It’s inevitable that once you take down your Christmas tree that you’re going to have to run the vacuum since the pine needles are everywhere. All the cute, burnt Christmas candles need to be thrown away and the ornaments need to be put to bed in their cozy bins. Baby Jesus and the rest of the nativity figurines need to be wrapped in tissue and tucked safely back into their tattered box. Similarly, my refrigerator needs to be cleaned out of all the dead leftovers and forgotten, moldy containers. Things have started to stink.
We come to January wanting to start clean and fresh not only in our homes, but also in our hearts. We want to renew our commitment to spending time with God’s word, His presence and with His people. We want to hear Him and to have him share his thoughts about our marriages, our kids, and our world. I’m finding out that sometimes we must do business with what needs to be healed in our souls before we can come into a new level of hearing his voice and enjoying his presence. To be honest, I was a little surprised that I found out there were areas where I needed to forgive both myself and other people.
NT Wright says, “Forgiveness is one of the foundation stones and reconciliation is the cement which holds everything together in the Kingdom of God. When we understand forgiveness flowing from the work of Jesus and the Spirit, as the strange, powerful thing really is, we begin to realize that God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others. The faculty by which we receive forgiveness for which we grant forgiveness are one and the same thing.”
In the first place, the same grace you responded to you when you met the Lord…you need the grace of God. Like oxygen, we need to receive God’s grace to repent, and forgive on an ongoing basis. Sometimes we need grace to forgive yourselves, otherwise we live in condemnation. Not good. Not forgiving myself largely has to do with being angry at myself for not being smarter, more self-disciplined nor having a longer attention span. I walk around saying, “I should’ve known better.” The Bible says that we should confess our sins so that he can forgive us and cleanse us, bringing light to our dark places. (I Jn. 1:9) Often we need other people to help us.
Lately, I’m finding that there are places in our souls that need to be healed. The better I understand who God is, the more I’m realizing that I was misinformed about aspects of his nature. There were authorities in my life who misrepresented Him. My heavenly Father isn’t annoyed by me. I’m not an imposition and I’m not too much for God. I’m not too curious. I’m not too needy, moody, weepy, or lazy. He is not in a constant state of disapproval of me.
Do you even feel this way? I think we were parented by people who did the best they could, but something was lost in the translation. Many of our parents were stern because they were fearful. They grew up being told to be ‘seen and not heard.’ My parents lived through the depression and WWII. My grandparents didn’t have the luxury of entertaining their children’s whims. They were trying to put food on the table.
We’re asking the Holy Spirit to come and minister to us in a fresh way. As we sit with Him, he’s revealing certain events that may have affected how we think of ourselves and how we cope. Perhaps you were the victim of inferior discipleship. Well-meaning people may have given you an unhealthy, fearful lens by which you see God. You may see him as bad tempered, stingy, and impatient. That isn’t true. Scripture says He’s slow to anger, abounding in mercy and loving kindness.
So, what do we do? I believe as we ask him to show us the beauty of his true nature, that he’ll come to us and help us out of ill-fitting identity. He wants to heal us from our trauma, betrayal, and injustice. Little by little He’ll help us forgive those who caused us to limp. Forgiveness doesn't mean "I didn't really mind" or "it didn't really matter." I did mind and it did matter, otherwise there wouldn't be anything to forgive. Nor is forgiveness the same as saying, "Let's pretend it didn't really happen.”
But it did happen, and forgiveness itself isn't pretending that it didn’t. Forgiveness is looking hard at the fact that it did happen and making a conscious choice to apply the moral will to let go, to apply the grace which says, “I’ll leave the judging and condemning to God.” That way we’re free to live with hearts marked by renewed innocence. We choose to be unencumbered by bitterness or pain.
Forgiveness means that we have settled it in our minds that we shall not allow this evil to determine the sort of people we shall then become. What we’ve endured does not have the final word. As Desmond Tutu said, “In our own ways, we are all broken. Out of that brokenness, we hurt others. Forgiveness is the journey we take toward healing the broken parts. It is how we become whole again.”
You see, at his coming, the Lord Jesus ushered in a whole new kingdom, the Kingdom of God! We get to be His agents, giving and receiving grace, forgiveness, healing, and mercy. That way we don't have to wait for the future to start experiencing our deliverance from evil. We are invited, summoned, and bidden to start living this way in the present. This is how we begin to usher in the Kingdom today.
This verse sums this up perfectly. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:12-14
Ultimately, we end up brokering heaven into earth in real time. N.T. Wright said, “Forgiveness is the knife that cuts the rope by which sin, anger, fear, recrimination, and death are still attached to us. Evil will have nothing to say at the last, because Jesus’ victory of the cross will be fully implemented.” This is fabulous news!
Am I the only one? Let me know if you're experiencing similar "housekeeping" with the Holy Spirit these days.
Disciple. Wife. Mom. Writer. Speaker.