What forgiving is and isn’t, part 12

The heart of God

As we were leaving our dinner at Rosa’s Café the other night, my pal Charlene bought me a big piece of their chocolate cake. What a total sweetie. Happy Dance time…. The next day, I was thinking about wearing white pants to work. Then I remembered that I’d be eating chocolate cake for lunch. So I told myself: No, no, no on the white pants. I wore black pants instead—just in case. Even though Brandon is the real-life Pig-Pen from the Peanuts/Charlie Brown bunch, I make an occasional mess too.

For me, chocolate cake from Rosa’s is a Kiss On The Head from Jesus. Mm-mmm. I hope you’re blessed today in a very personal way as we explore the heart of God.

Let’s review what we’ve learned so far about What Forgiving Is and Isn’t.

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.
Point #16: Forgiving is a display of grace.
Point #17: Forgiving is an act of mercy.
Point #18: Forgiving isn’t a tool for control.

We’ve finally arrived at the last two points about What Forgiving Is and Isn’t.

Point #19: Forgiving is a window to the heart of God.
What’s the purpose of a window? It allows us to see out—to see beyond where we are—while protecting us from unpredictable weather. It also lets in light.

The light through the window
Light is a metaphor for truth. It also provides safety and warmth. In the last series, Grieving, I dug into some key relationships—or non-relationships, as the case may be. This excerpt from The Trauma of Disengagement, part 2 addresses the impact of light.

Plugged in
…Moms are like lamps. The ones who are plugged in give light, safety and warmth. When it’s dark, the light provides safety in and of itself. It keeps you from falling down, running into things and otherwise getting hurt. Light is also an analogy for truth. It shines brightly enough for you to clearly see and experience the truth of what’s all around you. People gather around the light to read, play games, talk and enjoy each other’s company.

When a mom is unplugged—like an unplugged lamp—there’s no light, safety or warmth. The home is cold, the truth is absent or unclear, and the environment is unsafe. It’s easy to get lost when you’re walking in the dark.

God and light
This Bible verse tells us some key things about God.

This is the message which we have heard from him and announce to you,
that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5, World English Bible

God created light and God is light. Light = truth; God is truth. Light gives safety and warmth. Light is good. God—in his very nature—is good, does good things and gives us good things. If it’s good, it’s from God.

A place of connection
A window allows us to see out—beyond where we are. This is a physical truth and a spiritual truth. When I’m inside my house, looking out the window, I’m in a small place looking at a much bigger place—my neighborhood. In a similar way, when I forgive, I have the opportunity to see and understand God more. When I studied The Parable of The Unforgiving Servant for the last post, I learned many things about myself and about God. That’s the beauty of Point #19: Forgiving is a window to the heart of God. The window is a connection point. When I look out the window, I’ve turned from myself toward God. Forgiving is God’s way. Not forgiving can be our way sometimes.

A choice that protects
Windows let in light and they allow us to see beyond ourselves. Windows also protect us from unpredictable weather. How does forgiving protect us like a window does? Forgiving gives us clarity. And clarity protects us from wrong thinking and bad choices.

We have two big dogs who like to bark at Life Outside Our House. They see people or dogs walking down the street? Barkus-maximus. They see a squirrel scampering in our front yard? “I am dog. Hear me. Big-time.” They see the mail man? Attack Zone Central. When I hear them going off, I look out the window to see what’s up. Usually I tell them to get over it. But sometimes I praise them for being The Best Guard Dogs in The World. Looking out the window gives me clarity about what’s going on. That reminds me of this important truth from part 9:

We can mistakenly believe that forgiving leaves us vulnerable,
when forgiving actually gives us clarity.

How does forgiving give us clarity?

Here’s some more from part 9:

The power of pain
Unforgiveness ties us powerfully to something hurtful from the past. When we’re tied to sin, tied to pain, tied to anger, tied to the past, we’re facing the wrong way. We’re facing all the wrong things.

While we’re holding on to unforgiveness,
we’re walking toward the pain
instead of walking away from it.

We can’t really comprehend the destructiveness of unforgiveness. It holds a power over us that we minimize, justify, deny. We’re blind to what it’s doing to us. Other people see and hear our chain [—The Chain of Unforgiveness—] and we don’t. That’s the power of Point #15: Forgiving is the breaking of an unholy tie or bond.

When we forgive, we break the power of past sins—our own or other people’s.

Facing the right way
Because unforgiveness leaves me facing the wrong way, I’m not seeing what I need to see. It would be like this scenario: (1) My dogs are barking ferociously, (2) I walk to the window, and then (3) I turn my back to the window so I can’t see what’s going on. Since I’m facing the wrong way, I can’t respond appropriately to The Dog Alarm (i.e., bark-fest).

Forgiving gives me access to the window, the light, the truth.

Yes, indeed. Forgiving gives me clarity.

The heart of God
Point #19—Forgiving is a window to the heart of God—tells us that forgiving shows us the character of God—his nature. Take some time and think about the window below.

