“I will never be able to forgive myself for this.”
“After everything I’ve done, I don’t deserve to be happy.”
“I’m such a mess. I’ll never get parenting right.”
If you have ever found yourself thinking something similar to these things, there’s a good chance you were/are walking in unforgiveness of yourself. It can take many forms, but unforgiveness of self always leads to the same destination – nowhere.
The burden of our sins and failures, both real and imagined, can be heavy. The guilt of our mistakes weighing us down. When we choose to dwell on or relive our past transgressions, we become stuck and victims of our own hate and condemnation.
The enemy of our souls wants us to believe that we are still guilty. He knows that guilt chokes off new life and leads to self-destruction. (Proverbs 16:18) When we focus our energy and thoughts on regret and the past, it keeps us from the life in which God has called us. It denies the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection for us and God’s goodness. (Ephesians 1:7)
We cannot erase what we have already done, but we can free ourselves from guilt and leave the past behind. Forgiving yourself may not always seem easy, but the steps to get there are not complicated.
We must recognize that unforgiveness of self is a sin and repent. When we confess and repent of our sins, God promises to remove them from us. (Psalm 103:11-12) God doesn’t halfway forgive us when we repent and turn from our sin. He forgives us completely and moves on. (Hebrews 8:12) He desires for us to do the same.
In addition to repenting, we must accept our imperfections and that we are broken but forgiven people. When we accept who we are and leave our past behind, we can find our true identity in Christ. Praise God, we are no longer the person who we used to be.
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Your past does not define you. The God of heaven and earth calls you His beloved. You have been forgiven and are no longer the person from your past. Be free!
Forgiving yourself does not mean you have forgotten or are excusing your past behavior, but God wants us to move on from our past. He wants us to keep moving forward as overcomers. (Philippians 3:13-14) When you do make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up. Learn from it so you don’t keep repeating it and move on.
Memorizing scripture has been one of the most useful tools in keeping me moving forward from my past. When the lies of guilt, shame, and condemnation try to sneak their way into your thoughts, you’ll be prepared with the living word of God.
I also find praise and worship to be very effective when thoughts of my past or current mistakes begin to plague me. I know that I may not be where I desire to be, but thankfully, I am no longer where I used to be. That is something to praise God about!
Father God, I thank you that your mercies are new every morning. I thank you that I can know forgiveness because Jesus has already paid the price for my sins. I repent for holding onto my past and not forgiving myself. I repent of letting my mistakes and failures control and hurt me. Forgive and heal me, Lord, as I choose to forgive myself. Thank you for the courage and strength to move forward in the freedom I can only find in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Three years ago I was rocking my 2-month-old baby when my (then) husband broke the news that he no longer wanted to be married.
I’ve struggled daily with forgiveness for more than 3 years, learning that forgiveness can’t always be given in an instant.
I can’t say, “I forgive you for leaving us.” and suddenly be rid of anger and hurt forever. That anger surfaces over and over: when I face a parenting decision alone, when medical bills arrive, when I’m lonely, when a child asks why her father left, and on, and on. Each and every time that anger washes over me, I must again try to forgive.
What can be done to forgive what feels unforgivable?
Realize that forgiveness isn’t ‘once and done’. It is a constant. Each time anger surfaces, there is need to forgive once again.
What is forgiveness? Is it condoning the actions of the one who hurt you? Is it removing the need for accountability? Is it pretending the wrong never happened or there were no consequences?
No! Forgiveness is simply acknowledging a wrong and giving it to God, realizing that He is the one in control of the situation. Rather than worrying about just punishment for an offense, allow God to take care of it.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
Even after three years, I am no pro at forgiveness. I must still frequently revisit forgiveness through prayer, asking for help to surrender my anger and hurt.
Friend, if you are struggling to forgive, remember that forgiveness is an ongoing battle. Approach God with prayer each time you find yourself dwelling on the transgression. Recognize that God is in control of righting injustice and you are simply in control of letting go.
We live in South Florida, arguably one of the most beautiful states on earth, even after the recent devastation from Hurricane Irma. If you think of Florida, beyond the storm, you’ll picture gorgeous waters, palm trees and tropical breezes. Certainly pictures of Heaven on Earth. I’m so blessed to be living here, fulfilling a childhood dream as a travel writer. I love sharing stories about many of the amazing places in God’s world that our family is able to experience. Being a journalist so close to Orlando allows for plenty of opportunities to experience the Walt Disney World parks.
