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A Story of Forgiveness

From a wife…. thank you for sharing!!!   I know many of you will relate.

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I don’t know why my mom hated homeschooling so much.  I don’t know even that it was so much homeschooling, or that it was just my life choices in general that she didn’t appreciate, and homeschooling was the last straw for her.

Basically, as long as I agreed with her opinions and let her have her way in my life direction, it was great between us.  But as soon as I differed from her she was greatly offended.  After becoming a wife and mom with a family of my own, our relationship became more strained with every passing year.  My husband would tell me in later years that for the first 5 years of our marriage it felt like he was married to my mom.

When I became a Christian, it wasn’t received well.  She said I was already a Christian because she got me baptized when I was a baby.  I tried to explain to her that this was different, that God was really real and that I had never had Jesus before.  That getting me baptized when I was a baby was a great thing for a mom to do; but it wasn’t my choice, and it needed to be my own choice.

Although I let this conversation lay, she wouldn’t let it be.  It became a ‘back burner’ kind of point of contention between us.  When I did decide to get baptized on my own, she considered this a personal attack on her parenting, reiterating again, that she had already taken care of it.  That I was only doing this to ‘get back at her.’  I tried to help her understand that I thought she had been a fantastic mom and there was nothing I wanted to ‘get back at her’ for – but I couldn’t get her to see that I was a different person then her.  It seemed everything I did that was different than what she wanted, she saw as not only a negative reflection on her somehow, but also an attack on her person.

As the stress grew, parenting our first child became a challenge to her at every turn.  I’m not going to go on and on about it but only share a few examples so that you understand the temperature of the relationship.

-Beavers.  We were struggling with our son because he was an introverted ‘bookie’ type kid, favouring long hours of reading, drawing, playing legos and building models and creating things out of raw materials.  At her leading we thought we’d try him in Scouts (Beavers was his age group).  He hated it.  But we made him stay for two months, finally allowing him to leave.  She chastised me for this and considered it a grave mistake to let him drop it.  Her words were, “Shelly, YOU AND I agreed this would be a good thing for him.”  Now, whether or not it was a good parenting decision isn’t the point.  The point is that he was mine and my husband’s son and we made a decision to drop it.  Yet she insisted, insisted that I change my husband’s mind and put our son back in Beavers.  When I didn’t, but instead, supported my husband’s decision to take him out, this became another point of ‘back burner’ contention between us.  It was constantly brought out in conversation.

-Gameboy.  We didn’t want our kids playing electronic games (screens) until they were a certain age.  We preferred more tactile stimulus for their brains.  But according to my mom all the kids were playing with these electronic gadgets and she could see no reason for him to not have one.  She tried over the course of a year to talk me into it.  This would be going against what my husband and I had agreed to.  She bought it for him anyway and gave it to him on his birthday.

The most overarching contention that I dealt with on a regular basis was that I was not bringing in an income, but was instead staying home to homeschool.  She didn’t like that we didn’t drive a nice car and only had one, didn’t have new clothes but bought second hand instead.

And then – the needling directly at the kids started.

-“don’t you miss having lots of other kids to play with?”

-“don’t you miss field trips to this place and the other place?”

-“wouldn’t it be fun to do such and such?”

Our kids were involved in extracurricular activities.  They were in sports (if they wanted) music, homeschool groups and functions, volunteer work, newspaper routes, dog walking businesses, yard care businesses, church activities etc. But for some reason these things were not acceptable – because they didn’t come through the school system.

On and on it went – for far too long.  And yes, it was that blatant.

Finally, God stepped in.  He told me I had to stand up to her and not back down.

I was physically sick at the thought.  You see, I was wounded and terrified when it came to my mother.  The thoughts of really challenging her and not backing down frightened me.  Over the years I had been freeing myself from the control of her personality, bit by bit and this was the strain on our relationship.  I believed God thought I was strong enough now to be direct with her.  He told me what to say and how to say it to keep me on track.  Prepare your thoughts in point form.  This is what He wanted me to say:

-Hey mom, I’ve got to ask you to please not talk negatively about our choices to the kids anymore.

