What forgiving is and isn’t, part 8

The journey and the destination

Have you ever prepared a recipe for the first time, thinking Do I have a good back-up plan if this recipe is a total flop? Then the new recipe turns out amazing and it’s quickly elevated to Family Favorite status. Happy Dance time.

In this post, I asked if you’d ever eaten cake for dinner. Me? Absolutely. In true Frankie Ann form, I ate one of our Family Favorites for dinner a couple evenings ago: Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake. Sometimes I call it C4 in my journal, for short. Delicious. My mom used to make Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake as a surprise for us and she’d deliver it to our house while we were at work and school. That was super sweet. Every time.

Now my mom’s in heaven—the ultimate destination. One day I’ll join her there. That will be glorious beyond imagination. Today on Choosing Peace, we’ll answer some questions about another important destination.

The list
Here’s our current list of 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.

You may have noticed that we’ve covered a lot of What Forgiving Isn’t so far. Starting with the last post, we moved into some important descriptions of What Forgiving Is. I’m not sure what this list will contain in the end. How many items? What order?

Point #12: Forgiving is an essential step of The Healing Journey.
When I typed Point #12, I looked at my laptop and thought, I don’t have any idea what to say about that. And then, moments later, my fingers started moving like lightning on the keys…. I hope you’re blessed today.

The important words in Point #12 are step and journey. We learned in the first post that forgiving is a split-second decision, not a process. It really is a single step. But it’s a crucial step, not a casual step. The step of forgiving makes The Heart Change.

Forgiving says, I’m letting go of what you did (or failed to do). You don’t owe me anything.

When I make The Heart Change—when I forgive—I stop looking back in a negative way. Forgiving turns my head and I start looking forward. It’s an essential step like the step of repentance. Let me say that again. Forgiving is an essential step—like the step of repentance. I turn from looking one way to looking another way. I turn from darkness to light. Forgiving is a 180—a 180-degree turn.

Forgiving is an essential step, but it isn’t the journey. I’ve mentioned The Healing Journey many times on Choosing Peace. It’s time to dig into The Healing Journey—what it is and isn’t.

The journey
As we continue walking The Healing Journey, we eventually release our anger, we discover what this experience—this loss or trauma—can teach us or how it can strengthen us, and we may even learn to pray big prayers for people who really hurt us. And in the end, we lay down the loss or trauma entirely.

In the last series, we explored The Season of Grieving.

Your grieving
in the case of grieving, you’ll pray—a lot, you’ll make many choices, you’ll walk forward (and backward)—taking so many steps, you’ll tend to yourself, you’ll wait, you’ll cry, you’ll rage, you’ll sleep, you’ll study and learn, you’ll express yourself, you’ll persevere, you’ll seek and find many things, you’ll give and you’ll receive. And then one day—you’ll realize, either gently or suddenly, that you’ve reached your destination: Peace.

And you’ll marvel at all the things you did and learned on The Healing Journey. You’ll sit in awe. You’ll close your eyes and take this deep, cleansing breath. You’ll wonder about the new journeys that lie ahead of you. And you’ll have hope.

Each chapter of The Season of Grieving refers to a particular trauma, loss and/or relationship. Yes, we can grieve an entire dysfunctional relationship in one Season of Grieving. In the last two series, I wrote about doing the work of grieving in my own life—about my dad, my mom, my sociopathic in-laws, my ex-husband and my sister Pam, the malignant narcissist.

What is the relationship between The Season of Grieving and The Healing Journey? The Healing Journey is the broader category. It’s filled with multiple Seasons of Grieving. Ideally, we would acknowledge and grieve our traumas and losses right when they happen. But we don’t always understand what’s going on. Sometimes we don’t know what to call what just happened. Sometimes we have absolutely no life skills about seeing truth, problem-solving, grieving and more. Sometimes we believe the lies and live in denial for decades about “what just happened.”

Here’s a good example. When I call a massive trauma a “choice,” I embark on A Journey of Denial. I cling to lies. I reject The Season of Grieving. When I finally admit the truth—that it was a child, not a choice—I can eventually begin a chapter of The Season of Grieving in The Healing Journey.

