Forgiveness: at the junction

A famous Christian (St. Augustine, from North Africa) once said, “Give me chastity, but not yet.” He wasn’t ready to live as God wanted him to, even though he knew what was right and his conscience was bothering him a bit.

The most recent ‘Forgiveness challenges’ have reminded me of Augustine’s dilemma, his sense of being at a junction in the road but unready to follow the correct path. With forgiveness, there are many moments of choice, where you can move toward forgiveness, or toward anger and bitterness. And even knowing that forgiveness is right, and that it will free you, doesn’t mean that you necessarily want to forgive at that point. You don’t feel ready to let go of the anger and hurt – perhaps because it makes you feel strong, or because that hurt has become such a part of your identity that you’re not sure what you’d do without it. So I found Mpho Tutu’s thoughts on this powerful (listen to that here).

My friend Heather Drew, a counselor who’s made several trips to Rwanda to partner with counselors there, has been sharing thoughts from her most recent trip earlier this summer (see her blog here). This one caught my eye, for obvious reasons:Rwanda_Forgiveness

One particular thing that I’m frustrated about at present has felt like an unending, unconquerable roadblock. And that’s when I realize that I’m letting this hurt, this pain, become a larger part of my story and identity than it should be. The larger, more important story is God’s, and the identity he gives me is more foundational. It tells me that I’m his child, ever in his hands. And as his child, his love for me gives me the ability to choose to forgive, in radical ways, as Rwanda Christians show me.

And if I do not feel emotionally ready to forgive at present, I can pray for God to soften my heart, and give me the strength to obey regardless.

Forgiveness challenge, part 2

This is one of those moments when you think, “Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea after all.” In this Forgiveness Challenge, you have a daily (in my case, weekly) ‘assignment’ of sorts. This week’s is to list people that I need to forgive.

I don’t want to do this. For one, because I like to tell myself that surely I’m not a person who holds grudges, or is angry at anyone. Surely I’m a ‘better Christian’ than that, a mature person who forgives, gives grace, and trusts that God will bring justice where there has been a wrong. And secondly, if I am angry, I’d like to think that my anger is ‘righteous anger,’ the sort of burning anger Jesus displayed when he saw an injustice being committed.

But…neither of those two things is true. Often when I get angry, it’s simply because I didn’t get my way – things didn’t go the way I wanted them to. That person cut in front of me, without using a turn signal, and then drove very slowly up the road (yeah, this happened on Thursday afternoon). Well, it did happen, and it may be inconsiderate and not great driving, but really most of my frustration is that I couldn’t drive as quickly as I wanted, or that I didn’t arrive at my destination when I had planned to. And then there was last week, where I really was outright angry for an entirely different reason. Yep, most of my anger is not about things that anger God: it’s not righteous anger.

And as for the first point? Ah, that would be self-deceit kicking in. In Jeremiah 17:9-10, God is addressing Judah and their failures. He reminds them that “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind…” It is uncomfortable to think about and admit, but if I’m honest, I do get frustrated, irritated, and yes, outright angry at times, and I am often (unfortunately) good at remembering events and people that have angered me. I’m sure that I have, in turn, angered and hurt others whose forgiveness I need to ask. That’s the second part of this week’s challenge: listing people whose forgiveness I need to seek.

If you’re still thinking about the Forgiveness Challenge, I encourage you to sign up here (you can sign up and select the ‘scholarship’ option, to do this for free like me). The challenges will be worth your time!

The Forgiveness Challenge

ToForgiveI’ve been debating for a while about whether or not I wanted to do this forgiveness challenge – obviously I finally decided to go for it. Back in my seminary days, I read a great book about giving and forgiving, by Miroslav Volf, titled Free of ChargeIt challenged me to think about how God freely, repeatedly gives grace. He forgives us, over and over, and this is central to telling the story of Jesus. God forgives; he is a giving, loving God. Forgiveness is central to being a follower of Jesus, as we see in the prayer Jesus taught his disciples (Matt. 6:12-14).

Forgive us for doing wrong,
    as we forgive others.
13 Keep us from being tempted
    and protect us from evil.

14 If you forgive others for the wrongs they do to you, your Father in heaven will forgive you.”

Then there is the history of South Africa, where Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu showed the whole world the power of forgiveness and reconciliation in pulling a country back from the brink of civil war. I don’t usually sit down and read history books, but Mandela’s autobiography and some of Tutu’s works are on my bookshelf!

Forgiveness is powerful…but not easy or simple! It’s often misunderstood. It doesn’t mean saying that something wrong doesn’t matter, for one. Nor does it mean forgetting. And it is also unfortunately easy, at least for introverted thinkers like myself, to keep thinking of hurtful words, to find yourself holding onto a painful memory for no reason, turning the memory or the words over and over in your head until it seems to be stuck on “repeat.” No, forgiveness isn’t easy. Speaking of letting go, I find myself reflecting on an incident from 2011, where I did something rather silly, and am still kicking myself (mentally) for it. I’m good at holding on, and it’s not something I’m proud of. I don’t want to be a person who holds onto pain, a person warped by bitterness.

So I’ve joined the Forgiveness Challenge created by Desmond Tutu and his daughter, Mpho Tutu. I don’t have anyone specific in mind at present; I just know that this is an area where I need to grow, if I’m to be a grace-giver, a better representative of Jesus. If you’d like to join me, click on the link above, and feel free to let me know, if you want to discuss it. It’s set up as a 30-day challenge, but I’m going to be taking it slower, and doing one challenge every few days. Regardless of whether or not you actually sign up for the Forgiveness Challenge, I’d challenge you to ask God to show you more about forgiveness and letting go of specifics hurts in your life. The good news? God wants to transform us, make us more like him; with his Spirit in us, actual change is possible. Wonderful news!

Veterans Benefits Admin.

To anyone who reads this blog, this week I’m asking you to do something for a friend I’ve known since I was a kid. I had something else in mind to write about this week, but then I read Ryan’s recent blog entry, and decided it was more important to share that.

Please read this, and pass it along to others; if enough people speak up and are aware, the situation could improve!

http://www.iwalkandroll.com/the-maddening-attitude-at-the-veterans-benefits-administration/

If you’re not familiar with the phrase “partnership development,” you may have heard of the concept by another name, such as the phrase “support raising” or perhaps “developing a support network” or something along those lines. For missionaries, it means gathering a group of people who want to partner with the missionary in their work, through prayers, encouragement, or finances. And even if you grew up as a missionary kid, like me, it’s still a process that feels uncomfortable and awkward at times. Continue reading

Memorial Day musings

This past Mmemorial_day_image_for_pconday, those in the U.S. celebrated Memorial Day, a holiday honoring people in the U.S. military who have given their lives on behalf of their country. I didn’t grow up in the U.S., so it’s not a holiday I grew up with, nor is it the country I grew up thinking of as ‘home’. However, I’ve now been living in the U.S. for many years, and have come to value, appreciate and love a lot about this country. Also, my grandfather served in the U.S. military in World War 2, and I respect and honor what he did. I have never had to make the sort of difficult choices and face death on a regular basis as many in the military do.

Continue reading