-There is nothing wrong with our choices to have one income so that we can homeschool, so please don’t make any more negative comments about it.

-It’s not fair to try and get the kids to go against our choices for them.  This cruel to do them, they don’t have a choice – it’s our choice as their parents.

I started to cry after I saw what God wanted me to say, because I knew that she would not accept it.  I knew she would take offense af it.  But also, it seemed confusing to me, there were no other Christians in my family, I know He knows what will happen.  He told me to call her in the morning.

But I didn’t.  He told me to call her the next morning but I didn’t.  This played out every day for 1 ½ weeks.  And then God said something to me that changed my life.  I was standing in the kitchen looking at the phone, list in hand, and God said, “Do you realize you are more afraid of your mother than you are of ME?”

Scales fell from my mind (so to speak) – and the phone rang.  It was my mom (too weird, right?)

I followed God’s directions and tried to plead with her to accept our choices.  This was a ‘no-go.’  She felt that it was wrong for me to try and tell her what to think and say around the kids.  That everyone who comes into our home isn’t going to share our opinion of homeschooling.  I tried to get her to understand that I didn’t want her to change her opinion about homeschooling, and that my husband and I, together would be willing to sit down and address any concerns that her and dad had (which we had done already, a few times over the years); but it had to stop with the kids.

The conversation fell into its familiar circular pattern:  it was turned so that somehow it was me attacking her.  (which is why God told me to write down the points and stay on track and stay calm)  At this point I asked the ending question:  “What are we going to do about this mom?”  And I heard the words that no kid wants to hear from their mother, “Well, I guess this is good-bye then because I’m not going to have people in my life that won’t accept me for who I am.”  That was the last time I talked to my mom.

For those of you who don’t know, this is what the narcissistic personality is like.  I only found this out a few years ago, I thought my mom was just super controlling.  As is common with this personality, when there is this type of conflict, it is necessary that everyone else (in the family, or wherever) know just how offended they were; how right they were; and how wrong the offender (me) was.  This is how they segregate you out, not just away from themselves, but the rest of the family.

But that doesn’t change anything, really.  I still needed to forgive her (and my dad), and my brother and sister.

For the great news!

What happened is that when I turned to God instead of my own pain and gnawing rejection, He freed me.  (a LOT more difficult than it sounds, all neat and tidy in one sentence)

PLUS He became much more real on so many levels.  How does God become more real than REAL?  If you allow Him, He’ll meet you EXACTLY where you are.

I had sinned against God.  Yes, I was the one that suffered the abuse, however, I had also sinned myself.  My identity was completely entwined with my mothers, this was her doing; but I had tried to fix myself by my own methods – this was MY sin.  God is God, and He will have nothing between us and Him.  He is first and although I said I believed that and thought I believed it, as I went through this experience it allowed me to see into myself in a way that I never would have otherwise.

Pain, if you’ll let it, will peel back all the self-made barriers (self-vindication and self-protection) so that you can see your real self. These barriers do a very scary thing – they separate you from others – and God.  But I didn’t see this, and once you start building them, it is virtually impossible to stop without God’s intervention – it just becomes who you are.  You make a little protective cocoon around your heart, weaving strand by strand, ever so slowly.  You don’t think you are doing this and you can’t see it, and no one else can – only God.

Inside this cocoon I had hidden my wounds.  This is what God wanted to get at and heal.

The first place God met me was here:  Although my father and mother have forsaken me, yet the Lord will take me up [adopt me as His child]. –Psalm 27:10.  When God lead me to this verse I actually cried out in anguish.  I’ve never experienced anything like this since.  When you experience this kind of rejection it feels negatively surreal.  It is as though you are losing your  footing mentally and emotionally.  I could feel God behind me saying, this is real.  What you are feeling IS real – but I’m here, right behind you – fall into ME.

