Can We Truly Forgive and Forget?

Ryan and I recently hosted a Blended Live on Facebook where we revealed that marriage and life in general has been difficult for the past few months.  Part of these difficulties stem from circumstances outside of our control: health, 8 kids, four teenagers, and a special needs son; part of them stem from our reactions to the issues – anger instead of joy – and part of it involves the very simple concept of forgiveness.  Instead of rehashing and focusing on the negative, offering forgiveness to the offender and letting go on the angst that accompanies an unforgiving heart.  I’m excited to have author Gil Mertz sharing on the topic of forgiveness today, AND, I have a copy of his book Forgive Your Way to Freedom: Reconcile Your Past and Reclaim Your Future to send to one reader! Simply comment here on this post or on Facebook for your chance to win.  Contest open until Oct 1st. 

Billy and Ruth Graham were married for almost 64 years and when asked for their secret, Ruth revealed that marriage is the union of two good forgivers. Forgiveness is vital for any successful relationship, marriage and family. One of the biggest challenges of forgiveness is trying to forget the offense and not bring it up over and over again. This not only threatens our peace in the present but our hope for the future. But is it possible to truly forget our past hurts?

We’re told that an elephant never forgets. Frankly, I don’t know where we come up with these funny expressions about animals such as sweating like a pig, eating like a horse, working like a dog or skinning a cat. I’ve never seen a pig sweat, a fat horse, a dog like mine work, and I don’t even want to think about skinning a cat, even those there’s apparently more than one way you can do it! But I know where the expression about elephants comes from.

Unscrupulous circus trainers needed to keep these massive animals stationary and so they would take them very young and tie one of their legs to a stake in the ground with a rope. The tiny elephant would soon learn that it cannot move if it is attached to the stake. A full-grown elephant that has the strength to knock over a tree will not test the stake in the ground because it thinks it cannot move. That’s because, an elephant never forgets.

Many of us are like this helpless elephant. We have total power and freedom to move on with our lives when we forgive, but our past pain is like a stake in the ground. We remain stuck because our memories are telling us that we cannot move forward. If we cannot forget, what if we could learn to remember in a different way so that we can manage our emotions instead of being overwhelmed by them?

The Bible says in Romans 12:2 “Don’t live the way this world lives. Let your way of thinking be completely changed.” (NIRV) Some translations call this the renewing of your mind, but it basically means to change the way you think. If we can change the way we think, it will change the way we feel and as a result, the way we behave. Advertisers spend billions practicing this biblical principle because they know if they can control your thinking, they can get you to buy their products.

Jesus said in John 8:32 “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” So how do we get to the truth so that we can remember in a different way and find the truth we need for our lives? One way is a simple tool known as reframing your picture. All of us see our experiences through a frame of our own choosing. It’s usually limited to our own personal biases and when we’re hurt or angry, the picture can get completely distorted from the actual truth. But if we can reframe our picture by enlarging it to let more truth in, we can remember the past differently.

Recently I was driving in a car with my wife and I was upset because a driver at the intersection pulled right out in front of us. According to the picture in my head, this crazy driver could have gotten us all killed and I was upset. Then my wife gently reminded me that I was intending to turn right at that intersection and actually had my blinker going. At the last second, I changed my mind and decided to go straight. But all the other driver saw was my blinker to turn right and was unable to read my mind. When the frame on that picture got enlarged and I could see the truth, it changed my mind immediately.
Not long ago I counseled with a couple whose marriage appeared doomed. He had a short-term affair which was long over. He knew it was a terrible mistake and had pleaded for forgiveness. His wife didn’t want a divorce but she could not forget the deep pain that had been inflicted. Clearly what he did was wrong and forgiveness doesn’t condone, justify, or rationalize his actions. But as we began to work together to enlarge the frame on this picture, we learned that the wife had been married to her job for years. She was frequently home late and her divided loyalties left a legitimate need in her husband that he tried to fill through other means.

As she could see the bigger picture beyond her own pain, she no longer saw her husband as the 100% villain and herself as the 100% victim. Though she couldn’t change the past, she could remember the past in a different way which gave her peace. This time with empathy, understanding, and love for her husband who also was dealing with a broken heart. Today their marriage is thriving because they become two good forgivers.

If you find yourself struggling to forget your painful past, try to enlarge the frame on that picture by talking to people you love and trust who can help you see things more objectively. Here are some good questions to get you started:

• Are there any details I may be leaving out because of my hurt and anger?
• How might another person’s account of the experience differ from mine?
• Did this person specifically set out to hurt me on purpose?
• Is there any way that I could have misunderstood what was said or done?
• Have I made any attempt to reach out to this person for clarification?
• Do I consider myself more worthy of forgiveness than this person?
Don’t keep rehashing a painful memory and feeling that pain repeatedly. You’ll never learn anything new, it will never help you grow, and it won’t help you change. Besides, didn’t it hurt enough the first time? Holding a grudge is a lot harder than forgiving. Take it easy on yourself and forgive your way to freedom!

Gil Mertz is Assistant to the President at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. He has been involved with full-time Christian service for nearly forty years and draws from a vast background of ministry with international missions, humanitarian causes, public policy, and consulting. Article is adapted from his book Forgive Your Way to Freedom: Reconcile Your Past and Reclaim Your Future (©2018). Published by Moody Publishers. Permission given.

Adapted from Forgive Your Way to Freedom: Reconcile Your Past and Reclaim Your Future by Gil Mertz (©2018). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.

 

A New Desk and A Podcast Debut

desk1Remember the old metal table I had my eye on in my husband’s junk pile

awhile back?

It’s not an old metal table anymore! Not only has he masterfully restored it to a beautiful new desk, but he’s also masterfully restored an old barn on our property into a quiet space for me to write and practice yoga.  Continue reading “A New Desk and A Podcast Debut”

Love and Loss {And a Giveaway!]

lovedbaby.jpgA baby gone too soon.
A beloved family member diagnosed with cancer.
A dear woman battles emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her husband.
Children beg for food in third world countries.
Ten year old girls lose their innocence and their humanity as they are sold as sex slaves.

It hurts like hell.
It stings
It all falls so painfully short of what we feel this life should be
It aches like betrayal on a massive scale
A world wide scale
And we, humanity, are the victims left in the wake.
A big joke played on all of us
by a bunch of pranksters residing in the Heavenlies.

And we numb the pain with drugs
With wine
With anger
And sleep
Or hurtful silences
Or busyness
Or denial
We numb our cells to the best of our ability
To avoid feeling
To avoid the reality
To avoid the ache
But when the numbing wears off
It still hurts
And we rage against our Creator
Our cells scream
We groan from the never lands
We weep for the lost tomorrows
And forgotten yesterdays
And the vacant presents
And there are still no answers
The Creator is silent.

The baby remains absent
And grandma starts chemotherapy
And the “C” word enters our children’s vocabulary once again
Along with the “D” word in regards to their unknown sibling

And our eyes spill in response to their tears
And children still starve
And that woman still aches for a loving spouse
And girls are raped again and again
And that is the reality of what we call life.
And that is why our hearts ache for something purer
And bigger
And more beautiful
We ache for more
We need more
We yearn for a hereafter
Where all the pain is gone
And every tear is wiped from our eyes
Our hearts scream for some sort of redemption
Something that makes it bearable again
All of creation grapples with the injustice we’ve been served
And we shake our fists in righteous indignation towards the pain we have endured in our fallen nature.
Our souls search through the fragility of our humanity for something deeper.

The “Whys?!” we scream
Why is a Godly woman ravaged by an insidious disease?
Why a baby, an innocent child who has harmed not one, taken so early?
Why!?!?
We scream to the Heavens
To anyone who will turn a listening ear towards our anguish

These were some of the words I wrote in response to losing my beloved baby in December of 2013 http://www.jessplusthemess.com/index.php/my-blog-old/entry/love-and-loss-and-bethlehem .  I felt so incredibly alone, lost, scared, fearful and full of despair and so I hid.  I hid behind words.  I hid in my house.  I hid behind a fake smile plastered across my face that told the world I was just fine.  But I wasn’t fine.  I thought I was being punished for some reason.  I could not understand why God couldn’t grant me the desire for a healthy baby – especially after all I had been through – especially after obeying what he had called me to in blending my family with another family and raising 7 beautiful children.  I deserved this baby!

In hindsight, God used the next 9 months of waiting to become pregnant again as an opportunity to birth something beautiful in my marriage and heart as Ryan and I gained a deeper intimacy through the pain and revelations that preceded the conception of our 8th child who would be our beautiful daughter Annabelle Ryan.  God is good. All the time, but man, sometimes it hurts like crazy to walk in obedience to his plan.

I was honored to be a part of the launch team for Sarah Philpott’s book Loved Baby.  In all honestly, I have never read a book on losing a baby that impacted me quite like this one did.  She is honest. She is vulnerable, and she is realistic in explaining step by step, what to expect, how to process all of the feelings, and how to slowly release the pain and agony to your Heavenly Father as you allow him to help carry your burden; as you choose joy over fear when you are blessed with another child, and it is a choice to be made – wishing “we could be filled to the brim with delight about the new life blooming in my womb. But the little thing called memory prevents us from pure elation,” and her wise counsel, “When fear seeps into our soul, let’s combat it with joy.”

This book will be such a blessing to your life and to anyone you may know who has walked through this difficult terrain, AND…. I have a copy to give away! Comment here (sorry, I know it’s a bit like Fort Knox to be allowed to comment on the blog – you can thank the trolls for that) or comment on Facebook or Instagram about why you would like to win a copy. I’ll draw a winner Sunday evening.

Just keep livin!

Marriage Pep Talk and a GIVEAWAY!

FullSizeRender.jpgI’ve been married for almost 16 years… total.

The first ten years were spent with my late husband Jason, and the last six years (officially in April) have been with Ryan. Having loved and lost at a younger age (33) has granted me a unique perspective on marriage. My first marriage was good. We were young – early twenties. We had valuable time to spend together before building a family and focusing on our careers. We possessed a deep love and commitment towards one another. One of our strengths as a married couple was being able to fight through the numerous battles sent our way in life; two of the biggest battles being our unborn son’s terminal diagnosis and later Jason’s three year battle with brain cancer; both of these faith journeys portrayed in my memoir, Sunlight Burning at Midnight. Through all of the upheaval and stress, we managed to stay unwaveringly committed and in love with one another, but in hindsight, as a wife I could have been more productively diligent in making my husband feel loved and appreciated – especially during those periods of intense hardship.

In my second marriage to Ryan I have valiantly attempted to right the wrongs that I naively produced in the first marital relationship. They say “ignorance is bliss,” and I suppose that I was ignorant the first time around; however, having my eyes wide open through a second opportunity has changed my perspective on life and love. A few of my initial struggles were cemented in my identity as a strong willed, first born, young wife, and often included a lack of respect towards my husband (I knew best, of course!), and one that goes hand in hand with the respect issue, a lack of grace. I usually assumed the worst if he did something that I felt was unwarranted or unjust. Maybe I was just emotional, maybe I was hormonal, maybe I was just being a brat, but I assumed he was intentionally trying to hurt me or make my life difficult if circumstances weren’t exactly as I felt they should have been in that moment. This isn’t to say that he was perfect; no, this is just to say that although our marriage was positive in many aspects, we could have worked harder in other ways, and I have taken ownership of mending many of those ignorant mishaps in my present situation.

Enter the second marriage in 2011. Ryan and I married each other with HEAPS of baggage: grief, seven children, a handicapped child, grieving children, a blended family, loads of new family and in laws, and opinions on how we were doing anything and everything right or wrong but mainly wrong, you name it, we probably had it, but – and this has made a big difference in the marriage from the beginning – we had both loved and lost and had learned, the hard way, that a lot of the petty issues that can be so irritating and oftentimes such joy stealers in a marriage are just that – petty – and not really worth the stress that they so often create or are allowed to create.  

I recently had the opportunity to “meet” a new author on social media, Jen Weaver. As she and I became acquainted through our pictures and words, my interest was piqued about her upcoming book, A Wife’s Secret to Happiness which was scheduled to launch in March, actually today, March 14th to be exact. When her agency offered an opportunity for bloggers to review the book, I jumped at the chance! I am consistently drawn to self-help books, particularly faith based books on marriage and family life. In my situation with a blended family, eight children, some adopted, one special needs, a few teenagers and a toddler, dogs, chickens, cats, and on and on and on…., we need all the wisdom we can get. I love to study most books on marriage and family life, and any insights or wisdom I am able to glean from another’s experience is always appreciated.

A Wife’s Secret to Happiness is a quick, easy, interactive read. The Lord has used Jen’s experiences and her writing ability to outline and explain many prevalent truths for wives – especially married women who are still trying to figure out their role as a wife and how exactly this role shapes their identity as a woman, a helpmate, and as a follower of Jesus.

One section that particularly hit home for me included these words in regards to our husbands: “Reflect upon your beloved. Where is he in this season of life, in his career, ministry, and walk of faith? Contemplate what he enjoys, where he falters, and who God created him to be” (161).

I never did this well in my first marriage. Although Jason and I communicated about life in general, our dreams and goals for the marriage and the family, I was much more me centered, “How was the marriage serving me? Or meeting my needs?” I have come a long way from this me centered attitude through love and loss. I’m not perfect, but I do take inventory of Ryan’s needs often. I reflect on him. I ask him deeply personal questions about his faith and ways that I can better serve him or pray for him. Jen’s book will take you there as a wife and hold your hand through the process as you begin to seek out ways to gain a deeper intimacy with your husband.

Honestly, reviewing another author’s book is a brave new world for me, but this was a fun opportunity and not only for my own personal gain (free books, yay!) but y’all are going to benefit as well! Jen has graciously given me a second copy to give away to one of my readers. To enter, simply comment on this post, either here or on one of my social media sites, with a truth that you feel is important for a healthy marriage. For example, the word communication. Or something like, “not neglecting intimacy.” Simple enough. I’ll draw a winner Sunday evening – March 19. In the meantime, get yourself a copy of this book! Or check her out at www.thejenweaver.com. You won’t be disappointed.

Just keep livin!