…the two go hand in hand
I really love how our pastors break things down and make them relevant to real life, real struggles of the heart, the world and how to take real action. There’s a recognition that we are all flawed, we make mistakes and an acceptance of that so there is no need or push for a quest to perfection.
For years I attended churches where you just pray it away or give it God and if you are still struggling then you must not be making a big enough effort or you are not really giving it to God. Well, where I attend, we do pray and we do give it to God, yet we also know that it’s not always that easy. I feel like I’m allowed to be human and it’s ok that my process may take longer than others.
The theme of today’s message at my church was about loving God and loving others…I mean really loving others, as in even when they are rotten or push you out of their lives because of their own stuff kind of love. In fact, she said, that is how you know you are learning how to really love – that you are loving the people that are outside your circle of comfort; outside of those that are like you. These are people that may be the complete opposite, they look for the offenses, are negative or just don’t love others because they don’t even know what it’s like to be loved themselves.
She brought up that we are taught to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Loving another person starts with your own heart and within ourselves. After she said that I got to thinking about that quote – loving your neighbor as yourself means you must love and accept yourself first. Not in a selfish way, but in a way that is kind, caring and respectful of yourself. If you think about it, how can those who don’t care or aren’t kind to themselves possibly extend that to others. They are going to love their neighbor only to the extent they are capable.
I knew right away who God was laying on my heart. She is hard to love. I love her nonetheless and because I do, I won’t mention her name or even share details of our challenges. Two things happened, I was hurt during a conversation with her and another friend, tried to talk to her and her friend, was met with harsh criticism and they were completely unapologetic. Then I made a very simple, honest, human mistake because of being a tired mom and didn’t acknowledge something she had helped me with [2 months ago]. I honestly hadn’t remembered. The 2nd thing caused her to shut down our friendship completely and then blame it on me; said it was my choice. I apologized to her, though she would not listen. The apology was not received.
These 2 events have hurt immensely and I have been struggling ever since to forgive her, let it go and move on. I have been wrestling with it in my heart knowing I have to forgive her, while also grappling with the hurts. We had healed so much and thought much of our past was in the past, yet with these hurts, I realized that much of our past hurts were still staring me in the present and I had to not only deal with these but so much more I had repressed.
How do you move on when the other person hasn’t apologized in once instance and in the other, refused to accept your apology and it’s someone rather important to you? How do you love someone who says that you are being ridiculous, yet your hurts are so raw and real?
I kept starting a letter to her and kept stopping because I would realize that what I wanted to say was probably not the best things to say; that it probably wouldn’t be what Jesus would do. How in the world did he forgive despite the hurt?!
In the book “Follow: A Simple and Profound Call to Live Like Jesus” by Floyd Mcclung explains that a lack of forgiveness is one of the fruits of pride.
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they are happy; share tears when they are down (Rom 12:14-15)
“If, after being persecuted or rejected by someone, we do not make a conscious effort to forgive, we are in danger or becoming hard-hearted. In that state, it is easy to rationalize bitterness and hostility by focusing on the injustice done to us. At first we focus only on the person who has hurt us, but once we have started down this path, we discover that it cannot be applied selectively. Ones’ whole life can soon be consumed by bitterness. The only cure is forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a powerful force. Through God’s forgiveness of us, and our subsequent forgiveness of others, we experience true love for God and for one another. Through forgiving those who sin against us, we find new freedom in our hearts.”
So therefore another emphasis on forgiveness. However forgiveness is not like waving a magic wand. It’s a changing of your heart over time. Sometimes it’s over a few minutes or hours and sometimes it takes days. I believe here Floyd is emphasizing that we make a conscious effort of forgiveness no matter the hurt, wrong, etc.
After have been making a conscious effort and getting stuck, I counseled with my pastor a few weeks ago – the very one that was talking about Love this morning. She recommended a few things to do however because of my fears of rejection from my friend, and most likely some pride, I have only prayed and sought God’s wisdom.
In today’s message, God was targeting me and in it was His answer to my question of “How do I let go already and move on!? It still hurts so much!”
To Love like Christ loves us we must Love the unlovable. Love those who hurt you. Love when it’s not convenient or comfortable. Love when it feels like the last thing we really want to do. God loves us each and every day. How many times do we screw up, never say we are sorry to God and yet He still loves us; accepts us, embraces us and forgives us. Christ died on the cross and forgave all of us without an apology. Wow…that’s pretty amazing considering all the flaws we have and how much we screw up daily. I don’t know about you… I am FAR from perfect!
“Transparency is a willingness to be known for who we really are, to be ruthlessly honest about our lives. Either we will take steps to be transparent, or we will hide our secrets. There is no in-between place with God. You are either in the light or hiding in the dark.
The greatest hindrance to transparency is our pride. It gets in the way of opening our lives to other people. We can either retreat from the ones we don’t like, taking the easy way of avoidance, pretending we like them with a sweet but insincere smile; or we can decide to grow beyond our reactions and learn to love people when it is hard to do so. We all need to commit ourselves to be open to one another and to receive correction from one another where necessary.”
Hmmm. powerful words. We can either retreat or decide to grow. I’ve been in retreat and that has not worked. So it’s time to grow.
It came time in our service, after the message for a time of prayer, and meditation. I took my pain to the alter and held my hands open as a signal that I needed someone to pray with me. A wonderful older woman, much wiser than I, came over. She asked me what I needed prayer for and as I told her, uncontrollable tears streamed down my face and at the same time a feeling of relief came over me.
We talked not only about forgiving my friend but also forgiveness of myself for any part I had in the 2 events. That I need to start there. She prayed with me and we talked some more. In her I experienced the love and acceptance that I so desperately needed and an answer to another prayer…one for a mentor in my walk with Christ.
What is your pain? Close your eyes, draw close to God and listen. Who is He putting on your heart to love? or to forgive?
Love is not a feeling it’s an act. We are to seek to support each other. It means going the extra mile even when it hurts. It means putting away our own pride and selfish desires for those of another.
I will admit…not an easy place to get to sometimes.
Though today, especially after writing this, I can feel that God has changed my heart and I’m ready to move to the next step. For those of you on this same journey or struggling with forgiveness, I hope this has helped.