Tag Archives: forgiveness

The Un-Perfected Art of Not Holding a Grudge

2 Sep

Grudges are hard for me. When someone wrongs me I chew on what they did for a really long time. Then when I’m done chewing I take it out of my mouth and I put on my bookshelf so that I can look at it whenever I feel the need (or when the wrong-er asks me to do something for him or her…in this case it’s a her).

I would try and explain how hard I try to let go of things…but the truth is, I don’t really try that hard at all.

Somewhere along the way I picked up this idea that if I were to forgive someone, then that would be opening myself up for that person to hurt me again. Or that if I were to do something nice for someone who had hurt me then that person wouldn’t learn his or her lesson and would just go and do the same wrong thing again to me or to someone else. And of course I have more little justifications for why it’s okay for me to cling to my grudges.

And then I remember the words of Christ…

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either” (Luke 6:27-29).

I learned these words when I was 6. I can still hear Mrs. R reciting them with us over and over.

These words were easy then. Because they were just words – words that I could mindlessly speak as a child but that I now find haunting me as an adult.

It’s really hard when you know exactly what it is that Jesus wants you to do and it’s exactly the opposite of what you want to do. Such a Jonah day…

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An Open Letter to a Single Momma

25 Apr

You were sixteen when you found out you were pregnant. You were alone and ashamed. You had no idea how you were going to finish high school with a baby.

But you knew that the baby inside you was alive. You knew that that baby was special and unique. Most importantly you knew that that baby was not just your child, but God’s child as well.

How did you face your strict Christian parents? How did you look them in the eyes and tell them your secret?

How did you face the teasing – the cruel jeers about your body and your sexuality that your peers felt free to make? How did you find the courage to walk down the hallways of your school each day?

I wish so badly that I could go back in time and hold your hand during those hard times. I wish that I could un-do the cruel and careless words said about you and your beautiful baby. I hope and pray that some day I will have just half of the strength that you had during those nine months – and the years after.

You’ll never know how much I admire you for the beautiful words about your baby that you shared with me last week:

From the moment I knew he existed he was my reason for breathing.

I love you so much sweet lady. I love your soul and your strength and your love for God. I love you because you loved your baby more than you loved yourself.

I am proud that someday I’ll be able to call you mother-in-law. That beautiful baby that you gave birth to grew into the best man I’ve ever met. He is my hero and I love him with my whole heart. Thank you for giving him life. Thank you for giving him to me.

God did a great work in you. He took what Satan intended for evil and made it into a love more beautiful than words can describe – a love between mother and son, a love between man and wife, and a love between mother and daughter-in-law.

Another Old Something

21 Mar

[This is part of a post from my old blog. I wrote this years ago, and came across it last night. They’re interesting thoughts…especially after having made my first confession last week.]

I have trouble accepting forgiveness. I like to work things out on my own. I like to pretend that I can work out my salvation without the Holy Spirit. When I fall short, I plummet into a state of guilt that I won’t let myself out of. My life has been a constant cycle of failed attempts at flawlessness. I’ve spent years trying to convince GOD that I’m good enough to deserve Him. And yet, no matter how many lists I make, or how many books about GOD I read, or how hard I try to convince others of my spirituality, or how many Christian t-shirts, c.d.’s and knick-knacks I own, I’ve never been able to do anything more than build up my pride.

In The Gift of Forgiveness, Charles Stanley says, “GOD’s forgiveness does not depend on our confession, nor does His fellowship…Our fellowship with GOD is not restored by confession (because it was never broken); rather, our sense of fellowship with GOD is restored. When we sin, we withdraw our fellowship from GOD; He does not withdraw His fellowship from us. Forgiveness is ours as believers. The moment we received Him as Savior, He became our life. But our capacity to enjoy forgiveness – our capacity to enjoy a clean conscience – is based on our willingness to acknowledge and confess that sin”.

My First Confession

14 Mar

Well…I’ve made my first confession.

I hadn’t been nervous about it until it was time for me to drive to the church. I got in my car and I was shaking so badly I could barely drive. I rarely drive with the radio off, but today it was grating on my nerves. I snapped it off impatiently.

When I walked into the church, the secretary said hi to me, but I couldn’t force a response out of my mouth. Father saw me and knew immediately that I was more than a little unnerved. So rather than go to the confessional he suggested we sit in his office and talk.

I pulled out my two page list of sins and glanced down at it. “There’s no way this can cover the nine years worth of sins I’ve amassed since my baptism,” I thought.

I looked at Father.

Then back at my list.

Then back at Father.

He folded his hands in front of him and said, “I don’t have anything else scheduled for this afternoon. We will take as long as you need. Even if all you need is to collect your thoughts.”

I sat for a second and took a deep breath.

“I…I…I have taken…” and that’s when the tears started. And they didn’t stop until I was two sins away from the bottom of my list.

It had been so long since I’d sat down and actually examined my conscience. I had forgotten what it feels like to ponder my own frail human nature. I had forgotten the feelings that accompany guilt – the terror of Hell, the desolation that comes from knowing you’ve hurt the One who loves you the most, the feeling of being despicable and unworthy of forgiveness – things I hadn’t felt since I gave up Protestantism.

This past week exhausted me for that reason. Ever since I had scheduled my confession with Father, I had been reflecting on the things I ought to share. And I began to feel much like I did prior to leaving the Protestant Church. I cried a lot this week, because I was afraid that I was entering into the same thing I am running away from.

