What forgiving is and isn’t, part 10

From mess to miracle

Have I mentioned that my Brandon is the real-life version of Pig-Pen from the Peanuts/Charlie Brown bunch? I’m not kidding.

From ribs to ashes
Here’s a current story from the month of June. Brandon was going to smoke some ribs in our smoker. Excellent plan. While I was unloading groceries—with my car’s hatch open—he tossed the ashes from his last smoking effort over the fence. He thought he would fertilize his bean patch. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing toward him. So, ash starts blowing into my car! And all over the place in general. On our old pickup. On Brandon’s glasses, hair and shirt. Etcetera. I looked at him with a scowl and asked him not to throw ashes in the future. I probably looked like Frieda when she was talking to (I mean chewing on) Pig-Pen in “A Charlie Brown Christmas”—except without the red, “naturally-curly hair.” Good grief.

Funny video
I’m serious. I am married to Pig-Pen. Peaceful Readers, you absolutely have to watch this YouTube summary of Pig-Pen. I laughed my head off—maybe because it reminded me so much of someone I know and love. The dirt. The smiles. The people nearby with their eyes bugged out. That is my life.

The car wash
What did I do with my ash-infused car? I sent Logan to get it washed and vacuumed. Thank the good Lord for the brand-new car wash five minutes from our house. Heavy sigh—with a head shake.

Today on Choosing Peace, you’ll read about how God reached down into our mess and gave us a miracle.

First, let’s review what we’ve learned so far about What Forgiving Is and Isn’t. Can you believe we’re on part 10?

Point #1: Forgiving is not condoning.
Point #2: Forgiving can be done with or without any acknowledgment of wrongdoing.
Point #3: Forgiving is essential for me and my relationships.
Point #4: Forgiving doesn’t mean reconciling.
Point #5: Forgiving is not a transaction.
Point #6: Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting or ignoring wrongdoing.
Point #7: Forgiving doesn’t mean rejecting or sabotaging natural consequences.
Point #8: Forgiving doesn’t mean regaining trust.
Point #9: Forgiving doesn’t automatically reestablish a previous relationship.
Point #10: Forgiving is a gift that I give to myself most of all.
Point #11: Forgiving is a boundary issue.
Point #12: Forgiving is an essential step of The Healing Journey.
Point #13: Forgiving is a choice.
Point #14: Forgiving is chosen freely.
Point #15: Forgiving is the breaking of an unholy tie or bond.

When Jesus is your Lord and Savior, you’ve received forgiveness on an incomprehensibly-grand scale—for every sin you’ve ever committed. When we’re in church—in person or online—we hear a lot about God’s love, forgiveness and grace. In part 2, I unpacked how love and forgiving are intertwined. Today, we’ll explore Point #16: Forgiving is a display of grace.

Point #16: Forgiving is a display of grace.
In other words, forgiving is Grace On Display. The dictionary defines this type of grace as “favor or goodwill.” When I forgive someone—or some people—who wronged me, I’m looking on them with favor and goodwill—with generosity and kindness. Even though someone took something from me, I’m canceling their debt. That reminds me of this verse.

What they stole
When I say that people who wronged me “took something from me,” I’m not saying that they stole my purse. I’m speaking in a broader sense. Remember the third step of How to Unpack a Trauma or Loss: “Acknowledge the impact, including what was stolen.” Maybe they stole my peace—at least temporarily. Maybe their bad-mouthing stole my reputation in some people’s eyes. Maybe their blabbing stole my privacy. Maybe they stole my authority, my opportunity, my confidence, my innocence, my honor, my stability or something else. In this post, I listed 10 things that my dad’s emotional abuse stole from me, including my ability to love and forgive myself and my ability to feel comfortable around good people. And much, much more. The impact was serious.

It’s a good time to get out your journal, find a quiet spot and do some reflecting. Write down one or two traumas or losses in your life that were the direct result of someone’s sin. What was stolen from you? Close your eyes and really think about that. What was the impact, short-term and long-term? If you need to unpack and lay down a trauma or loss in your life—if you’re ready to say good-bye to the negative impact—see all six parts of The Trauma of Perfection from the last series.

What forgiving says
In part 8 of What Forgiving Is and Isn’t, we learned Point #12: Forgiving is an essential step of The Healing Journey. Forgiving says: “You did something wrong. You hurt me. Technically, you owe me a debt that you can’t repay because you can’t undo what you did (or failed to do). Nevertheless, I’m canceling your debt to me. You are forgiven.” Yes, indeed. Forgiving is a display of grace.

Solo forgiving
When we forgive someone, frequently the other person has no idea. We took care of some personal or interpersonal business without communicating about it. In reality, we took care of some very serious spiritual business, usually without realizing it. I forgave my high school boyfriend when I was a teenager. I had no idea at the time that he’d ever apologize to me. That apology—decades after the fact—definitely goes in the Shock of America category.

Often, it’s only God and myself who know that I forgave someone. And that’s enough.

I don’t go up to someone and blurt out: “By the way, I forgave you for ________.” To me, it doesn’t make sense to say “I forgave you” when we aren’t discussing the subject. Bringing it up in an off-topic way seems very awkward and maybe self-righteous. On the other hand, if someone apologizes while we’re talking and I know that I’ve forgiven him or her, then I can say, sincerely, “I forgive you” or “I’ve forgiven you.” Talking together can help resolve a misunderstanding.