Peaceful Readers, these are the key truths of this post. Journeys have destinations. While the destination of The Healing Journey is peace, that’s not the whole story. What makes the destination peaceful?

The destination of The Healing Journey is healing.

Our losses and traumas are fully resolved and laid down.

Do we take The Healing Journey all at once—in one sequence of Seasons of Grieving—back-to-back-to-back? We can, but not usually. We start and stop The Healing Journey based on what we’re ready to do at the time. We grieve some losses and traumas when they happen, which is ideal. Those events are spread throughout our lives. Other events or relationships may be unclear to us for quite some time. They’re grieved much later, when we’re ready to dig for the truth and do the work of grieving. We do tend to grieve one loss, trauma or relationship at a time, as we peel our Trauma Onion. (For more on the Trauma Onion, see this post.)

The great physician
Many people believe that we can’t be healed from loss and trauma. They say that we never stop seeking healing about past events. I heartily disagree with that mindset. Jesus is The Great Physician. He is not The Mediocre Nurse Practitioner. He doesn’t put a band-aid on my broken arm and say, “Good luck with that.”

The myth
In the Grieving series, I devoted a post to Debunking the Pop-Culture Myth. This dangerous myth tells us that we’ll never stop grieving. I clarified the extreme contrast between the concept of grieving and missing.

Grieve vs. miss
First and foremost, the word grieve should not be used lightly.

Grieving reflects a season of intense anguish and pain,
with a gradual adaptation and healing
from an extremely painful experience.

Yes, you will miss your loved one after he or she is gone and after you’ve successfully completed the work of grieving. Yes, you will occasionally shed a tear or two (or three…) even after you’ve successfully completed the work of grieving.

To miss someone or something means to wish
that he or she was still here and/or
to wish that things had been different.

This missing may include the wish that you’d said or done something that you didn’t. Missing someone or something doesn’t mean that you’re still grieving the loss. Again, the word grieve should not be used lightly. Grieving is an intense season—characterized by unresolved loss or trauma.

Forgiving and the photo
Here’s a sweet example of this powerful truth.

God is my healer—God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and The Holy Spirit.

From Peaceful Closure:

Two days after I wrote the Letter of Gratitude to my mom, I wrote this in my journal:

Friday, October 5, 2018
As I went to sleep, I forgave Isobel and my mom. I am Choosing Peace.

Was forgiving the final step of The Season of Grieving about my mom? Nope. Even though my mom had died, I was still angry at her, truth be told. How did I know? Every time I looked at the photo of her in our dining room, I felt angry. Majorly let-down. Like I wanted to put my hands in a fierce, I’m-About-To-Claw-You position, accompanied by a growl. Often, I’d avoid looking at that photo because I didn’t want to think about her and her emotional neglect. She was The Fog.

Then one day when I looked at my mom’s photo, I felt compassion for her. I didn’t feel angry anymore. How did that happen? I don’t have the foggiest idea. God healed my heart. He just did. I didn’t make any purposeful effort or spend time praying or reflecting on it. He just did it for me, while I was sleeping or just going through my life. Now that is amazing to me. As time went on, God transformed my anger into compassion. Now, when I look at that beautiful photo of my mom—the black and white photo taken when she was in college—I feel peace. And I smile. No more growling and scowling.

When God replaced my anger with compassion, he gave me the final step of The Season of Grieving about my broken, traumatic relationship with my mom—The Trauma of Disengagement. God did the work in me. What a sweet and tender gift. Thanks be to God!

Healing vs. transformation
When Christians deny that true, complete emotional healing is possible, we’re calling God a liar. Nothing is impossible with God. Jesus didn’t come to give us A Better-Than-Average Life. He came to give us an abundant life. I’m going to say this again. Jesus is The Great Physician. He is not The Mediocre Nurse Practitioner.

My life is not defined by my traumas, my losses or my failures. God will artistically use every aspect of my life, working everything amazingly together for my good. For many of us, certain aspects of our passion and calling are born out of very difficult experiences. That’s an example of God working everything together for my good.