Do some of those words jump out at you? Do any of them surprise you? Are you yearning to experience more of one of these aspects of God’s nature as you walk with him? Reflect on these things in your journal.

The greatest virtue
The graphic above shows us that love is higher than forgiving. Love is the greatest virtue. It also shows us this truth from part 2:

Love and forgiving are intertwined.

The gift, grace and mercy
The words in the graphic remind me of some of my favorite truths from What Forgiving Is and Isn’t. To read more about forgiving being a gift, see part 7.

I like this section from part 10:

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.

Last time, we dug into Point #17: Forgiving is an act of mercy.

The compassionate pardon
I think of grace as a gift and I think of mercy as compassion or a compassionate pardon. In part 1 of [The Parable of The Unforgiving Servant], the king gave the accomplished crime boss an overwhelmingly-compassionate pardon. Jesus did—and continues to do—the same for me. He pardons me.

In this series, we’ve learned many reasons why forgiving is good—for us and for others. And if it’s good, it’s from God. That brings us to the last point in this 12-part post.

Point #20: Forgiving is from God.
In the last post, I mentioned that the first use of the word mercy in the Bible (ESV) is found in the story of Joseph and his brothers. Likewise, the first use of the word forgive is in this same revealing, thought-provoking biography in Genesis, the first book of the Bible.

Joseph was his father’s favorite. His brothers threw him in a pit and plotted to kill him. Then they decided to sell him to slave traders. Joseph’s life took many twists and turns, with traumas, disappointments, spiritual gifts and victories. This truth undulates as the pulse of his life: “The Lord was with Joseph.” God was with Joseph in the pit, in the slave caravan, in prison and when he was second in command to Pharaoh, king of Egypt. God was with Joseph. And Joseph forgave his brothers. He showed them kindness, compassion, grace and mercy.

I hope you enjoy this article, “The Wonderful Similarities Between Joseph and Jesus,” by Erik Raymond, a pastor in Boston. For the whole story of Joseph, start reading in Genesis, chapter 37.

The world’s point of view
What does the world have to say about forgiving? This article from Psychology Today“Why You Don’t Always Need to Forgive”—shows the world’s perspective and many misperceptions about forgiving. According to the author, Dr. Mariana Bockarova, a researcher at the University of Toronto, forgiving is a phenomenon that probably assists in our evolution into more trustworthy individuals and therefore into a more trustworthy society. In the last sentence of her article, Dr. Bockarova states that there can be “more power in not forgiving….”

The titles of these articles also describe the world’s view of forgiving, “Sometimes It’s Good Not to Forgive” from The New York Times and “Why Being Unable to Forgive Makes You Smart, Not Weak” from Elite Daily.

These sentiments don’t surprise me, especially in light of our “You do you” society, where everyone is encouraged to define right and wrong based on what makes them feel good at that moment. No wonder forgiving is getting dissed, along with other old-fashioned concepts that seem uncool nowadays. Forgiving can be very difficult. In our unredeemed, sinful state, forgiving doesn’t always come naturally or easily. To many people, it just doesn’t make sense.

Stretching and heavy lifting
In a surprising way, forgiving helps keep us spiritually fit. It takes us outside our comfort zone, stretches us spiritually and takes out the trash in our hearts and minds. Remember Point #15: Forgiving is the breaking of an unholy tie or bond.

The more we understand forgiving and the more we actually do it, the easier it becomes.

We build our Forgiving Muscles like we build our Faith Muscles—through stretching and heavy lifting.

Physical fitness reflects the same tension—ease versus challenge. It’s easier to sit on the couch and watch TV than it is to go for a jog or a walk or a workout. But, over time, life is much more difficult carrying 50 extra pounds.

Seeking the easy way out may feel good at the time,
but there are long-term consequences for these choices
that can be very painful and, in some ways, debilitating.

That truth applies to us in every aspect of our being—spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually—in spirit, body and mind.

Love and forgiving are virtues given to us by God—virtues that the world doesn’t understand. The world redefines truths, gifts and virtues based on what makes people feel good about themselves. What does the world have to say about God? About marriage? About love? About forgiving? About what is “good”?

Take hold of the truth. God’s way is the best way. And we give thanks to him for the virtue of forgiving—a gift he’s given to us—remembering Point #20: Forgiving is from God. Simple and yet profound.

I hope your Forgiving Muscles will be stretched and strengthened as we continue to dig into this important issue.

Coming next: I haven’t started writing the next post yet. Will I dig into the barriers to forgiving or something else? I don’t have the foggiest idea. I’m looking forward to whatever path the Lord shows me. We’ll be surprised together. 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: Luke 15:20

Song for Healing: While I was looking for the song for this post, I listened to this song for the first time. I couldn’t stop smiling while it played, so I chose it. I hope you enjoy “Safe In My Father’s Arms” by Sanctus Real.

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