Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Forgiveness (2013).

I have always been pretty good at telling others about the importance of forgiveness, unaware it is something I have not been able to do myself. I gave my life to Jesus at a very young age and proceeded to fall away from my faith during my college years, but recently had a turnaround experience in my life.

I still have problems with forgiving myself for the way I used to live, and for the not-so-great life my family and friends suffered through because of my ways.

Change has been a slow process, I discovered I had control in almost every aspect of my life but how to express my affection appropriately. While it’s definitely not where it used to be, it’s not what it could be, either.

My life completely changed when I started praying and asking God if I would ever meet someone who loved Jesus and could help lead me in the ways of the Lord. Two weeks later I met Ryan, who became my boyfriend and is now my fiancé. Ryan, the man who believes in the saving power of Jesus Christ; my answered prayer.

Early in our relationship he was asked to lead a public theater ministry at his church. He took this on and much of our life was focused around being led by God to minister to the public, and to the kids we worked with, through theater. He on stage, me behind-the-scenes, which I preferred.

While I’ve never doubted my feelings for him or see that we’ve been called together, I did doubt that I could ever overcome the temptation to give in to ways of my past. I was worried I would march us directly toward the path of destruction and not realize it until it was too late. I would get so angry and frustrated, worrying over what-ifs so much that it hurt us from time to time. Eventually I was able to be up front. Sometimes it was messy and emotional, but altogether it was healing. We weren’t perfect, sometimes we faltered, but we always took it to God and found healing.

Life has a way of surprising you; unexpected change, like financial trouble can really take a toll on the emotions of a man who is desperately trying to be a good provider. I tried my hardest to be supportive, to empathize and show tenderness throughout the process. As emotions were high and stress piled on, it seemed harder and harder for me not to try to connect with him more, so we did.

Sin has consequences, mine were more emotional. As much as sin is confusing and guilt rendering- it’s great in the moment, which is why we go back over and over. I forgot that I needed to communicate with God and Ryan and talk about things because I was caught up in these moments, or lack thereof. I worried if it didn’t happen that something was wrong, I was worried if it did happen that something would go wrong. I worried and worried myself over every little aspect of our relationship.

I came to the realization that I was no longer living out the life of a leader’s partner, someone who is a good influence to those around me. I also realized I wasn’t really helping Ryan much, either. I prayed to God, “Please hear my heart. Know that I want to please you, but I don’t know how. I’m a mess right now. I want to be good.”

This led to a discovery which would change my life forever. I am pregnant; 8 weeks 5 days today, and we are engaged to be married in March.

My plans, my fears, my life as I knew it formerly changed in an instant. In a moment my focus shifted to thoughts that plagued me. I was scared to tell my family, I was scared that his family would lose the respect they had gained for me. I feared going to church and facing the fellow members I had grown to love.

I remember crying and crying during a few services, I didn’t think I was allowed to be excited or that I deserved to be happy. I prayed for forgiveness and continued to suffer through my belittling thoughts.

“No one will look at you the same. You are a complete sham.”

“If you had only….. this wouldn’t have happened and everyone would be less stressed.”

I remember sitting in my car during lunch and I cried out, “God! I can forgive everyone for anything they do to me, but I can’t forgive myself. How do I let this go? How do I really lean on you?”    

In that moment of pure desperation a thought came to me.

“You have stopped evaluating yourself from a human point of view… I know you messed up, you guys all mess up sometimes. But what if instead of carrying guilt over something you cannot change, you choose today to receive what I offer freely- cleansing.”

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:11-12
I’m nothing if not stubborn, Ryan can tell you that with certainty. I found myself thinking, “yes, I’m forgiven, but let’s get practical.. there are going to be consequences and this is one of them.”
Then another thought came to me, one that was completely foreign, but made things a lot more clear.
I needed to start looking back at my thoughts and emotional reactions over the past week. I needed to see that something needed to change. I needed to figure out how it might be possible to change my attitude in a way that reflected true Christianity; someone who lets go of their past, who refuses to carry the shame and guilt any longer.
I needed to look at it realistically.
I can’t pay back everyone that has been impacted by my sin, but I can apologize and own up to my own mistakes.
I can’t blame everyone else for action or inaction that led me to sin, that shows a lack of grace and forgiveness which leaves you in an emotional rut (and angry, a lot). Instead, I should own up to the things that caused my personal failures. I should be able to admit that they led me away from God’s plan, and I should remove the temptation. Even if it is something that other people can participate in without fault, if it can harm my family, it should be non-negotiable.
The kicker, for me, was the realization that if I kept hurting myself emotionally for all of my past mistakes I would show my child, by example, that once you fall you can never get up. Instead, I should let my little one know that I was lost, but Jesus took that and made it beautiful in a way that only He can do. This is one of the easiest ways to show your children what grace looks like, first hand.
I need to get over the fact that God is more powerful than I am. I need to give up the control issues and realize that nothing I do myself can remove my sin, that only He is strong enough to.
I acknowledged my sin to You;
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”
And You forgave the guilt of my sin.
Psalm 32:5
Remorse is a beautiful thing, but it is only a stepping stone. I need to continue to walk toward a grace-filled and free life, praying for my child and my fiancé, living a new life in front of them filled with hope and optimism as they see God in my actions and my words.