Originally posted Feb 5, 2019
Often times the hardest area of forgiveness is to look in the mirror with love and grace, and say I forgive myself. Forgiving ourselves of actions (or inaction) requires acknowledgment to see that our choices have caused pain in ourselves and possibly someone else. It requires an admission and confession of pain. When we are able to gain perspective and acceptance, we can experience both freedom and responsibility simultaneously. Forgiving ourselves requires the difficult task of self-love.
Similar to others hurting us, we have the choice to use these learnings to reshape our future. If we can recognize that an event or events is not the totality of who we are, this liberating place of acceptance, holds power for ourselves and ALL of our relationships.
“What discipline is required for the future leader to overcome the temptation of individual heroism? I would like to propose the discipline of confession and forgiveness. Just as the future leaders must be mystics deeply steeped in contemplative prayer, so also must they be persons always willing to confess their own brokenness and ask for forgiveness from those to whom they minister.” (Nouwen 64)
This transformational work of the cross becomes that much more evident in times of transition. The encounters of the dark parts of our selves require attention – we either face them or stuff them away and become more calloused and bitter.
We all at some point in life will face that chaos. Many artists depict the pain and struggle of their soul in their creative work: Paintings are dark with shades of black and red, scenes of skeletons and war. Poetry is filled with words of hatred. Lyrics to songs blare with rage. The artist’s within each of us, are given a chance in seasons of transition to express ourselves, make amends and choose beauty instead from this pain. As we tap into those difficult and often dark places, a knowledge of a restorative God desiring to use our woundedness and pain for His glory persists. It’s here we have decisions to make.
Transformation usually includes a disconcerting reorientation. Change can either help people to find new meaning, or it can cause people to close down and turn bitter. The difference is determined by the quality of our inner life…Change initself just happens; spiritual transformation is an active process of letting go, living in the confusing dark space for a while.
God’s restoring plan is the patient work of spiritual transformation. It requires on our part a repeated yes to the Lord’s nudging us to go knock on the doors of ugliness inside each of us. The lasting transformation comes only through the active engagement with confession and forgiveness. The invitation for everyone is to release with the new that which is old, bitter, not working, worn out. The desire is for the cross to provide the freedom only it can. The wounds and the pain released rather than staying clung to us. The transformative peace can only be found here. The great invitation remains: The opportunity transition provides for us to be self-reflective reconcilers, confessing and forgiving deep areas of incredible hurt and pain. To move into the new with great freedom.
In our challenges with others, can I actively thank God for the people that bring dissonance in my life? “To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll your tongue over the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor the last toothsome morsel of both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back – in many ways it is a feast for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you” Fredrick Buechner
For deeper reflection:
Where do you feel deep emotional hurt? Where do you carry anger or bitterness in your heart towards yourself, your spouse, your parents, your organization, or your community with whom you’ve ministered? What is your invitation today as it relates to confession and forgiveness? What are the dark sides of your leadership that lie beneath the surface and need attending to in this period of in-between?
Visual Prayer Exercise:
Draw a cross with as much or as little detail as you’d like. Consider someone with whom you are currently struggling. (i.e. Yourself, God, another person). As you draw, let the color express heaviness, negativity, ways you are hurt or have been wronged. As you think of words list them in relation to each party on either side of the arms of the cross. These might include thoughts or feelings, ways you’ve been hurt or wronged, things you dislike about the person, ways that you have done wrong. Let negative and angry thoughts be welcome but not take over.