You may relate to these words spoken by Joseph to his brothers—the ones who sold him into slavery.

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good….
Genesis 50:20a, World English Bible

Here’s another important segment from Time for Grieving, part 4:

A different person
After you successfully complete The Season of Grieving, you’ll notice that you’re a different person. If you’ve done your work of grieving well, you’ll find that you’re a better person—more compassionate, more understanding, more patient…. Just because you’re different now doesn’t mean that you’re still grieving. It means that you grieved well.

Some people mistake this “I’m a different person now” reality to mean that they’re still grieving. Not true. You’ve grown into a fuller person because of your good work during The Season of Grieving. Remember the profound difference between the word grieve and the word miss.

Refining, teaching, transforming
What happens after I complete The Healing Journey? After I’ve successfully grieved all of my traumas and losses? God keeps working in my life—powerfully. I think many of us confuse God’s continual refining, teaching and transforming of our hearts and minds to mean that we aren’t truly healed.

Yes, God continues his beautiful, transforming work in my life. Yes, I keep growing and changing. That doesn’t mean that I’m living perpetually in a state of unresolved—unhealed—loss and trauma. We need to give God the glory for the healing work he is doing and the healing work that he has completed. God is the finisher.

The big picture
My parents were chosen purposefully for me. Growing up in a household filled with lies made me a staunch truth-seeker. And I’m very grateful for that. I smile when I think about that. I thank God for my life—not just the easy parts—but all of it. I didn’t always feel this way. This new mindset came as part of God’s refining, teaching and transforming in my heart and mind. Last year he answered my questions (why, why, why?) so I could write the final post in the Grieving series: The Big Why, part 8. The subheading for that post is The Finisher.

From unpacking to closure
The last five steps of How to Unpack a Trauma or Loss are all about resolution and closure. As you read this list from the last series, focus on items 6 through 10.

How to Unpack a Trauma or Loss
1. Look honestly at what happened.
2. Identify the lies/propaganda involved.
3. Acknowledge the impact, including what was stolen.
4. Express your feelings then and now.
5. Replace the lies with truth.
6. Choose to end the negative impact.
7. Close the suitcase (i.e., the trauma/loss).
8. Walk forward in healing and peace.
9. Share your story with someone you trust.
10. Thank God for helping you on this journey.

If you need to move forward on The Healing Journey and unpack a trauma or loss, see The Trauma of Perfection posts. You’ll see how I took those steps about my dad’s emotional abuse. At the end, writing my Letter of Gratitude to my dad was a very healing step.

A new journey
So, am I taking The Healing Journey right now? No, I’m not. My losses and traumas are resolved. God healed me. Not mostly. Not sort-of. Not most-of-the-way. Not “I’m Doing Better Than So-and-So.” God healed me. I did my part—doing the work of grieving; and God did his part—healing me—in great abundance. Where did my losses and traumas go? They haven’t disappeared. They’ve been used as important parts of My Story. They’ve been woven into my tapestry. Enjoy this beautiful poem by Corrie ten Boom.

In my current season and journey, I’m focusing on my family and a couple ministries that are very close to my heart. I’m lovin‘ it. God showed me where he wanted to use me and it’s been a warm, fruitful, beautiful time. Remarkable, really.

The difficult step
As we’ve looked at Point #12 so far, we’ve focused on The Healing Journey aspect. What about the forgiving part? The essential step?

Sometimes we have great difficulty with the step part of Point #12: Forgiving is an essential step of The Healing Journey. In other words, we understand the importance of forgiving, but we’re stuck. For various reasons, we can’t seem to do it. As this series unfolds, we’ll dig into the roadblocks to forgiving: Pride, Fear, Anger and Denial. As we dig into the roadblocks and reflect on each one, we’ll learn why it’s safe and good to tear each one down. And we’ll learn how. One step at a time.

Coming next: Next time, we’ll cover three more points about What Forgiving Is and Isn’t. The first two points are short and sweet. The third one is a show-stopper. It really surprised me. Come back for Dovey, the tie and the gutter, and much more. 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: Matthew 7:9-11

Song for Healing: “Good To Me” by Audrey Assad

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