I can recall the day that I learned what true forgiveness means. And it had nothing to do with my husband. It had to do with forgiving my dad.
And shortly after I accepted Christ, I would hear so many messages on forgiveness, but not once did I hear how to forgive, or what that looked like.
I was watching TBN, and there was yet another messageF on forgiveness. And I started to feel guilty because I didn’t “feel” forgiveness. Memories of my growing up would always plague me. And because of the struggle with the memories, and the feelings that came along with them, I thought that I was an unforgiving person. And maybe I was. For years I was under the impression that forgiving was letting the person off the hook. But I was 100% wrong. (Maybe I allowed the enemy plant that in me and didn’t know it.)
Half way through the program I was watching, for some reason I stopped folding the laundry, looked up at the ceiling and said,
“OK, I FORGIVE HIM.”
And silently I was asking Him to show what that meant because I really didn’t know. And practically at the same time as I said that I would forgive my dad, I heard,
“FORGIVENESS IS A CHOICE NOT A FEELING.”
And I suddenly had a picture in my mind, of Jesus surrendering His will in The Garden, and another picture of Him on the Cross.
“FORGIVENESS IS A CONSCIOUS ACT OF OUR WILL, EVEN WHEN WE DON’T “FEEL LIKE IT.”
And when I had that realization, it felt like an extremely heavy weight was lifted off my chest, and I was able to breathe better. And I didn’t know that I even needed to breathe better. I had love for my dad the way I had when I was little. That was back in 1996, I was 26. I was saved when I was 20. It took me 6 years to learn. Actually, it took 6 years for me to stop playing the hurtful video tape of memories, and to stop using my growing up as an excuse for ugly attitudes with my husband.
God’s Grace helps us and gives us the strength to forgive. Yeah, strength because it takes a lot of effort to forgive someone who has done things that seem so unforgivable, or has said things that hurt your heart. And it will feel like you’re trying to pick up a heavy dumbbell full of weights. But for me, I knew my relationship with Him was and is the most important thing in my life.
And to carrying that lesson over into my marriage was much harder. Honestly, I don’t know why. Forgiveness is forgiveness, right?
But I was so bitter and resentful toward my husband. And I felt that the once I forgive, my at husband would think that he could get away with anything he wanted because he would have a forgiving wife. There was something deep down within me that didn’t want to allow my husband to think think that I was weak. Where that mindset came from, I really don’t know. Maybe allowing myself to be under the wrong influences. Who knows.
“WHY ARE YOU ALLOWING HIM TO GET AWAY WITH THIS,” I FOUND MYSELF ASKING.
I was miserable. I would try to fake it. But that would only last so long. I would see these sweet, fit, loving wives on Christian talk shows and wonder how they “did it.” They had husbands who cherished them. They seemed to be able to speak their minds, and not be treated like a subservient piece of property.
“WHY CAN’T I BE LIKE THAT! WHY CAN’T MY HUSBAND TREAT ME LIKE THAT!”
“WHAT DID I EVER DO TO DESERVE THIS!”
Yeah, I was a brat with the Lord. Somehow, I got it in my head that I wasn’t meant to have a “good marriage.” And it does take 2 to tango. I own up to my part in everything. I just didn’t understand why I was treated. Why wasn’t I able to forgive my husband the way I forgave my dad?
Just recently, I came to the realization that every time I “tried to forgive” my husband, I was behind-the-scenes trying to make him change to start treating me better. And I wanted it instantaneously, at the very moment that I was “showing” forgiveness. Let’s call a thing a thing.
I WAS BEING MANIPULATIVE UNDER THE GUISE OF FORGIVENESS.
And ya know what? I needed to ask the Lord to forgive me. (Rolled my eyes, hand on hip, and shook my head as if in defeat when that realization hit me upside the head.)
Yet there it was. The one being mistreated, and trying to get better treatment from her husband, needed to repent from being manipulative. And I knew that if I didn’t, my relationship with the Lord would suffer.
And guess what ? I further understand that I am not meant to have the “why’s” answered. I am supposed to trust and obey, keeping my focus on the One who loves me the most. And by doing so, I get out of His way to move in my situations. Not an easy thing to do when I’m wanting what I want, when I want it. But needful if I’m want to grow in the Lord.
(So I keep on pressing…)