Forgiveness allowed me to see clearly.  This isn’t about me and my mom (as much as it seems like it is), it’s about God and me.  It’s about Satan hating God and hating me because I’m His daughter.  This is what the adversary does to us:  he uses people to do to us what he wants to do to us.  Without forgiveness I would never have seen the truth of it.  Vengeance does not belong to me but to God.  I don’t know His plans, He does.  People do bad things to us, but God means it for good.  He will bring the good out of ugly – if we will just trust Him and wait for Him. (Gen 50:19-20; Rom 8:28)

I can now say like Job did, “I had heard of You [only] by the hearing of the ear, but now my [spiritual] eye sees You.

 

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Forgiveness

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We have been focusing on bitterness a good bit this week.  If you have missed it, here are links to the other posts:

Be Still My Bitter Heart

Bitterness is Toxic and Contagious

Exploring the Depths of Bitterness

Finding God’s Victory Over Bitterness

STEPPING STONES TO FORGIVENESS

I want to see ALL traces of bitterness gone in myself and in all of you!  I want to see Christ deliver us from our sin that we might live in His victory and abundant life full of His peace, joy and purpose.  Just the smallest amount of bitterness or unforgiveness will grow into a destructive force of evil in my life.

If you live with people, you will have plenty of “legitimate” reasons to be bitter.  You will be sinned against – and it is not wrong to feel anger when someone sins against us.  Anger is a gift from God that is supposed to alert us to our boundaries being violated or us being sinned against. But, in that anger, I am not to sin!  And I must get rid of the anger and deal with it quickly before it gives the enemy a foothold in my life.

So, how do I begin to forgive when I am deeply hurt and someone sinned against me?

SEE THE DEPTHS OF MY OWN SIN AND THE MASSIVE DEBT CHRIST PAID FOR ME

For me, this is the first step.  I used to think I was really “not that bad” and didn’t have much sin in my own life.  That massive PRIDE in my heart fueled ungodly thoughts in me like:

  • I don’t deserve to be treated this way
  • I would NEVER do that to someone.  I am so much better than that person
  • I am a victim here
  • I deserve to hold on to my anger and unforgiveness
  • He/she doesn’t deserve my forgiveness

When I think that I am above reproach – I start to think I shouldn’t have to forgive.  But that is so untrue!  God Himself is SINLESS and HOLY and He forgives.  Am I above God that I am exempt from forgiving others?  That was PRIDE in my heart.  SKY HIGH PRIDE.

When I start to look at MYSELF – and begin a rough tally of all the sin in my own life – just in my past (not to mention my future!) – I know now that I owe Jesus “billions of dollars” of sin debt.  I had constant idolatry in my heart for decades (acting as if I were sovereign instead of God, putting myself and being in control up as an idol, expecting my husband to be Christ and making him an idol), PRIDE, PRIDE, PRIDE, unforgiveness, gossip, bitterness… MOUNTAINS of sin.

When I see the sin in my own life – and how desperately I need forgiveness and all that Christ has forgiven me for – how can I not show that mercy to others who sin against me.  They are doing the SAME things that I have done!  I need mercy, and so do they.

(Matthew 18:21-35 – a parable about how we are to forgive)

UNDERSTAND THAT IF I REFUSE TO FORGIVE, GOD WILL NOT FORGIVE ME.  I NEED HIS FORGIVENESS!  THIS IS NOT AN OPTION.  IT IS  A COMMAND AND A NECESSITY.

It is spiritual suicide for me to refuse to forgive someone.  I then forfeit God’s power working in me, His strength, His Spirit’s filling me, His forgiveness and the fruit of His Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  I NEED those things!  I need the presence and intimate fellowship of Christ.  I have NOTHING without Him!

I am addicted to Jesus.  He is my LORD.  I need Him in my life and I MUST have him.  I need to do whatever He wants me to do in order to stay close to Him and be able to abide in Him.

Read the book of I John this week if you can.  Read it with bitterness and unforgiveness in mind and see how God wants us to live if we belong to Him.  There is no room for sin.  It all has to go!  Unforgiveness = wickedness to Christ.  I cannot afford the luxury of unforgiveness.

UNFORGIVENESS AND BITTERNESS ARE GATEWAY SINS THAT LEAD TO MANY OTHER SINS – IT IS POISON!

