Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Thoughts on Forgiveness and Lent

Life is Good: I'm still learning

Two years ago, I took a vacation from social media and spent Lent in deep thought and reflection about Forgiveness. Forgiving has always been a topic of on-going study for me. I seem to be able to forgive everyone but myself. In fact, one of our family's mantras is "Everybody makes mistakes sometimes." And I believe that. Whole-heartedly. And I want for our children to grow up believing this in their hearts and if they do, hopefully, they will forgive easily---themselves as much as others. Sometimes those mistakes are unplanned and sometimes they are completely intentional. But because of my faith, I forgive. It's easy to forgive when you aren't perfect yourself! It's a funny, thing, though, because I think not being able to forgive myself has a lot to do with being a "recovering perfectionist". And when I say that, I'm speaking about recovering from my pursuit and expectation of perfection, not actually ever being perfect.

I also think my inability to forgive myself easily has to do with how deeply I feel things. I think our strengths are often our weaknesses, too, and while I am able to use my sensitivity to support and empathize with others, I also seem to let it flood me with guilt and pain when I make the eensiest of mistakes. I hold myself to a standard that I would never use to measure anyone else in my life. Gosh, I am still kicking myself for not taking a meal over to an acquaintance when her dad died several years ago. It happened to be a rough time for me and I just wasn't able to do it. But I still think of it and feel guilty! I feel guilty for big and small things---for not volunteering to be room mother this year because I had a new house to unpack and a baby to keep me running all over the place. Good reasons, right? But when I get an email from the class room mothers about an upcoming party, I hang my head in shame! I feel guilty for removing people from my life who weren't kind to me or good for me or there for me when I needed them. I feel guilty for not doing things, for not doing things sooner, for not doing something first or last or twelfth. Yes, it is sometimes comical and ridiculous. Other times, it's completely warranted because I have really messed up! And of course, this is a totally abbreviated version of my nuttiness.

As I continue to work on this "issue" of mine (in an effort for me to have less inner struggle but also, so that I can be a good example for my family),  I try to remind myself that when I can't forgive myself, I'm getting in God's way and not allowing Him to be in control; I'm not allowing myself to receive the forgiveness that my faith is based upon and therefore, I'm not fully living out my faith. When I am mindful of this, it works. But when my mind is muddied with guilt and to-do lists and the noise of everyday life, it doesn't. I'm a work in progress. Sigh.

In my time spent this Lent pondering Forgiveness, I discovered a sweet little devotion about this subject entitled "Remodeling 101". My favorite part of the piece is, "God is the One who heals. Forgiveness puts us in the correct posture for Him to do so.  Don’t wait another minute to deal with the issue of forgiveness in your life." (Mary Southerland) I also really like this nugget of truth from Southerland, too, "True forgiveness is a choice – a deliberate choice to release the person who has hurt us from the pain they have caused. We can stop forgiving others when God stops forgiving us." (Forgiveness = freedom = love!)

In this time of pondering Jesus' last days on this Earth and His gift of Forgiveness to us, I'm trying my best to remember that I deserve the same forgiveness that I give to others. That I am a child of God and that He wants for me to let go of the (control) guilt.

Admittedly, there is nothing profound here. But if you have trouble forgiving yourself or someone else, I urge you to read the post I referenced above. I found it to be succinct, well-written and thought-provoking.

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