The other night, Brandon and I watched “The Bourne Supremacy” starring Matt Damon. Toward the end, Jason Bourne risked his life to give a face-to-face confession and apology. It was an intense, moving scene. The audience could sense the impact of the confession on the young lady—when a terrible lie was finally replaced with the truth. We don’t know if she forgave him or not.

Forgiving expressed
Sometimes, in real life, we’re given the opportunity to actually express our forgiveness. When we say, “I forgive you,” we’re giving someone a gift—Grace On Display. Generosity and kindness. Favor and goodwill. Forgiveness. It’s important—not only for the other person, but for us. Remember Point #10: Forgiving is a gift that I give to myself most of all; and Point #15: Forgiving is the breaking of an unholy tie or bond.

Close your eyes and think about someone who gave you an important apology and you forgave him or her. What were the circumstances? How did you feel at the time? What happened after that? How did that apology impact you? How did your decision to forgive impact you? Reflect on these experiences in your journal.

God’s healing hand
One Saturday, I received a very big apology. But it was much more than that. God reached down with his mighty, healing hand.

Psalm 27 was My Psalm during a very hard time in my life. I spent 12 days at Camp Charlene while Brandon and I were separated. Our marriage needed a serious restart. Like a computer that’s frozen on The Blue Screen of Death, sometimes we need a restart in some area of our life—the death of what needs to go and the birth of something new and much better.

Did God work a miracle during our separation? Yes, he did—in more ways than one.

Power in the word
On the first Monday of our separation, I wrote Psalm 27:14 in my journal:

Wait for the LORD. Be strong, and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the LORD.
Psalm 27:14, New Heart English Bible

I continued reading in the book of Psalms each day, and I wrote verses from Psalm 31 and Psalm 34 in my journal.

Power in prayer
On Saturday, I wrote in my journal: “[I] read Psalm 35 out loud—all about the Lord fighting for me. Isobel is reading Psalm 35 and declaring it over me before the Lord.” After I was strengthened by Psalm 35, God gave us the miracle.

The miracle
I was sitting in the chair in my room at Camp Charlene. My phone was sitting a few feet away, on top of my laptop. All of a sudden, I started hearing Brandon talking to me. My phone had not rung and I had not answered it. (When Brandon had called me a few minutes earlier, I had not answered the phone.) Yet there I was, hearing Brandon’s voice as he talked to me through my phone. His voice was very different. He sounded remorseful. I listened, silently. He couldn’t tell if I was on the phone or not, since I wasn’t responding to what he was saying. He talked for maybe a minute. Maybe more.

After he hung up, he texted me to ask if I was there. I replied, “Yes.” He asked if he could call me. I replied by text that I did not want to fight with him. He said he would not fight with me. He called; and this time, I answered the phone.

The request
I told him, very frankly, what his anger had done to me through the years. He listened. He asked me if I would go out to dinner with him that night. I told him that I would—if he wrote down his acknowledgment of what he’d done to me and brought it with him. I didn’t ask him for an apology or for his remorse. Just an acknowledgment. (Any remorse or apology had to be sincere, not requested.)

Gifts of grace
Brandon arrived at my dear friend Charlene’s house—Camp Charlene—to pick me up for our date. He was dressed nicely, had gotten a haircut and was wearing cologne. Wow. Most importantly, he brought the letter that he wrote to me that day. He wrote more than I asked for. Brandon acknowledged what he’d done and he sincerely apologized. He was different. He really was. Was that the second miracle that day? I believe it was.

And I forgave him. This brings us back to Point #16: Forgiving is a display of grace. It also reminds me of Point #12: Forgiving is an essential step of The Healing Journey. The forgiving was a crucial step, but we still had a lot of work to do. Grieving takes time. And work. Building trust takes time. And work. Replacing bad habits with better ones takes effort. We had to change our minds about things. It took us time, work, tears, patience and forgiving to build our marriage into something much better.

The effort was definitely worth it. And God has been with us every step of the way.

Coming home
I returned home four days after our date—to my gentler, better Brandon and our son Logan. I asked them to come and get me from Camp Charlene. I needed us to all be a part of my return home. That evening, Brandon asked Logan and me to sit down on the couch. Brandon stood in front of us and apologized to me and to Logan for his anger and yelling. He apologized to us face-to-face. The letter Brandon gave me on our date spoke deeply to me. I learn by reading. I trust that Brandon’s words spoke deeply to Logan. He learns by hearing.

The first day of June that year was a big day. They brought me home. Brandon apologized to us both. And we forgave him. We showed Brandon grace. Many thanks to Charlene and her family, to Isobel, to Brandon and Logan—and most of all, to God Almighty.

Does God reach down and put his mighty hand into the lives of those who love him? Yes, he does. And Psalm 27 is still my favorite Psalm. I think it always will be.

Coming next: Well, Peaceful Readers, I don’t know what’s coming next. I have no idea. Is this post finished—What Forgiving Is and Isn’t—or is there more? We’ll see. Until then, thanks for reading and for Choosing Peace. 

Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.

Truth from The Word: My Psalm: Psalm 27

Song for Healing: “Psalm 27 (One Thing)” by Shane & Shane

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