by: Donna Meredith Dixon
Everything on earth has its own time and its own season. (Ecclesiastes 3:1 Contemporary English Version)
Tucking one leg beneath the other, Sandy scrunched even further into the corner of the couch. Face taut, body trembling, she barely looked up as Cindy, her church women’s director, continued speaking.
“Sandy, Paul’s been attending his 12-step group for over three months now. Isn’t it time to forgive?” Cindy peered over her glasses at her for a moment, sighed and continued, “After all, forgiveness is the heartbeat of our faith. And remember, Jesus knows betrayal. He felt the kiss of Judas, watched as disciples scurried from the garden, and locked eyes with Peter as the rooster crowed.”
Grabbing her keys, phone and purse, Sandy jumped off the couch and beelined for the door. Her tears blinded her and she was barely able to choke back her sobs.
Had she, or the now startled Cindy, noticed Jesus standing at the door they would have been struck by the pain and sadness in His expression. Had they noticed Him they might have heard the faint echo of His ancient admonition. “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees?… don’t follow their example… They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden."
A time to forgive?
While the above narrative is fictitious, similar scenes— with various conversational twists—play out regularly in therapist and pastoral sessions, as well as in recovery groups. Always the message is the same: It’s time to forgive.
In Lisa’s two-part series, A Time to Grieve, Lisa made the point that grieving is a necessary precursor to forgiving. She’s in good company. In the A Time to Forgive series, we’ll explore forgiveness through the partner's experience of sexual betrayal. Multidimensional in its impact, sexual betrayal wounds us physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. If severe enough, “spiritual distress” prevents us from accessing God’s healing resources like hope, love, peace, comfort and strength. (A Door Of Hope)
In responding to one of my questions about trauma and forgiveness Dr. Philip Monroe (licensed Christian psychologist) wrote, “Forgiveness is a difficult topic, even when put into a good place timing wise… it can be so helpful to acknowledge all the wrong ways talk of forgiveness has been used and then to consider what value it has in life and in relationship with God.”
Then, as if watching the MaryMary video below* with us, Phil added. “I have a client who is in a difficult marriage. Her husband accuses her of being unforgiving. But if the same hurts are being foisted on her every week, is it really a matter of unforgiveness?”
I end this week’s post with thoughts adapted from The Long Journey Home:
In Embodying Forgiveness, author Gregory Jones states: “forgiveness is not primarily a word that is spoken or an action that is performed or a feeling that is felt. It is a way of life appropriate to friendship with the Triune God. As such, it includes within it appropriate words, actions, and feelings.” Jones presents forgiveness as a lifelong learning experience as an apprentice under the tutelage of the Giver of perfect forgiveness, including both transformation as an individual as well as learning to use forgiveness in the daily context. From this perspective, Christian forgiveness is based on commitment to a way of life that reflects God’s holiness, both through “unlearning” sin and replacing it with life in communion with God, one another, and the rest of creation.”
Next week I’ll unpack a few more thoughts about developing forgiveness as “a way of life appropriate to friendship with the Triune God.”
Want to join in the forgiveness conversation?
Let’s begin unpacking together.Grab a pen and journal (or computer) and spend a few minutes responding to the following questions/statements.
After reading these thoughts about forgiveness:
- I think... And as a result,
- I feel...
- I would define forgiveness as...
*Today's video (not available in all countries) comes with a trigger alert.
Donna says: During our peer-facilitator training sessions, I remind trainees that a) triggers happen and b) when they do, we can learn to identify and then respond in the moment. I love tools I can do comfortably anywhere, like the following:
- Name 5 things you see.
- Name 4 things you can feel (“my feet on the floor” or “the air in my nose”)
- Name 3 things you hear (“traffic outside”)
- Name 2 things you can smell (or 2 smells you like)
- Name 1 good thing about yourself
Or, when sitting
- Place both feet flat on the floor - Lean back into your chair, and note the feeling of the chair beneath you, against your back.
MaryMary on her husband's infidelity:
For those outside the U.S. who cannot access this video you can read some of the conversation here. (Note: trigger alert still applies).
Your Love Remains: