is forgiven - but it takes TIME! And I will say this - this blog post is pretty real and personal, if you know and love me, I thank you for your continued prayers, discreteness, and your faithfulness to prayer as we healed. But if you are here to just read something to repeat or to gossip then I would ask, please make sure I am with you when you wish to share this or discuss it! And, please make sure it is covered in prayer.
Lord, that nothing I would say bring hurt or harm to anyone involved - anyone. I do not wish to allow the Enemy ANY use of this for his purpose!
Ok, let me get back to WHAT it looked like.....
I am blessed to be a part of a two different church families that helped me in that crisis of faith - they covered me in prayer. So in reality...what you would of seen each prayer night ( Wednesdays ) and Sundays was a woman that attended church and went forward for prayer. I was also faithful at my cell group and/or counseling session. And you saw tears ..a lot of them. If you could hear me, I would tell God each day...sometimes 5-10x a day ..Lord, I forgive them, I forgive him and I forgive her....it was simple but heartfelt. Those were the only words I could get out at first. Then, after time, it was not as often but still daily.... When I did not have the strength and courage to walk forward at church or at bible study for prayer, God sent another to me to pray for me right there in my seat. But it was consistent.
I think forgiveness is an 'act' . We say it. "I forgive." But then to LIVE in that...THAT is the HARD part.
It is really hard, as I remember for the first few months, the 'situation' CONSUMED me and I would have to fall back to God's word and remind myself -- I CHOOSE to forgive!
There were many nights when I fell asleep with my bible on my chest - just begging God for something!
Second...I had professional help. Therapy. Godly therapy. I sat with two different Pastor's wives and a Sexologist/Psychologist who is a Christian woman as well. It was a process. And it took time. I even stopped therapy at one point - I felt it was HOPELESS and I was tired of the feeling that "I WAS the one that had to make all these changes....really????? I was the one that needed to change?"....Like I said - it took time.
So I QUIT therapy for a few months and allowed God to do some extensive changing within my heart and head and in my husband's as well.
One of the first things I did with a godly mentor was to 'put' all the hurts on a sheet of paper - to make a list. And then I symbolically put my husband in a chair and spoke OUT LOUD all of the hurts he caused. I listed everything. Every tidbit of fact I had heard to every tidbit of rumor. I listed it all. I listed not only the revelation of the affair but all the hurts..from our high school days to our college days..to our young parenting days..everything! I also had to forgive God in there too...It took a few hours. Finally, I asked God to forgive me and listed what I felt I had 'done' to God.
When it came time to forgive the other person...I just mentioned - "I forgive her"...as God had me deal with THAT hurt much later. You see, I believe forgiveness comes in layers. Lots of layers. You speak out WHAT you need to confess or forgive and then 'live'...but you daily come back to the fact - 'what else do I need to forgive?'. Again .....TIME is a factor. In that time, you look for the good. You begin a list of the good stuff and you make a point of renewing your mind with HIS word. It was a concentrated effort, a purposeful thing I did - I choose to forgive.
The process may of taken a little less time, if I would of seen a repentant heart in my husband.....but I didn't...until MUCH later. I would say this - don't expect immediate changes from the one who hurt you -- it takes TIME! They must first realize what you do.....something is wrong...and then they must realize their relationship with Christ is key! While that all happens..time passes! That is when you hold onto the promises of God even when it seems like ...IT WILL NEVER change!!
Does that make sense? I hope so.
You see, I had forgiven...but I was still a wreck! I was hurt. Time and then God sending the Holy Spirit to comfort is the beginning of healing as God - HE is the Healer.
My heart had become hard to some feelings and stuff - as I did not want to be hurt ever again.
I am blessed because I was able to seek a professional counselor that had experience and knowledge of how our brains work and how a woman thinks and so she was a BIG help as I worked through many thoughts and processes. I 'took up that cross' daily and chose to believe that God would bring redemption. But I had to work on ME first......
I would HIGHLY suggest that godly and professional counsel is sought when there is something that is hard to forgive. And believe me.....anything that has broken your heart - is hurt. Please don't LEVEL your pain or problem .......pain is pain. My situation is not 'worse' or 'less worse' than yours or another's. ( I blogged about that before. ) When a person is feeling unloved and there has been sin -- it is hurtful. It does not matter...it could be unforgiveness from a childhood thing. It could be unforgiveness towards your husband for his ---- whatever .....the enemy will use anything to keep you in the stronghold of unforgiveness!
I had to really learn and LIVE in the knowledge that no matter what-- God's promises are true and that in HIS time...I would see the redemption.
Another exercise I did, was to take a brick and a helium balloon. On a sheet of paper, I wrote the 'hurts'..even after I had PUT the infidel in a chair and confessed all the hurts....they just don't disappear. Life happens, triggers and stuff would come up and so, I had to make several lists. I tied the hurt list to the balloon. I made a second copy of the hurt list and tied it to the brick ( a heavy rock would do ) and held them both up over my head. GET the picture - a brick and a balloon. I held them high above my head until I could no longer hold that brick in my arm and I dropped it to the ground and let the balloon fly...and then prayed....GOD, the burden is too heavy to bear - TAKE it to heaven. GET the picture? I can't tell you how many more times, I visioned that demonstration and did it again within my mind....many....for many months. Many!!
But again, I had people around me that spoke life into me - telling me and praying for God's perfect will. I choose whom I would hang with - people that only believed in marriage and healing and I believed and had faith that GOD could change a heart, move a mountain, and 'fix' my family. But it took TIME...much time. And with each day - I choose to forgive.
I don't like to lose and so I found every blog, every book and every source of media or resource that could help me be aware and KNOW what to do or what to say. In all of that, I became this "expert", but had to learn the hard way -- EACH person's journey is so different. At one point the therapist told me.."read nothing, think nothing - read only God's word and listen to your husband and pray". NOTHING else. I had to slow down and allow GOD the time to change my head and heart!
Little stuff would pop up, I took it to God. Nine months after sin had been revealed, I went to an Encounter weekend - THAT is when God dealt with me about forgiving her. And God dealt with me -- I had to know that I would be FINE with or without a husband and marriage...that HE (God) was FIRST in my line of devotion. Now coming home from that and learning to LIVE in that...again - WAS HARD! Another four months passed and the decision to sell our home and move was before us. This move to a new rental place ushered in a new era of 'awkwardness' and again, I found myself making a list as our therapy had changed a bit and more was revealed ..so therefore, I was back to square one and choosing to forgive.
I sought prayer partners again...just a few ladies that I trusted with my feelings. From my husband's perspective...he just saw a wife that had scripture cards in a few places as at that time , he was really ANTI-God and I had to follow the advice of our Therapist and totally give him space. He also watched me iron his shirts, clean the house, and do 'nice' things...I kept busy. Very busy. Later he would send me flowers to celebrate our wedding anniversary after we both were going to give it 100% and work on our marriage and the card read, "thanks for being so nice!". I did not allow myself to think of stuff in the future I just prayed and again, I praised God for HIS love for me, and I prayed and said over and over..I forgive him Lord.
I was and am still ....in CONSTANT communication with God. I constantly talk and pray to HIM and share with HIM what hurts...what I want my husband or another to retract and I rely on HIM to fight my battles. I would say - THAT was hard to learn HOW to do, but it is one of the best ways to live with another human being and not become their Holy Spirit or 'mom'. !!!
Back to that Encounter time -- My heart at this point was very cautious. I even blogged..( if you go back and read entries from late 2011....early 2012....) that my heart was cautious.