Not only do I forfeit the blessings of God and of obedience when I refuse to forgive, I embrace the poison fruit of unforgiveness and bitterness.  It leads to death!  Death of relationships, depression, anxiety, many other sins (gossip, division, feuds, jealousy, lack of faith, even stealing, suicide or murder if it is left long enough in my heart).

A tiny amount of bitterness grows and takes over my soul, my thoughts, my life and my identity.  It can actually become my purpose in life if I allow it to continue – it can become my idol!  Other people can see bitterness in me and it makes me toxic to everyone else.  People will want to avoid me.  Bitterness is contagious – the Bible says not to let a bitter root grow up that will defile many.

This is SERIOUS stuff!

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY – THE LIFE OF JOSEPH

One of my favorite stories about forgiveness is that of Joseph in the Old Testament (Genesis 38-45).  If anyone had reason to be bitter, it was Joseph.  His brothers were jealous of him and staged his fake death and sold him into slavery.  As a slave, his master’s wife accused him falsely of attempted rape and he was sent to prison, though he was innocent.  In prison, he helped the Pharaoh’s cup bearer, but the cup bearer forgot to mention Joseph to the Pharaoh.  He was a slave or a prisoner for MANY YEARS.

But this young man did not become bitter.  I LOVE his attitude and how he handled things!  He trusted himself to God.

And when the time came that his God-given dreams came true and he stood before his brothers as the 2nd in command in Egypt and they were all bowing down to him – he responded in godliness. He did test his brothers to see if they had changed.  He checked to see if they were trustworthy.  But then, when he revealed himself to them – he did not have them killed or imprisoned or tortured.  His response amazes me!

Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.  For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping.  But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”  (Genesis 45:5-8) And he forgave them, loved them, hugged them, wept with them and gave them the finest clothes, food and land and he provided for them out of all the wealth God had given him.

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY – THE LIFE OF JESUS

Jesus, also, was able to forgive as He was being crucified because:

1. He knew that the people didn’t realize what they were doing

2. He knew that it was God’s will for Him to suffer and die and take the punishment we deserved so that God’s wrath might be satisfied, and He might make a way to bring us into a right relationship with God.

He trusted the sovereignty of God.  This wasn’t about him and being comfortable. This was about doing what God wanted Him to do so that He might save many from hell and from separation from God.

GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER MY LIFE, TOO

When someone hurts me or wounds me or sins against me – what they intended for evil, God intends for good and He can and will use even the sin of others against me to accomplish His good purposes, to make me more like Christ and to bring great glory to Himself.

This is a HUGE key in being able to forgive – to see the sovereign hand of God in the midst of my pain and to trust His heart even when I can’t trust the heart of the person/people who are sinning against me.

Be Still, My Bitter Heart

Today’s post is a guest post by my dear sister in Christ, Selena, at www.joyfullysubmitted.com.  Thank you, Selena, for allowing me to share this post!  I pray that it will bless and edify many for the glory of God.

For the past week, some friends and I have been experiencing what it feels like to have our hearts turned inside out and upside down.  The Lord has used the isolated experience of one as an amazing tool to cleanse the hearts of us all, of some known, but mostly unknown and unrepented of bitterness and ghastly unforgiveness!  We have had the sinful contents of our bitter hearts, ever so gently shaken loose, so that we could choose to either acknowledge the presence of sin and repent of it, or continue to ignore its contents and go on growing more and more removed from God.  For some of us, the existence of bitterness was no shock! We had a moderate awareness on some level of its existence.  But for others, this revelation broke our hearts, and brought agony to our souls as these evils were revealed under the all illuminating light of God’s Word…

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For most of the week, I have remained silent…reading the emails that have gone back and forth as one thing after another was revealed or exposed…as one realization after another pierced the hearts of those of us impacted.  What God revealed to one, He revealed to another, and with each revelation of the depth of the darkness still lurking in our hearts, we prayed all the more…and with each prayer came another level of confession and repentance… and the more we confessed and repented, the more healing took place.

