Forgiveness….

forgive

Forgiveness has weighed heavy on my mind the past couple days…The reason God asks us to forgive isn’t to excuse the hurtful acts done to us, it is to free us from them. It’s to put what was done to us back in His hands in order to move forward with our lives without the burden of constant bitterness and resentment. I think some people get so used to carrying the bitterness, they don’t even realize they carry it. It’s a painful poison.

“Forgiveness doesn’t make what the person did right, it just makes your heart right.” — Beth Moore

I wouldn’t have understood this quote until I had a doozy to forgive. The weight we carry by harboring unforgiveness can affect generations. It can also promote a cycle of bitterness, anger, and resentment that God does not intend for us to carry much less pass on. In my own situation, I couldn’t prevent the cycle of divorce no matter how hard I tried. But now, I want to do everything in God’s power to prevent bitterness, resentment,  and consistent conflict in our situation. This doesn’t excuse the behavior or erase the pain. It changes me. It humbles me over and over again as I seek His way to handle daily situations. Extending mercy and grace while handing over the need for revenge is one of the hardest things God asks us to do. But, just like everything else He asks us to do, it’s in our best interest. He is a loving and just God.

Forgiving someone doesn’t necessarily mean reconciliation either. It depends on the relationship and the two involved. It comforts me to trust that God knows exactly what happened. He knows the hearts involved and He will deal with it. Forgiveness takes faith because we have to believe God in order to take this giant leap. Forgiveness is not “letting them off the hook”, it’s letting ourselves off the hook to go in peace by leaving the offense in God’s hands.

If there is someone you feel like you need to forgive on a daily basis and you can’t seem to avoid like a mean spirited coworker or a critical family member or spouse, pray for them and ask God how to respond to them. In these situations, I tend to get back in the doormat position by turning the other cheek over and over. God’s will is that we love others, but not that we forget to love ourselves as His children in the process. We all deserve respect. These people may be the sandpaper in our lives that God is using to refine and test us. Love them in the process of standing up for yourself. I know that’s also not easy….none of this comes naturally to us.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

His peace is priceless and His peace is worth handing our situation over. It is a process that He will help us with once we have the desire to forgive. He alone can soften and strengthen our hearts after what they’ve been through. Once our desire is to forgive, He will take the reins. Let Him have them…Forgiveness is the final act of love. Jesus proved that to be true.

Truth in Tears

man tears

“Crying doesn’t indicate you’re weak. Since birth, it’s been a sign that you’re ALIVE”. I ran across this quote yesterday and it got me thinking. There is immense joy in the delivery room when babies let out their first cries. Not only does it mean they are alive, but more than likely healthy. It’s such a relieving and beautiful moment!

My heart is heavy for those of us who have been taught that it’s best to stuff our emotions and just “get it together”. If you’re like me, there is a lot more pain in holding back the tears than just letting them flow. It’s in trying to suppress our feelings, that the real damage is done and the most pain is endured. Telling ourselves we don’t or shouldn’t hurt, when we clearly do, doesn’t help the healing process. While we may need to think twice before acting on emotion alone, feeling it is extremely healthy and the best way to process it. I believe that’s why we feel such relief after a good cry. Something about letting the tears come helps our hearts to heal.

For the men who were told that “real men don’t cry”, your naysayers must have missed the scripture that clearly says Jesus wept. John 11:35. Jesus cried even when He already knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. He cried out of compassion for his friends. He cried because of overwhelming grief. He cried because He was human. I love that He wept and displayed this emotion. Jesus is the manliest of all men and He wept……for us. Then, He moved forward, overcame, and brought tears of pure joy by raising his friend back to life!

I believe I can safely speak for most women when I say that when we see a man cry with sincerity and for good reason (especially one we love), we view it as an enormous strength. Whatever you are allowing the tears to flow for means a great deal to you and allowing us to see them speaks volumes to those who love you. We want to know that you are capable of that much emotion and secure enough to let us witness it. If it matters to you, it matters to us. Our hearts naturally go out to sincere love, joy, and grief in the form of tears because we know they are real. We all long to be real.

