Sunday, July 28, 2019

Forgiveness

When I was younger, it drove me absolutely crazy when my friends couldn't see my perspective, when people behaved in, what I thought, was an irrational or unbecoming manner.
But as I've gotten older and (hopefully) wiser, I understand the fact that we are all different for the gift that it is. Your loud neighbor exists in contrast to your quiet nature because the world needs both joyful noise and peaceful contemplation. And each can learn from the other.
The world can't function when we're all the same. In order to grow and survive, we need to need each other. And because we're all made differently, we're all given different gifts.

In my case, God has given me the gift of radical forgiveness.
I don't get it. I don't always want it. The extreme ability to empathize with and understand ALMOST anyone in ALMOST any situation can be annoying. I'm human, and sometimes I want to be mad. Sometimes I want to give in to my feelings and fight and yell. But most of the time, maybe 99% of the time, I'm detached enough from the situation to be able to put myself in other people's shoes and experience compassion for them.

Forgiveness is not an easy thing. People often think of forgiveness as a feeling, or a destination. And it isn't either of those things. Forgiveness is a journey and a choice. And it's rarely perfect.
In co-parenting situations such as mine, for example, forgiveness is a muscle that must be constantly exercised. No matter how much I love and respect my co-parent, we are two human beings trying to raise ONE human being in two different households with two different life philosophies. No matter how similar our parenting styles might be, we are different. And we are no longer navigating life as one. We disagree. We misunderstand each other. We sometimes inadvertently hurt each other.
And often, that leaves me with a choice: how do I want to react to what I'm experiencing? If I choose to see his actions as malicious or personal, I'm planting bitterness in my heart. I will harvest nothing but pain and anger, which is not good for me, my daughter, or our parenting relationship and ability to work together. When I choose to look at his actions as someone who simply wants the best for his child, I plant compassion and harvest forgiveness. And often, my response impacts his.

But what happens when we extend forgiveness and we don't receive it back? Even worse, what if it's outright rejected?
That's where the "radical" part comes in.
Where a lot of societal "wisdom" will tell you to fight back, that others are treating you unfairly, that you deserve better, God's radical forgiveness says: "I got this; put it down. Forgive anyway."
Life is unfair. We won't always get what we give. People have freewill and don't necessarily owe us anything. We can't control the behavior of others. Forgiveness is for us so that we may have peace. We need that ability to experience our differences and give each other grace. People will push your buttons, and you do not have to react.

Patience is not my gift. Singing is not my gift. Coordination is definitely not my gift! But radical forgiveness is. And He gave it to me so that I may share it and teach it to others, just as others have, and continue to, teach me their gifts. I don't always understand why my gift is met with so much resistance.. Maybe in order to teach it to others I need to be in constant practice. What I do know is that bitterness and anger are a poison to the heart and soul. I do know that people hold on to pain because they feel that the pain is who they are; it gives them identity. But God has not called us to be slaves to our circumstances. We're meant to be teachers and leaders within our purpose.

If you need help letting go of something, start small. Don't be afraid to ask for help from people who have walked before you. But most importantly, expect and ask for God's guidance and grace, and I promise you He will provide the resources and the way. As He forgave us, may we forgive others.

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