UNEARTHING BITTERNESS

The biggest hurt/most humbling thing for me was realizing that I had NOT forgiven as I thought I had.  Or rather, that I had not forgiven at all.  And that bitterness is just the tip of a very evil, ugly iceberg!  The root of bitterness is unforgiveness…and the root of unforgiveness is and has ALWAYS  BEEN PRIIIIIDE!!!!!! (That was me yelling at myself) Foolish pride. Evil pride. Ugly pride. God offending pride.  And after all of the years that I have known the Lord, it is still found in me… in my heart.  Some may ask why is this such a big deal, after all, we’re only human right. Wrong! We are women of faith! And not just a faith but THE faith. We have placed our faith in the One True and Living God and in His Son Jesus the Christ! We have been changed … trans-formed! (This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Cor.5:17)  Because we are His we no longer desire the things of this world!!! We no longer want to be like the world!!! And we no longer are ok with the world being in us!!! We want it out!! Out of our hearts!!! Out of our minds!!! Out of our families!!! When speaking of people of the same Faith that we profess, the Book of Hebrews said the following;

“How much more do I need to say? … They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.” Hebrews 11:32-40

This experience…this full recognition of the evil pride that repeatedly spawns bitterness in the hearts of Gods people everywhere, including in my own heart, has worked to revive the fight in me.  Hebrews has reminded me of the spiritual stock that we all come from…of the cloth that we’re cut from.  We are ‘more than conquerors’ (Romans 8:37), and that means that we can, by the power of the life-giving Spirit that now abides in us, conquer even bitterness…pride… envy…jealousy…and all of their ugly relatives!!!!

The healing that began in the hearts of our small prayer group is just the beginning!!! We are able to overcome bitterness, and through our testimonies, help others to overcome and experience healing too!!! God’s mercy has empowered us to not “just pretend to love others. [but to] Really love them. [to really]Hate what is wrong. [to truly]Hold tightly to what is good. [to] Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other… [to] Bless those who persecute [us]. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think [we] know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead,“If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:9-21)

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BITTERNESS YIELDS POISONED FRUIT

You see, pride says that I deserve better…in my case, that I deserved to be treated better than they treated me, 20 years ago as well as off and on throughout the years. Unforgiveness sets in because I want God to punish them and to do it quickly and visibly, where I can see that they got ‘in trouble’ for wronging wonderful me!! Bitterness sets in over time when the punishment never seems to come, and the wrong never seems to be made right.

Over time these evil emotions begin to feel normal, and comfortable, and we begin to feel justified, and pride begins to grow and gain strength.  And eventually, our refusal to forgive becomes justifiable, and bitterness becomes our friend. We don’t even realize that we are now living in a prison of our own making, and while pride has convinced us that we are right, its true evil is camouflaged…hidden from our view, and the absolute distortion of the image of Christ being perfected in us is now all that is visible. Bitterness makes us unattractive…it manipulates us, our responses or reactions.  Where we should be acting in the love of God and displaying His mercy, when bitterness takes our hearts captive, we become the puppets of the enemy of our souls.  And the name of our God is defamed….

“But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?” 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

CHRIST WON’T LEAVE US IN OUR SIN

I am going to wrap this up with one more thing that I was reminded of this week; Ephesians 5 tells us that Christ not only loved the church, but that he

“gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” 

This past week my beautiful prayer sisters and I experienced that ‘washing of water by the word’, and it was painfully glorious!!! Bitterness no longer reigns in the most holy place of our hearts! We now know what it looks like and smells like and sounds like…and how it feels!!! And we know most of all that it is an overwhelming offense to the presence of our merciful, forgiving and gracious God.  More than ANYTHING we want to honor Him!!!! More than ANYTHING we want our lives to bring Him glory!!! More than ANYTHING we want to hear Him say ‘Well done!’!!!!! We are choosing daily to forgive. we are choosing daily to love. We are FIGHTING MINUTE BY MINUTE to remain humble.  And by the power of His life-giving Spirit we will be VICTORIOUS!!! Won’t you join us??? Forgive today…resist the self-imposed prison of bitterness that the enemy is trying to sneak into your hearts under the guise of justifiable anger or wisdom…choose today to love with Gods love, and let it heal our hearts together….

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