Whew...April was hard, y'all. Daaaaaaang. If you only knew. Deeeeeeep breath. Praise the Lord it's over. And...life is better. You'll hear all about it here in time. About forgiveness though...
Joel and I had come back together on Labor Day. We had entered into correspondence with Joel's family who had believed and done and said some incredibly divisive and detrimental things about me/us, esp. since January 2012. We worked with them until the end of October/beginning of November to try to get them to understand that the only way to reconcile would be to discuss all of these things with me...so that we could clear things up, be really honest, talk about what really happened, and start to really see things for what they were and hopefully through those talks, come back together. They refused to discuss anything with me.
When something like this has been done to you...when you've been incredibly mistreated for so long...there is no way to 'move on' healthily without actually talking about it and getting to the bottom of things. Any moving on done without really discussing things and really seeing the truth of what happened would only entail sweeping things under the rug. The dirt and nastiness would still be there. Nothing would have been cleaned. Nothing would have been made pure again.
That's not healthy. At all. I realize that that is the way some people do it. But, that's wrong. And those problems, that dirt, that was never actually dealt with and swept away...it will always come up again...it will always be made visible again. Because it wasn't really ever cleaned in the first place.
The healthy way to deal with conflict is to clean your way through it. Cleaning...who loves cleaning? Who loves sweeping? Not many people do. But, we do it. Why? Because we know that after we push through the work of cleaning, we will love the results. A clean house. Enjoyable. Pleasant.
There are lots of things in life that aren't fun. They aren't easy. They aren't pleasant. They are hard. We push through them and do them anyway. Because once we push through the non-fun, non-easy, unpleasant, hard parts...the results are worth it. And we can sit back, enjoy, and be pleased with a job well done.
It happens in birth...you push through...because the process of being there and literally pushing a person into life is just incredibly indescribable. The Brazilians call childbirth 'dar a luz' which literally means 'to give light.' How awesome that we get to give light to life, ladies?!? I'll never get over that miracle that we get to participate in. It's hard...and painful. But, that privilege...amazing. So we do it. We know that holding that baby for the first time is going to be just immeasurably worth it and filled with more joy than you've ever felt, each time you do it.
We push through.
Jesus did it when he allowed the soldiers to take Him and do with Him what they pleased...because He did it for 'the joy that was set before Him'...the joy of fulfilling His Father's plan, of going back to be at His right hand, of giving us a way to come to Him and be in a close, intimate relationship with us here on earth and for all of eternity.
He did it...in his fully human form, registering every bit of pain and suffering. He pushed through.
So, we do things that are unpleasant. Because they are right. Because they bring about the right, good, pleasant results.
When Joel and I were so very far apart, I knew that either 1) we would end in divorce or 2) Joel would a) realize what he had done, b) repent, and c) we would be able to work together to become unified again. In order for those things to happen, there were lots of discussions that had to take place...during a), b), and c). Lots of dialogue.
I don't even enjoy talking all that much. You know that whole 'on average a woman uses a certain amount of words and a man uses much less' thing? If that's true, apparently I'm a man. Within our relationship, Joel talks more than I do...we're just different. I'm much more of a 'get to the point' person...and that just usually involves less words. But...
In explaining things to others...or, for instance, in dealing with conflict...oftentimes, many words are needed.
Thankfully, #2 came about, and the divorce of #1 did not happen. Until last week, I really thought that #1 might still be a possibility. But, I really think that #2 is going to work out. It took a while though. A LOT of discussion. A lot of heart-sharing. A lot of empathy and understanding and patience and long-suffering and you know...there's a list of some specific words that 'it took.' What are known as the fruits of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. And then a whole list of other things, found where? You guessed it...1 Corinthians 13.
Many times this passage is used in referencing romantic love and marriage...this is quoted often at weddings. But, it is, after all, just about love in general. About how we are to treat others. All others.
Love is patient.
Love is kind.
It does not envy.
It does not boast.
It is not proud.
It does not dishonor others.
It is not self-seeking.
It is not easily angered.
It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects.
Love never fails.
These things don't describe the way I was treated for the past 3 years. And they don't describe the way Joel and I were both treated after we came back together. In fact, just the opposite.
Some of you have sadly seen some of that firsthand on Facebook.
Loving others (the verb...showing it...demonstrating it by demonstrating all of these traits of love) isn't easy sometimes. But, it doesn't mean you are not supposed to do it. And through loving them (the verb), you might actually find out that it's not hard after all. You might even find out that many of the things you thought were true about them are actually not the case at all.