On a personal note, I never saw my husband shed a tear as our marriage unravelled. I’m not saying he didn’t. I’m just saying I never saw it. I was surprised and greatly moved when he cried during our wedding vows, I saw tears when our first daughter was born, and at the loss of our dog. But, I never saw him cry over the loss of our marriage or me. He had shut down emotionally. Moved on already…..

I share that very personal information as a reminder to us all. Don’t shut down on what matters. Don’t shut down on what should matter. Pray for the Holy Spirit to come alive and active in our hearts. Ask Him to break our heart for what breaks His. Our families are worth shedding blood, sweat, and tears over. Our families are gifts from God. He pays close attention to how we treat each other as His children. We are all worth tears because we were worth His.

I cry when I feel overwhelmed with God’s love for me. I cried when I was rebaptized. I’ll catch myself crying at church when certain songs penetrate straight to my heart. I’ve cried tears of love just watching my children sleep, I’ve cried over loss of love, and I’ve cried tears of joy over new friendships. Each time it reminds me that I’m alive and I’m grateful to have loved so much that it overflows. I also believe that Godly sorrow, true repentance, the enormity of grace, feeling truly forgiven, and feeling the warmth of God’s true love can and will bring the toughest of us to tears. He alone is worthy. Jesus cried tears of blood in anguish and determination to do His Father’s will. Raw emotion. Raw love.

The next time your brain or upbringing tells you to “pull it together” or “be strong” by holding back tears of joy, love, or sadness remind yourself that Jesus also wept. He created us to produce tears for a reason and I believe it is to help us heal and deal. To cry is proof we are alive and that we love. Let the truth run down your cheeks and may He hold you close, comfort, and continue to bless you. You are loved!

Behind the Smile

behind the smile

I was reminded today, ever so blatantly, of the brokenness in this world.  Today, the tears flowed with nowhere else to go but down. Remember, that most of us have been broken by the loss of a loved one, a marriage, a childhood, a family member, or an illness. There are countless ways we may feel broken. This great sense of loss will change a person. Behind the smiles, you may not know what people are going through or have been through. Be mindful that others may have been touched by tragedy. Think twice before you envy someone’s seemingly “perfect” life. Remember, that brokenness is a part of this life…only.

Yes, there are blessings to be found in brokenness. Yes, finding out that God has never nor will ever forsake us is the ultimate blessing we discover in our trials. But, that doesn’t mean the pain isn’t real.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15

Our human race was broken in the Garden of Eden. The shame, guilt, grief, and separation from God is still evident in our brokenness today. Our souls long to be complete in Him. Cultivating a relationship with God does not guarantee we won’t be broken again, but it does show us where to turn when we are. It reminds us that He is still in control and keeps us ever homesick for heaven.

Open your eyes and hearts to others around you. Be aware that there has been pain behind their smiles. Pain is increasingly evident in this world. Today, I was at a loss for words. I couldn’t encourage, all I could do was empathize with and feel the pain and loss. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus….there are times when this simply means lending an ear and following up with a heartfelt “I’m so sorry”. Sometimes there are no words, answers, or clichés to relieve the pain. There are times we just have to feel it, let it roll down our cheeks, and pray for comfort. I do believe it’s better to feel it than deny it. To honestly feel it allows for healing and growth.

Being honest about our own pain may strengthen another to open up and receive healing in theirs. I have witnessed and personally experienced that just knowing we aren’t alone can bring the most comfort. Let us actively love each other by recognizing that we are all broken, living in a broken world, and getting by the best we can. Let us also be reminded that God is good, in the good times and in the bad. God is good, in the pain and in the pleasure. God is good, in the loss and in the gains. And let us continue to praise God from whom all blessings flow…

Yearning for heaven where our hearts and circles will be forever unbroken.