I got to thinking about something... If your marriage is in stress or if your heart is so hard towards your spouse or another, forgiveness is hard but it is what God has called you to do. It also makes you a prime target for the enemy to remind you - "it won't change....you deserve better" So, I would dig deep and ask yourself, do I want my marriage? I would suggest a therapist, a professional that can listen to you, evaluate WHAT needs to be done as there are changes to be made with both partners in a relationship. If the other person, your husband or the one causing you this heartache won't go with you to counsel -- they go by yourself. Get the help! Most often our mental health IS covered by our health insurance!!!
But whatever hurts there are....those are not easily forgotten. You can choose to forgive, but the hurt remains...THAT is the hard part. That is where TIME will have to come to allow some NEW memories and NEW feelings to overshadow the yuck. AND God can do that - HE wants too...WHEN you give HIM the time and access to your heart.
I can say this....I still get hurt. My husband can still say something that can bring me to my knees, but at this point to allow it to take me backwards would be sin for me, as God has, in the past two months, really shown me in many ways and in scripture that the PAST is the past and it is not to be remembered anymore.
So let me get back to ...what does forgiveness look like?
It resembles a worn bible being used to pray with.
It resembles a woman just walking away and telling another she does not feel well - and she goes to her prayer closet and cries...and she seeks God to FIX it right then and there.
It resembles a woman going to her Pastor and his wife and seeking their covering and prayer.
It resembles a woman praying and asking another to pray for her.
It resembles a woman fasting each week before the drive to Stuart for counseling and then she would blog here and there...as most often WHAT was said would usually put her BACK to square one.
It resembles a woman journaling...writing letters and complaints to God.
It resembles a woman focusing on her two children -- and making sure that any extra time was spent pouring into their lives.
It resembles a wife being very sweet to the man who 'hurt' her, and hearing her mother in her head saying 'kill him with kindness'...
It resembles time spent on knees, believing that one day....there would be a repentant husband that REALLY understands how much he hurt her...
But it also looks like a smile, when she finally decides that maybe just maybe, she can smile and then something happens and she sees her husband change and all of a sudden, the burden is a little less heavy.
THAT is what it looked like on the outside, but the real change and forgiveness happened on the inside over time. It was not overnight but it would come in stages and in chunks and I would look back and think -- "oh my ..THAT does not hurt anymore". Or, "hey..I am NOT even thinking about this anymore...". It took time!
Today..forgiveness means laughter - we laugh a lot now. We have taken the time to talk and communicate and pray together. We have changed a lot of old habits but also, we have learned to show each other respect so that WHEN a trigger pops up or something is said, I can go to him and say, "hey...my perspective is this and it hurt". Which gives him the freedom to react to WHAT I have stated...not assume what he is to do or say.
I don't believe women understand what God really means when it says we are to submit - but that can be a topic for another blog - I have spoken enough. But the real submission was to God....I submitted to HIM...which made it possible for HIM to work in me and then in my husband. Now I see a man that submits his thoughts and feelings to God first - as God is his first love. God is my first love now too. So, it is important to make sure my relationship with God and Jesus is solid and strong and then I can watch as God will change the man I prayed for ....prayed for ....for a LONG time!
Forgiveness does set us free!
It took us some 25 years of marriage -- but I think we are finally on the RIGHT path. It is a good path. Our therapist would also share with us about the 'dance' of marriage and getting to that dance...where we both can enjoy each other -- that is finally happening. Praise God. But...it is still work. We choose to work at it!
I hope this helped my new friend.
I hope this helped that stranger.
It helped me - it reminded me of HOW healed God really has me.....and a part of my confirmation was this photo/chart I found today on Facebook -- Wisdom is healed pain. THAT makes perfect sense!!
Wisdom is also from God - and doing what HIS word says.
Thank you Lord, may this help just one -- save a marriage....hold on a little longer, or may it even help one to forgive the infidel and the other....amen.
Lord, for whatever this woman may need to forgive - I pray she will....and allow You God to refill, redeem and restore whatever needs to be restored. AMEN!