People often say Disney World is the most magical place on earth. While a Disney Park is absolutely a blast (albeit exhausting!) while you’re there, and you’ll certainly make amazing memories, I disagree.
The state of forgiveness is the most magical place on earth, especially forgiveness of self.
Bitterness and unforgiveness are poisonous roots that pollute our soul. Hebrews 12:15 says,
“Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.”
It’s the same soul we use to commune with God, our husband, and our children. We wouldn’t feed our family poison, and many of us won’t even feed them food contaminated with pesticides. How can we expect to be giving our children a healthy does of love if it’s coming from a polluted soul? Matthew 18:23-35 says we’ll be handed over to the torturers, the tormentors, if we don’t forgive others. I’ll bet Jesus was talking about forgiving ourselves, too. I’m not sure about you, but I’ll skip the torture and head toward grace! Joyce Meyer says, “Your fellowship with God flows freely when you’re willing to forgive, but it gets blocked by unforgiveness.”
Are we bigger than God that we can’t forgive ourselves when our loving, Heavenly Father, has forgiven us through His Son? Sheri Seligson recently wrote, “In a sense, I am denying the work of Jesus. God forgives me, so why can’t I forgive myself? I mean, I DO forgive myself in my head, but my heart keeps bringing up the guilt and regret.”
We’ve got to rely on God and enter His forgiveness, grace, peace and rest.
It’s in that state of forgiveness of ourselves where we can become the women of God He envisions for us: daughters of the Most High King, brave warriors armed for battle, gentle and kind souls sent to create beauty, life-giving words and atmosphere. And so much more than we can even see.
Truth be told, I’ve struggled with this myself, moms. I mean, often I forget we’re created to create and it’s really ok to just sit and play with the kids for a while instead of staring into guilt from the years of half- used (and often untouched) curriculum that might have cost too much to begin with. How about that parenting fail we’re carrying? The way we lashed out at our husband or didn’t do something we intended for a friend? Haven’t we all missed a deadline, or finishing that schoolwork, or burned a meal, or over committed in our church or co-op, often to things way out of our control?
When we miss the mark, don’t we beat ourselves up? Good news, moms: we aren’t meant to carry these weights and stress, we’re meant to live in grace, the free and unmerited favor of God. Can you relate, mamas?
It’s a painful and poisonous cycle, mamas:
Do something wrong.
Get mad at self.
Hold a personal grudge so it probably happens again, and not be able to fully give to those around us while we carry the guilt’s burden. Let’s let it go!
Freedom begins when we forgive ourselves, just as our freedom in Christ began when He forgave us. Let’s live in this freedom!
We’ll begin to make different choices, plan better, prioritize and even say no sometimes. We’ll take personal accountability and responsibility, thus modeling these amazing traits to our children, when we live in the state of personal forgiveness. Being ok with not being ok.
I’m so grateful I’m a writer for times like these when God reveals His beauty and grace through words I craft, often deep into the stillness of the night. The first thoughts- just an idea- form as a whisper, and come only when I’m in a state of forgiveness. And in a way only Holy Spirit can, life is breathed into my own soul as I write words for you.
I pray you are blessed and forgive yourself, right now, for whatever it is poisoning your soul. Take a big dose of His antidote of forgiveness and peace to see how your soul nurtures life all around.
Let’s take simple actions to make things right, through confession to others and to Papa and then enter into His promise of peace that surpasses all understanding.
(Sometimes, I write poetry…)
Can’t we just forgive ourselves?
For the clothes we didn’t iron
The room that went haywire
Books still left unread
Thoughts raging in our heads
Words left unspoken
Weight we haven’t lost
Maybe a friend whom we have crossed ?
Is anything unforgivable for our King?
The one who gives us everything-
Who are we to assume his role?
The price is paid-
We’ve been made whole
When will enough
Just Be ENOUGH?
Let’s quit sweating the
Weed the poisonous root
Bear Spirit’s fruit
Return to peace
Release the bitter necess-
Of not forgiving ourselves so
We may simply model
This month has been rather hectic; it started out with #HurricaneIrma and it’s coming to a close with #HurricaneMaria. I happened to be in Puerto Rico visiting my family and when Irma hit the island; then I had to watch the news helplessly as Maria tore through my island. Thankfully my family is safe. My mind has been swirling with the logistics and details of the events of the last three weeks and then I remembered I have a blog due on the topic of forgiveness! YIKES!
I’ve said this before – I tend to have more questions than answers, so I don’t know how helpful I will be a navigating this topic. Forgiveness can be easy, leaving you feeling as serene as a sunrise at the beach; or, lack of it can be a Category 5 hurricane, destroying everything in its path.
What comes to mind when you hear the word “forgiveness?” Are there some people in your life that are easy to forgive? What about that person that you have to forgive 70×7 that makes you heart weary, where is the boundary? How do you guard your heart and set yourself free? This is not an easy topic! At one point this week I was thinking that being on the island in the midst of the hurricane would be easier than writing about forgiveness.
My heart has taken a beating, as I am sure yours has at some point. I’ve had to forgive abusers, my ex-husband for domestic violence, prejudice, family members, people in general that hurt my heart, and lastly myself for all the poor choices I have made in my life. The list is long, but His grace runs deep; and while this topic is complicated, it is ever so simple. The story that comes to mind for me is (drumroll please) in Luke 7:36-50
In this story Jesus is addressing both the sinful woman who is washing His feet, as well as those that are consumed by their self-righteous behavior and (erroneously) believe that they are in a “better” place than the “sinful” woman. This is also similar to the story of the Prodigal Son. It seems that everyone rushes to “relate” to the prodigal (or not), but how many have stopped to ponder the sin of the prodigal’s brother?
Dear friends, the worst kind of sin is the sin of self-righteousness; the assumption that you on your own by your own religious activities and moral merit can somehow earn a place in the Kingdom of God. That is the most heinous crime of all, for it treats the sacrifice of Christ with utter disdain and being unnecessary and foolish. Jesus uses a wretched sinner to reach an even worse sinner.
He tells us that one who is forgiven much loves much, in contrast to the one who is forgiven little. Not because Jesus only forgave them a little bit, but because they didn’t see their need to be forgiven much in the first place. In other words, the person who understands that they need forgiveness vs the person that thinks they’re not broken. Mind you there’s a lot to unpack here and I’m on borrowed space and time. I encourage you to dig deeply into these stories and pray that you gain wisdom when it comes to the subject of forgiveness and how it applies in your life.
In my estimation, as with everything else, forgiveness begins with repentance; acknowledging who we are in the first place – a sinner in need of a Savior. That levels the playing field, if you will. Next is letting go of the most parasitical sin of all – our pride. Whether we’ve been offended or are the one offending, pride is creeping in and will blind and bind you. Only then can one begin to assess the issues before them and ask God for discernment so that you can be free to forgive. Some issues will allow for reconciliation, others require healthy boundaries, but you can’t get to either when you come to the table with a self-righteous and bitter heart. Forgiveness starts with you. Stay humble. Be free!
I had gone thru many of the steps of forgiveness. And just still couldn’t let go. Just still couldn’t find closure to the matter.
I had always heard you must forgive or you won’t be forgiven. But it just didn’t resonate with me. It was just all too vague or something. It didn’t tug at my heart strings.
I remember the day, it was the Sunday before my 30th birthday. I took some quiet time after church. I heard God saying…
- “Ok, Trudie, did this person do you wrong?” Yes, for sure, is the answer.
- “Did this person hurt you?” Yes.
- “Did this person ruin your life?” Yep!
- “Does this person OWE you?” Yes.
Yes, yes, and yes. This person certainly owed me. I had given up so much of my life for this person’s control and agenda. Things that should not have been asked of a young girl.
Yes, the resounding answer to all those questions was yes.
I pictured myself standing before my God as the judge. The person that had hurt me was on trial and was found guilty. The punishment was, well, anything really. I think I pictured money. Say $100,000. This person owed it to me. God as the judge was admitting that, yes, the person was guilty. And He was ready to hand out the sentence.
But then Jesus walked in.
He said, “I will take the place. I will pay it all. I too, know that this was the guilty person. But I want to pay her punishment.” He handed me the money to pay the debt that was owed.
The choice was now mine. I needed to decide if I would accept the gift. Jesus was freely handing me everything the person owed me.
If I took the money, the person would be able to walk out of the courtroom free. I could not hold a grudge. I could not call another trial. If I accepted His payment, I had to let go of the right to get even.
Finally, I realized this was the way it was. Real life. Not a made-up courtroom scenario.
Jesus had paid it all on the cross. Years ago. For the sins against me. He had paid that person’s debt. He DIED on the cross so that that person would be free from the bondage they owed me.
He only asks me to accept his free gift of repayment.
When Satan comes back and he wants me to hold on to that debt. Daily, when he brings memories back and words that were spoken. Daily, when he wants me to pick that hurt back up. I have to go back to the court room. Jesus is still standing there with a receipt of payment. Signed and dated. March 1st, 2013.
Sometimes a new hurt comes; I find myself back in the courtroom. I know as soon as a sentence is made, Jesus will be walking in ready to pay the debt. He is always ready to pay all that this person owes.
He is able.
You know, I’ve missed out on a lot because of this debt owed to me. Yet, as time goes on, I’m realizing that not only is Jesus willing to pay the debt, but He also wants to fill the holes that were left. He wants to restore me completely. He wants to make good the wrong done to me. He wants to change this story of hurt into a story of complete joy.
He is not just into paying the debt, but into restoring me completely. Refining me into pure gold, tried by fire through this.
He is Able. But I have to accept it.
I have to focus on the good that this situation has brought in my life. I have to focus on the things, people, and circumstances that this very situation has brought. I need to look at the place where I would have been, and the place where I am now. And in that, I find that Jesus was able. Jesus is still able to provide payment for what this person owes me. In a FAR greater way than any person ever could. More than any punishment could have repaid, the debt is restored.
Jesus is able. Every day I have a question to answer. . . Will I let Him?
You have the same option this very day… Who are you standing on the other side of the wittness stand from? Who do you need to forgive? Jesus is walking into the courtroom. Will you let Him pay what is owed to you? Will you accept His free gift? He can restore your debt! Will you let Him?
Have you ever noticed that the words GIVE and GIVEN are in the middle of forgiveness? I guess I never really thought about it. Until today. And now, that which has been seen cannot be unseen.
ForGIVEness is a noun, and as such, it is a thing. It is something you can give, and it is something that can be given to you—whether you choose to receive it or not. Isn’t that interesting?
Psychologists have long contended that the offer of forGIVEness benefits the person giving it regardless of the recipient’s reaction. Why? Rarely do the people we need to forgive have a clue how much harm they have inflicted or the extent of the pain they have caused. Can I get a witness?!
ForGIVEness is not about fighting for justice or holding the offender accountable—that’s completely different. ForGIVEness is an attitude of the heart. It’s about us and our willingness to trust God’s sovereignty: Do we trust God enough to forGIVE someone for hurting us? Our family? Our friends? Our pastor? Our animals? Our possessions? Our bank accounts?
When I consider what authentic forGIVEness looks like, I think of the incredibly inspiring and humble members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. I think of Nadine Collier, the daughter of Ethel Lance, a senior citizen who was shot and killed after an evening service in 2015 for no other reason than the color of her skin. When Collier had the opportunity to confront her mother’s murderer, she did not seek revenge or curse his existence. She did not question why or scream in his face. Instead, she offered the unexpected and holy gift of forGIVEness. Though he was held captive by his hate, she was FREE.
When I consider what authentic forGIVEness looks like, I think of Debbie Godwin, daughter of Robert Godwin Sr. whose cold-blooded murder was posted on social media and shared all over the interwebs. Instead of hate and bitterness, she has shown tremendous grace and emotional fortitude by offering forGIVEness and showing empathy towards the murderer who later took his own life. He was held captive by his hate. She was FREE.
What do Collier, Godwin, and others who genuinely practice the art of forGIVEness have in common? They share a heart filled with humility and trust—the combination of which unlocks our ability to offer forGIVEness to those who have hurt us, even if the hurt can never be undone.
Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus taught His followers how to pray, He taught them to “Let it go!”
“Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.“ (Matthew 6:12, CSB)
And just in case Jesus’ followers didn’t understand that forGIVEness was tied to their willingness to forGIVE others, He re-stated it more clearly:
“If you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14, CSB)
In this model prayer, Jesus highlighted the essentials of an effective prayer: honoring God; calling out for His will to be done; looking to Him as provider; requesting protection and deliverance from evil; AND seeking forGIVEness with the same measure we offer it to others. It’s almost as though Jesus was teaching His followers that forGIVEness was an important daily practice—a spiritual discipline, of sorts—and withholding it would have serious negative consequences.
ForGIVEness requires neither a frontal lobotomy nor a risky reconciliation. It simply requires (1) a humble spirit convinced that the best judge of character, motivation, and intention is the Lord God Almighty and (2) a heightened sense of self-awareness that we are not Him! 😳
Only in humility are we able to place our trust in a God who is who He says He is and does what He says He will do. When we trust God, we can genuinely offer forGIVEness—not concern ourselves with the reaction of the recipient—and experience freedom from the bondage of bitterness.
Are you willing to trust God’s judgment over your own and offer forGIVEness to ___________________ today, even though she or he might never know? Or might reject it? Remember, His forGIVEness is directly related to our willingness to forGIVE others. There really is no better time than the present to let go of bitterness and trust God’s sovereignty with your pain. ForGIVEness is freedom.
We all have it. Things we have done or shouldn’t have done with our kids. You all know what I’m talking about. Cold pizza for breakfast because I didn’t get enough sleep last night (teething baby) and I didn’t have the energy to make a fresh, nutritious breakfast.
Or the time my child was the only one on the homeschool field trip who didn’t have his jacket (and his pants were inside out – how did that happen?). How about the time I forgot to get a card for my husband’s birthday and frantically instructed the kids to make a “Daddy card,” in a feeble attempt to convince him that THAT was my Plan A?
It seems we moms are always feeling guilty about something. Let me ask you right now. Is there something (big or little) nagging in the back of your head right now as you’re reading this? Can you think of something that happened recently or in the past that you keep replaying in your mind, wishing you could have done it differently?
Let me tell you. Having raised four children, homeschooling them from K-12 grades, I am constantly having to deal with those thoughts even today. Things I did in the past keep popping up in my brain, and I have to deal with the regret or frustration of trying to push those thoughts out of my mind.
In a sense, that crazy, over-sung movie theme is useful…Let. It. Go.
Self-forgiveness is a tough thing. Moms, in particular, often carry a heavy load of guilt. And sometimes it goes way beyond the guilt of serving cereal for dinner.
If you do a quick search in the Bible to find verses addressing “forgiving yourself,” you might not find any. That doesn’t mean it isn’t in there. There are lots of passages that talk about the sin of unbelief. Think about that. In Romans 8:1, Paul says that there is “therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
He goes even further in 2 Corinthians 5:17:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
So if you are a Christian, you have received the complete grace and forgiveness of Christ. When God looks at me, for example, He sees the finished work of Jesus covering over me, and thus He sees Jesus’ righteousness as if I have never sinned. So my sins are forgiven. I believe that.
Well, although that’s something that makes me want to sing and praise the Lord each day, and I am truly grateful for what Jesus did for me and God’s forgiveness of my sins, why do I keep beating myself up when I think back to things I didn’t do perfectly in my life? Why don’t I believe 2 Corinthians now?
In a sense, I am denying the work of Jesus. God forgives me, so why can’t I forgive myself? I mean, I DO forgive myself in my head, but my heart keeps bringing up the guilt and regret.
That is NOT forgiveness. That is rejecting what Christ has done!!
When you live in guilt, you have no internal rest. We can sometimes push that guilt away for a time, but like a horrible weed, it will keep coming back unless we can eradicate those roots.
And to do that, I have to turn to the power of God’s word. Paul says in Hebrews 4:3,
“For we who have believed enter that rest.”
We need to understand the rest that comes with the forgiveness and salvation in Christ.
We find rest when we really accept that our sins have been washed away and are forgotten. If the God of all creation who upholds everything in His hand made it so you and I are able to have a relationship with Him – made it so we can come to him as one who is perfect (thanks to Jesus), then who am I to say otherwise?
Who am I to say I know better than God? I don’t have to dwell on those guilt-bubbles that keep rising to the surface. When they pop up in my mind, then, I just remind myself that God is big enough to deal with them. In fact, He already has dealt with them. So why do I keep fertilizing those weeds? He pulled them out, and I can joyfully go forward.
Moms, let Him do that for you. It doesn’t mean you will never feel guilt, but you DO have a means to address it. You have the awesome goodness of Christ’s work and His overwhelming love for you.
Especially as you dress your toddler in yesterday’s clothes.
Do you find it easy to forgive others when they hurt you? How about forgiving others that hurt you over and over again even when you have told them that what they are doing bothers you?
I struggle with forgiving those closest to me. I mean shouldn’t they be more careful to not hurt or offend me since they care about me?
Yeah, that is a selfish as it reads. When I think about all the times I go to my heavenly father and ask for forgiveness for the same things over and over, and yes over again; I have wondered if He gets tired of hearing me and wonders if I really mean it this time.
I presented my feelings once in a class and the group stopped to talk about forgiveness. What is it? What does it include? What should be excluded?
Let’s talk about what Forgiveness is…
Forgiveness is submitting to scripture and honoring God. It is His right to take care of justice. When we don’t forgive, and turn it over to God, we are saying that we don’t trust Him to handle it properly.
Romans 12:19 – Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
Forgiveness is a multi step process. We can’t always just say, “I forgive” and be over the hurt. Sometimes we have to forgive as we heal, and that might take time. During painful events, I pray for God to give me the grace needed to forgive as I heal.
Forgiveness is a requirement. However, when we find that we are having to forgive the same person for the same offense over and over, we need to look at that relationship and perhaps set boundaries. If we allow someone to continue to have the power to hurt us, we will become bitter and they are not going to change their behavior.
Forgiveness is based on our heart condition and attitude. We can choose to forgive someone and ask God for the grace to let it go as our heart heals.
Okay for let’s talk about what Forgiveness isn’t…
Forgiveness is not allowing the other person to get away with their actions or not be held accountable.
Forgiveness is not allowing someone to hurt us over and over. If a situation exists like this, the relationship needs to be reviewed and boundaries put into place if you want to continue having a relationship with that person.
Forgiveness is not denying there is a problem or becoming the martyr. It isn’t okay for someone to continue to hurt you. However, sometimes we have to face the fact that there are individuals that are just obnoxious, mean, or unstable. When we are in a relationship like this, we have to face that they will not change their behavior but we can change the way we react or interact with them.
This world is full of evil. There will always be people that will hurt us. We have the choice of holding the pain inside and becoming bitter and angry or forgiving and allowing God to heal our hearts.
Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that you have forgotten the offense. There will be times when you will see or do something that will bring those memories back to your mind. Instead of allowing those memories to bring you pain from the past, try thanking God that you were able through His grace to forgive.
Another area that I struggle with when I am allowing the things in my life to keep me too busy to spend enough time in the Word and in prayer is admitting that I have taken offense where none may have been meant. Sometimes I just get my feelings hurt and honestly have no valid reason to back it up. You know, that “look” someone gave me, or the person that didn’t speak to me.
During these times when I am feeling put upon or picked on (all in my mind and because I have allowed the world to draw me in to doubt and fear); I will post this scripture all around the house as a reminder.
Ecclesiastes 7:9 says: Do not be quick to take offense, for the taking of offense is the mark of a fool.
I pray that as we grow closer to God, we are slower to anger and to take offense. This only comes through daily time in the Word. Take time to read and study your bible daily. Spend as much time as you can in prayer. Allow both the word of God and His love heal your hurts. And if you are reading this, understand that I am not talking about abuse when I talk about someone hurting you. Abuse is never okay and should never be tolerated. Please seek help if you are in a relationship that you are physically or emotionally in danger.
It was my fault. I deserved it. After all, I’d behaved just like he was behaving. I’d thrown the fits, hurled myself on the floor, yelled and screamed. My mother didn’t know what to do with me. I wore her out and consistently reduced her to tears.
When I was older, I disobeyed and argued with my parents. I knew how to wear them down. But if that didn’t work, I would just lie. Lying was my native language. I wanted what I wanted, and I was willing to do what it took to achieve my goal.
In short, this son of mine was the answer to my mother’s prayer, “I hope you have one just like you one day.” Looking at him, I saw my own reflection.
Yep, this was pay back.
Mom, have you ever had those thoughts? Have you ever thought your child’s misbehavior is your fault? Ever beat yourself up because your child, “That” child, won’t cooperate or obey? Ever felt like parenting is penance? A penalty? A punishment?
I have. I’ve listened to the enemy’s whispers. I’ve bought the lie. I’ve hung my weary head in despair. I’ve been tempted to give up. I’ve chosen to wallow in the reality of my own sin and rebellion, reducing God to a cruel “Gotcha God” — a God who laughs at my discouragement, a cosmic overlord who takes aim at me for fun, who delights in my suffering.
But that’s not the biblical God. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Allow me to digress for a moment and then connect some dots. Do you remember the parable Jesus told in the New Testament about the servant who was forgiven? In Matthew 18:21-35 in response to Peter’s question, Jesus tells the story of a servant who owed his master a debt. Now this was no small IOU. Apparently it was a huge sum, so much so that the servant fell prostrate begging for extra time to pay the debt. This action touched the heart of the master who forgave the servant’s debt.
Now hang on, I know you probably know this story, but try to listen with new ears. So this servant who has just been forgiven a huge debt leaves his master. As he is going away, he runs into a fellow servant who owes him a few dollars. A few, as in, not many. Although having just been completely released from a large debt, the servant grabs his fellow servant and demands payment.
When I read this story, I generally want to just throttle the first servant. After his own debt is forgiven, his friend begs and begs to be given more time, he pleads, but the greedy man throws him in prison. Eye witnesses report back to the master who calls the man out on his ruthless behavior and throws him in prison until his original debt is paid in full.
Hang with me a moment longer. What claims does Jesus make in John 8:12? You remember, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life.” And then in I John, the same author admonishes us to “walk in the light as He is in the light.” So, according to these passages, Jesus is the Light who illuminates our life’s path.
Now, what about those dots? Are you seeing a connection?
Being a mom is one of the most important jobs on the planet—maybe the most important. Every day we are shaping the future, every day we are defining culture, every day we are making a difference. Obviously these daily opportunities can be used negatively and we see that evidence every time we go to the grocery store. Clearly there are moms who are not taking advantage of their “every day” to nurture the world-changers (aka children) God has sent to them.
Being a mom is also not for wimps. If you are determined to raise your children in the fear and the admonition of the Lord, you know what I mean. If this mothering thing were only about food, clothes, and shelter that would be easy. But it’s not. No, this mothering thing is about holding up before our children a God worthy of their praise and service, worthy of their lives.
Being a mom means being strong and being vulnerable. It means living out loud in front of our kids every day. It means requiring obedience and respect. It means explaining one more time. It means dealing with conflict. It means persevering and not giving up.
Being a mom means we must walk in the Light — the light of His love, the light of His grace, the light of His forgiveness. Walking in His Light means that we extend what we’ve been so abundantly given, what’s been lavished upon us, shaken, pressed down, beyond what we can ask or imagine, to our kids day after day after day. It means praying without ceasing.
And Mom, here’s the truth, which trumps the lie: having “That child” isn’t payback. It isn’t punishment, or a penalty, or even penance. Having “That child” is a privilege.
Our being able to parent “That child” begins with our acceptance and embrace of our Father’s forgiveness.
A recent reading of Augustine’s Confessions has been a sobering reminder of just how sinful I was in my childhood. Many would chalk up the sins of youth as trivial or thoughtless. Many would say that the wrongs done during a time of immaturity should be overlooked as a right of passage, just foolishness to be endured as we travel through our younger years, having no real consequence. But that isn’t true.
The Bible teaches that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. If a father loves his son, he should discipline him. “That child” should be taught diligently. So evidently, childhood’s behaviors can reflect deeper issues of the heart, issues which need to be dealt with through the discipline of a loving parent.
When you get down to the fundamentals, it’s simple truth. Yet all too often we don’t acknowledge it. You cannot give what you do not have. For example, I cannot give you a horse, or the moon, or one million dollars. I might want to give you one of those things, or maybe even all three of them, but I can’t. My wanting to and your desire for me to give them to you cannot override the fact that I don’t have those things to give. No matter how much I want to. No matter how much you want them. Neither of us can change the fact that since I don’t have them, I cannot give them.
What you Have Not Received
The physical example of things is easy enough to understand, but it works the same with intangibles, like love and forgiveness and grace. You see, I cannot give you what I have not received, what I have not embraced. This is not to say that love, forgiveness, and grace are not available to me. No, they are readily available to everyone through the person of Jesus Christ from God the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit. These three, and others like them, are available, pressed down and running over. In fact, many of us would say that we have accepted and received these from the Father, but if that is so, then why aren’t we walking in them?
Mom, if you’ve accepted and received forgiveness from the Father, extend it to your children. If you’ve received love, give it. If you have experienced forgiveness, extended it to your “That child.” Why do we withhold from them what we’ve been so generously given? Why do we resist sharing what we have in abundance? Why are we stingy with the blessings of God?
I’m going to venture a guess as to why we do this. And my hunch is based on my own experience. I know that I was once an unforgiving and angry mom because I was like the servant. I had a debt of sin that I couldn’t repay. I’d been forgiven, but I didn’t really get it. I didn’t get the enormity of my debt, it’s hideousness in contrast to His holiness, and I didn’t get the power of His forgiveness, the completeness of it, His delight in granting it.
I’d been forgiven, but I hadn’t really received that forgiveness, allowed it to wash over me, to contemplate it’s value or it’s power.
So, when one of my kids did something, when “That child” misbehaved or rebelled, well, I got angry and incensed. They didn’t deserve my forgiveness. I considered it my right to be offended, to hold the offense against them. I didn’t get what I’d been given. Look, if you are finding it hard or maybe even impossible to forgive your children (or anyone else), then I’d suggest that it’s because you aren’t realizing the forgiveness you’ve been given. You can’t give it because you don’t have it. You’re not walking in the Light of His life. If you were, it wouldn’t be so difficult.
Look, when you get what you’ve been forgiven, you cannot help but look for opportunities to forgive. When you get the grace, the gift of salvation given which you neither deserve nor earned, then you cannot help but graciously respond to others. When you glimpse the love that chose to die on Calvary to pay your sin debt, the perfect sacrifice for your ugly, small, secret, overt, denied and deliberate sin, then you look for others to love unconditionally, extravagantly, and persistently. When you get what you’ve been given, you are driven to give it to others. You’re not driven by compulsion. You won’t have an I’ve-got-to-do-this obligation. Instead, you will have an inner desire to share out of the overflow of unearned abundance, abounding blessings, and bountiful gifts. Salvation is yours, but now you want to share it with others.
Mom, do you know this kind of forgiveness, this kind of love, this kind of grace? When did you last consider all that you have been forgiven?
Sometimes the things that need to be forgiven aren’t the huge hurts and mess ups. Often, it’s the little things that happen quite by accident that most need forgiveness.
I’m pretty sure that the rules of our house concerning rough-housing and mindless clumsiness are similar to many other families. Even with that rule, among six children, it’s bound to be broken. And then, actual things are broken.
One particular day, a favorite figurine from a collection was knocked off of the shelf and broke into several pieces; hidden and pushed back into a cabinet. It was special because it was one of a husband and wife in a sweet embrace. I thought that it depicted the tenderness that we have in our marriage so well.
As much as I adored that figurine, I loved my child more. I love my child enough to not fly off in rage, and in the process destroying her over something that could easily be replaced.
Grace in that same way was extended to me when I was a child. I’ve had my fair share of knocking over that freshly poured glass of iced sweet tea, breaking one of my mom’s favorite trinkets, showing up late when I’d just promised to be on time, and especially deeper grace shown when I told my mom and dad of the results of sexual sin.
All of those things were a result of forgiveness looking like grace. I learned that my heavenly Father has the authority to forgive and forget all of the sins that I was guilty of when I turned to Him for that forgiveness.
He gently turns my face to a few of His words, the grace that poured over me when I read in John 8 of the woman caught in the act of adultery stood before Jesus and her accusers. After the call for her death and Jesus telling her accusers to throw the first stone if they, themselves, were without sin, Jesus asks the woman, “Where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” …”Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
God solidified my knowledge of when forgiveness looks like grace in 1 John 1:9,
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgives us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
God doesn’t hold a grudge against us! We’re His children and He’d rather us know Him as a grace giver. Are there consequences that come from sin? Many times, absolutely! But there’s still the grace given to come through them.
When there is an opportunity to extend grace, I hope to take it, because so much of what I’ve received forgiveness for was shown through grace.