Forgiveness

Better than a Bubble Bath

 

Yesterday, a glorious idea came to me: My kids are getting along great, I’m going to take a bubble bath. For most moms like me, reading a good book in a hot bath is a luxury. I grabbed my book, added faint music and peppermint oil, and felt ready for a peaceful 30 minutes.

The moment my feet touched the warm water, my youngest two children started arguing. I assumed it would end in a minute or so. It kept on. I waited for my oldest to jump in and handle it, but the bickering ensued. I turned the music up a little louder, because good moms do that sometimes, but the kids kept on. My head pounded with the sound of their quarreling. Bath dream over.

After I got dressed, I went downstairs and my youngest daughter asked, “Mommy can I cuddle with you?” Normally, I’d say, “Of course!” But unresolved tension claimed it’s place in the room. I couldn’t shake the feeling if I let her climb into my lap it may appear I was taking her side. I am FOR both of them and FOR unity. What I wanted to say, was “Go make it right with your brother, then come back to me.”

Immediately I thought of Matthew 5:23-24 when Jesus says, So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,  leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

Peace is elusive when unresolved tension lingers in the house.

I sat both my kids down and shared Romans 15:1-7 from my morning reading. The passage speaks of serving one another, living in harmony, and welcoming each other. After talking to them about their quarrelling, I encouraged them to speak out loud to one another: “I will try my best to serve you, live in harmony with you, and welcome you. Will you please forgive me?” Then I told them to hug it out. Asking for forgiveness requires humility, and hugs crumble walls. The tension lifted like rising steam, while their lips formed subtle smiles. It feels good to be light, free from the heaviness of bitterness.

The weight is lifted. Unity stands at the door of our home, welcoming peace back in. Now, I invite them in my lap, both of them.

That evening I listened to them laugh together, which is music to my ears. This morning, when I woke up, PJ wasn’t in her room. It turns out she snuck into her brothers room last night, creating a makeshift bed right beside his.

The altar represents a place of prayer, offerings, worship – a place to exchange with God. But in the instance of unresolved tension between His children, God says “First go make it right. Then come back.” I understand this verse a little better now. It doesn’t feel quite right if my child sits in my lap while glaring at her brother. Maybe the nudge of the Father’s heart, is not just for my kids this week, but for God’s grown up children too.  

Child of God, go make it right. Then come back. Invite the right kind of house guests; humility, forgiveness, and unity. Pull open the blinds, let the light of peace fill the house of God and the house of your heart. Then climb into your Father’s lap and enjoy living light and free.

I’d say this is better than a bubble bath, any day of the week.

What I Learned From Writing A Book About My Life

My sweet daughter, running wild and free. 

 

Years ago, I wrote a book about my life. I thought, I love to write, I have an unbelievable story, a book sounds like a good idea. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. 

I labored over the book for years. I wept over pages, dove into memories I hadn’t thought about since childhood, and my love for writing grew in the process.

Books take multiple edits and rewrites, and something unexpected and beautiful happened during the revision process. I rewrote the book again and again. Each edit was less angry than the first draft, every rewrite was a chance for a fresh perspective. I began to edit out certain words I’d written about people from my past, because I genuinely didn’t feel that way towards them any longer. It got to the point where I was no longer writing from a place of anger, hurt, or unforgiveness – I was writing from a place of compassion.

I made sample copies of the book and gave them to a few close friends who’d partnered with me on that journey. One of those dear friends came over the other day and handed me the sample book. She said, “I’m embarrassed I’ve had this so long, I can’t believe I forgot to return it to you.”

I hadn’t thought about that book in a long time. I told her I was tempted to throw it in the fire (I heard every writer feels that way about their first book which makes me feel better), but a part of why I felt that way, I explained to my friend, was that it served it’s purpose. I felt everything I needed to feel. I processed everything I needed to process. I accepted every memory, released every pain, forgave every hurt. I am free.

I have no desire to share that book with anyone, it was therapy between me and God.

****

I went to Georgia this past week for a conference. I sat next to a woman who became a fast friend. Kelen is a Christian counselor who also happens to be an expert in reading body language. I felt like she could see through my soul by examining the way my legs were crossed. I was a little intimidated but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to pick her brilliant brain. Kelen has excelled in her profession for a long time, she said in her experience, unforgiveness is people’s problem 98% of the time.

Ninety Eight Percent.

I can’t stop thinking about that.

I don’t recall the exact words Kelen shared with me, but the imagery I walked away with was an onion. I imagined someone sitting down for counseling with Kelen, thinking they are there for an eating disorder or a family quarrel. I pictured Kelen peeling back the layers of an onion. A layer of defensiveness, a layer of insecurity, a layer of pride, a layer of anger…the layers kept getting tossed aside until she hit the core: unforgiveness.