Had those family members loved me well, all of the things done over the course of the past 3 years would not have happened. Had they loved us well after we came back together, those discussions they refused to have with us would have never been a problem for them...and they would have found out that many of the things they thought were true were actually not the case at all. Had they loved us well after they refused to do the work of 'cleaning' and trying to reach reconciliation, after we set boundaries and distanced ourselves because of that refusal to work through things, they would have respected us and the boundaries we set instead of constantly crossing lines and trespassing into our lives, disrupting them, and derailing what we have been trying to get back on track since September.
When you have destructive people like that in your lives, the same options apply. 1) It either ends in 'divorce' or they 2) a) realize what they've done, b) repent, and c) working together to become 'unified' again can happen. #2 did not happen for us...and the window of opportunity has left for it to happen. Because it is crucial to our marriage for that to be so. When #2 doesn't happen, #1 is what you're left with.
What does that mean exactly? It means you cut yourself free from that un-health. Some people view that as 'forgiveness.' I just view it as a 'releasing.' You release them, you release yourself. You cut the ties that bind. You tried. You did your part. It didn't work. You're free.
Is it more ideal to have true repentance and then a true forgiveness and then a true reconciliation (no fake sweeping it under the rug stuff)? Yes. But, it's just not always possible. Because we just don't live in the Garden of Eden.
But, thank God we can still be free. Do your part...keep in line with the Fruits of the Spirit and what love truly is (that 1 Cor. 13 list). Do what you can to foster a relationship and reconciliation. But, then...if that doesn't work...wish them well, dust your feet of them, and be on your way. Be free.
I want to re-iterate:
-An apology does not = repentance.
-True repentance is the only thing that will work if there is really going to be a real 'cleaning of house.'
-Sometimes that true repentance only comes through talking things out and being very, very honest.
-After true repentance, the only thing that will bring about true reconciliation is that same willingness to be very, very honest.
I heard this quote a while back. I love it.
"A good man apologizes for the mistakes of the past, but a great man corrects them."
Nobody becomes that great man who wants to correct his mistakes without true repentance. And with true repentance comes empathy...really seeing someone where they are. Of course, if you are the offender, you are the reason that person is there where they are! Empathy is HUGE! Here's a great video to explain what true empathy is. If you don't have empathy, get it!
"Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. When God's people are in need, be ready to help them. Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep." (Romans 12)
True repentance. True love. That is what is needed when wronged, as I was, so greatly. If it's not available to you...'forgiveness' looks like walking away. That's what it looks like for us in our situation.
But if it is available to you (that true repentance and true love acted out), forgive away and enjoy that clean house and with time, that reconciliation! It will take time to clean...but, have faith and walk in diligence. Prayerfully your offender who you are forgiving is full of empathy and continued repentance and a willingness to meet you and do what it takes. Stand firm. Your sigh of relief and ability to sit back and relax in that clean house with your loved ones will come.
Either way, though...whether #1 or #2 is your reality...there is freedom and wholeness in Jesus, whether it be through forgiveness or release.
I will leave you with a few articles that I've found interesting. They are worth the read. I think they are really good...and hopefully they will help some of you too. These are the articles, and a small excerpt from each.
Forgiveness Without Repentance? - There is no Scripture that requires forgiveness apart from repentance.
What You Need to Know About Forgiveness - Seeking forgiveness is not apologizing. There is nothing in the Bible about apologizing. Apologizing is the world’s substitute for forgiveness, and it doesn’t get the job done.
What to Do After a Betrayal - While the Bible is clear that we are always to forgive people who harm us, forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean that we go back to relating as if nothing ever happened. A severe offense or a pattern of abusive behavior breaks trust, and a relationship can’t be close unless trust is rebuilt. The Bible gives a very practical example of a godly man in an abusive relationship who had a forgiving heart but also kept his distance. The relationship I’m referring to is David and King Saul.
The Difference Between a Sin and a Mistake - Yes, we all make mistakes. But more importantly, we all sin. We need to understand the difference between the two and be willing to call it what it is. Until we do, we can’t really repair what has been broken. What can we do to preserve this distinction between sins and mistakes? 5 actions are given in this article.
Grace Vs. Enabling - Grace gives room to grow, mature and heal. Grace does not give permission to continue in sin. Enabling allows sin and misbehavior to go unchallenged.
What I'm Learning About Forgiveness - Forgiveness and reconciliation aren't synonymous.
Ten Reasons to Dismiss Someone From Your Life - I was raised to forgive, to mend friendships, to try to understand others' points of view, to empathize. None of that has changed. I’ve simply learned to control “when” and “how” I do that. I certainly won’t spend more time with you and reward your negative behavior in my life. You’re not allowed to cause our family pain. I won’t let you.