November 29, 2013

The Undoing of Forgiveness

There's something that happens sometimes in the process of healing.  I've seen it happen in the hearts and lives of my girlfriends and I've seen it happen in my own heart and in my husband's heart, in my mom's heart, my dad's heart, and in the hearts of many others.

When things have been wrong for a very long time, a woman steels herself.  (Perhaps a man too, but I only know how it works for a woman.) She buckles down and seeks God's strength and sacrifices and gives even though she knows she shouldn't have to. She does it for the sake of her relationships. For the sake of her marriage. For the sake of her family. For the sake of whoever might be involved.  She gets a quiet determination about her and a willingness to endure what she wouldn't otherwise, in order to just get through and to pursue restoration, health and healing in the long run.  She finds what she's made of and she realizes that indeed, with the strength and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, she can set aside herself, submit to Yahweh's plan and lay her life down for others. There is an incredible sense of gratification in enduring something like that, looking back, and realizing that she was obedient to His call for the long hard season.

Somewhere in the long season, she forgives.  Her heart is clean. She lets go and bitterness is eradicated. Her heart is whole, she realizes that she doesn't have to choose to forgive each and every moment of every day, and she is ready for the reward:  restoration and healing.

And then there's the day that restoration and healing starts to be realized, and I've discovered that sometimes there's an un-doing that the enemy manages to sneak in and unravel in our hearts. After steeling herself for so long against the storm, when suddenly the quiet comes and she can start to let down, sometimes the forgiveness unravels a bit, as her emotions take over and she begins to feel again.  When wrongs are righted, and something in her is touched deeply that hasn't been touched in a long time, the emotions of anger and bitterness that she's disciplined her spirit to reject for so long, start to creep back in.  Suddenly, when she experiences relief and being cared for well, once again, and things are made right, she is blind-sided by a tsunami of tired. A flood of emotional exhaustion. A wall of this-is-what-it's-supposed-to-feel-like-and-now-I-remember-how-much-it-hurt-not-to-have-this.

In those moments, tears flood, anger returns and the forgiveness - the willingness to let go of the necessity for the guilty party to understand what she was made to feel like - has to be chosen all over again.  It's an ugly feeling. It feels like a dark spot rotting in the far corner of her heart, begging to be forgotten and ignored. But if it is, it only grows. It feels like I-don't-like-myself and I-thought-I-was-past-this. It feels like why-am-I-suddenly-so-angry-when-I-should-be-rejoicing. It feels like why-do-I-keep-expecting-the-enemy-to-play-fair. It feels like a low blow. It feels like death.

And in that moment, there are two choices.  She can ignore it.  But beware. She may be able to shove it off for a time. She may be able to turn her back, face the lighted living room of her heart, and only pay attention to the warm delicious smells of what's growing and cooking in the kitchen of her heart.  But what's rotting behind her will only worsen and the stench will grow until finally, it's permeated the whole heart and can be ignored no longer.

Or... she can turn around, grab the bleach and mop, and clean it out. It means interrupting everything to kneel before the cross and confess it all over again. It means a little bit of heart-surgery. But if she faces it right away - really faces it - and give the enemy no room, time or space to let the rot spread, the Spirit can clean that corner literally instantaneously.  It feels like I-won't-let-everything-I've-worked-for-go-undone. It feels like get-out-Satan-and take-your-stink-with-you. It feels like this-is-not-my-heart-that-feels-ugly-but-rather-the-work-of-the-father-of-lies. It feels like this-has-already-been-redeemed-and-I'm-already-healed. It feels like victory. It feels like life. 

The un-doing of forgiveness... It can happen.  It can sneak up on you.  But it doesn't have to win. Christ died so it doesn't have to. If you are there, as I have been so many times, I encourage you to give it back to Him one more time.  Lay it at His feet and walk away once again.  You are a child of the King.  You are loved. In Him, you are loving. White as snow, by His blood, you are lovely. **

**Quoted and inspired by 31 Days to Lovely, by Sarah Valente