****

I sat on the plane on the long flight back to California and I closed my eyes. Most people would assume I was sleeping, but I was doing important work. I was asking God if there was anything or anyone else I needed to forgive and release. I allowed God to scan my heart like a laser. Is there any remaining anger? Is there any lingering bitterness? Uproot it Lord. I don’t want any heart blockages hindering me.

A couple instances popped in my mind, things I hadn’t written about. So I did what writing that book taught me to do (in my head instead of on paper). I felt what I needed to feel. I prayed until anger took a backseat to compassion. I forgave and I released it to God. I threw away the first draft.

I walked off that plane without baggage, light and free, because the airline graciously gate checked mine for me, and because God took some junk from my heart.

Brene Brown writes; “If you own this story you get to write the ending. When we bury the story we forever stay the subject of the story. If we own the story we get to narrate the ending. As Carl Jung said, “I am not what has happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

Without me even knowing it, God took my love for stories and writing and showed me how to own my own. God is sneaky like that.

****

I laid in bed with my husband the night I got back from Georgia. I was exhausted from traveling, he was exhausted from taking care of the kids for five days, but we couldn’t resist staying up late to talk. I told him about my new friend Kelen, my baggage-free flight and how free and light I felt. We talked about the ninety eight percent a lot. “Ninety eight percent!” I kept saying, as if the number would change if I said it with more emphasis.

“Isn’t it amazing,” my husband added, “that the very thing us humans struggle to extend to one another is the very thing Jesus came down to earth to extend to us freely?”

And now I have something else I can’t stop thinking about.

He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” Ephesians 1:7

 

What We Can Learn From Children About Moving On

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Lately, there has been some sibling rivalry between my passionate son and my youngest daughter. Bickering in the car, mostly (What is it with the car? Do all children save the worst arguments for confined spaces?) My mommy discernment has picked up on a little jealousy – my youngest gets to do fun things with mommy while he goes to school. I get it.

Yesterday, the bickering in the car ensued as we drove to my youngest’s swim lesson.

“Stop making that face!”

“Stop singing that song!”

“Stop touching me with your foot!”

“Stop slapping your legs!”

My son seemed convinced that my little one was placed in the back seat of that car just to torment him. He’s counting down the days until he’s legally allowed to sit in the front.

After the swim lesson was over, my little one had a knot stuck in her hair. My son reached for the comb in my hand and said, “Here, give it to me. I’ll help.” He persisted in gently combing the knot out of her hair as best he could.

Later, I played a video for my husband that I had taken at the swim lesson and noticed my little son’s voice in the background. “Look, mom! She won! She always wins the race! Isn’t that amazing?!” At the time I was so caught up watching the race, I had hardly noticed him bragging about his sister.

His helpfulness and enthusiasm towards his sister was genuine, which made me pause. This is the same kid who was utterly annoyed by her every move in the car ten minutes beforehand. He changed his attitude much faster than I’m able to change mine.

Usually, when we say “stop acting like a child” we mean it as a slam. But there is a good aspect to acting like a child (many, actually). One childlike trait more adults could adopt is the ability to move on. 

I’m impressed by my son, and children in general; One minute they can be frustrated and offended by someone, and the next they can be bragging about the very same person, as if it never happened. If it were me, my grudge would last a lot longer than ten minutes and if I did say something nice there’s a chance it would be through gritted teeth.

Colossians 3:12-14 says,  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

We wouldn’t need to be reminded to be clothed with compassion and patience if we weren’t going to be given “car-bickering” opportunities where we’d need it. We wouldn’t need verses that remind us to forgive if we weren’t going to be given opportunities to extend forgiveness. We wouldn’t need any verses about unity if the weeds of contention didn’t sprout up from time to time.

When I first became a mother, I thought I was the one who would be the teacher. But often, God uses my children to teach me. Matthew 18:4 says “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” 

That’s the problem; forgiving, letting go, and moving on, requires us to humble ourselves. It requires us to admit that we should forgive because we have been forgiven, to extend undeserved mercy because we’ve been given undeserved mercy.

Growing in our childlike ability to move on means we don’t stop at forgiveness, but we come to the place where we sincerely want the best for that person. My seven-year-old son, standing on the sidelines, proudly cheering for the one he strived with, is a beautiful picture of grace.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, may we grow in this area. Can we move from clashing with one another to celebrating one another? Can we allow the grace of God to permeate our hearts so deeply that instead of tearing down, we build up? Are we willing to turn striving into serving? Let’s grow up and become like children.