Each time I remembered a sin, it felt like I was picking up an item from my room and putting it in a box. The box grew heavier and heavier as the week went on, and I carried it with me everywhere. Sometimes I would see someone or walk by a place and it would spark my memory – and then more things would go into my box. I felt myself beginning to despair because there was so much weighing me down.

“This isn’t what I want,” I thought. “I am entering the Catholic Church to get away from this. Yet here it is, following me everywhere I go.”

And then I went to Confession.

When I looked down at my list, each line seemed to taunt with evil glee, “You’ll never be able to say me,” one would say. “I’m too embarrassing to confess, you’d better hold back on me,” another would suggest.

So I started at the top, with the hardest things first. And I overcame that list, line by line. And at the end I tried to look Father in the eye, but the guilt was still there. It was almost tangible, I thought.

But then something happened that I had forgotten was going to happen.

Father absolved me.

And through Father, Jesus reminded me that He didn’t condemn. He forgave. And He will continue to forgive and to ease my guilt.

My Year As an Atheist

13 Mar

After my dealings with an abusive relationship, which you can read about in this post, I didn’t want much to do with “religion.” I told everyone I was “no longer religious.” I wasn’t sure what I believed, but I just didn’t want to think or talk about it.

Religion was an open sore on my heart. I knew that the sore stank and was growing worse, but I told myself that if I ignored it, if I refused to touch it with my thoughts, it would heal on its own.

The days were easy because I had classes and work, but I spent many long nights laying in bed refusing to think. I did whatever I could to keep myself from thinking. I watched TV all the time. If the TV was off I was on my computer. I didn’t read much at this point, because for me reading (even novels) is an exercise in thinking. I felt like a zombie because I had horrible insomnia.

I drove to the city a half hour away to meet men. I met so many men. I was charming, so I had a lot of them where I wanted them. The ones who gave into my charm the easiest were always the first ones to go though. I wanted a chase, a thrill. I wanted to know that someone had resisted me and I had broken down his resistance.

I packed up my Bibles and my Christian books. I would walk away when I heard my friends talking about their faiths. I would sit by myself and think, “I’m better off without religion. I’m a smarter person than them because I won’t be mislead by a pastor or other religious leader.”

I wanted to purge my life of the things that I thought had caused me so much hurt. I blamed my innocence and my naivety. So I thought that if I acted as if I was not innocent, if I familiarized myself with things outside of church and outside of the sheltered life I grew up with, then maybe I could keep myself from ever being hurt again. I hurt others before they could get the chance to hurt me because I lived with the expectation that everyone was out to get me.

It’s not that I no longer believed in God. I just never thought of Him. Even now, I can’t tell you that I had any definitive beliefs at that point in my life. Because there was literally never any room in my mind for anything religious. And that, I think, is true atheism.

The sore on my heart grew more sensitive every day. I found myself getting angry when people invited me to church – an experience that I had cherished in years past. I would walk the other direction if I saw someone reading a Bible or any sort of religious book. And at night I laid in bed and felt alone.

When my parents asked how church was, I would make something up. I didn’t feel guilty about lying to my parents about my spiritual well-being, because I thought that if it was making them happy, then there wasn’t anything wrong with it.

Almost exactly a year later, I decided to do some research on the Catholic Church. “I don’t have anything else I do on Sunday, so why not?” I’ve always loved research and there’s nothing quite like immersing myself in a good project. So I threw myself into it.

My first Sunday in the Catholic Church I was reminded how much I love the Bible. When the reader read the liturgy, the sore on my heart didn’t ache quite as badly. In fact, it felt soothed. That first Mass did more to heal me than I think I will ever be able to express. And I kept going back. And now I’m eighteen days away from becoming one with the Catholic Church – the place that brought a close to my year of Atheism.

Someone Broke My Heart Once

6 Mar

It was a few years ago…I was seventeen and a Freshman in college (which in retrospect was far too early for me). He was older (and I assumed more mature) than me.

He was studying to be a pastor and he always used words like passion and spirit-filled, and biblical. I absolutely worshiped him. He was charismatic in ways that I could never be. When he spoke the whole room heard him…but none listened quite as raptly as I did. So when he took me under his wing for “spiritual guidance,” I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

Something was off though. It wasn’t something I could name or understand…just a feeling of wrongness. Just a teensy, tiny feeling that I should run the opposite direction. I couldn’t figure out where the feeling was from, and I couldn’t explain to myself why I was having it, so I disregarded it.

I went to coffee with him. I stayed up all night texting him. I told him all my secrets and dreams. I took all of his advice about how best to follow the Lord. He wrote me poetry and nice notes. He told me I was beautiful. I was enraptured.

One day he told me that my friends were not very godly. He told me that I needed to cut myself off from them and he explained how best I could get rid of them. At that point he was the only person I was talking to or spending time with anyways…so ditching my friends wasn’t that difficult. He was so proud of me…so happy that I was willing to give up friends to “honor Jesus.”

He  was so happy, in fact, that a few days later he told me that he loved me and thought I was the girl God wanted him to marry. He said he didn’t want to date though, because he felt like dating is not God’s plan for people. Instead, he wanted us to be “friends who were in love and planned to marry each other.” He also said that we needed to keep it a secret, because otherwise people might come between us.

[If you haven’t figured it out yet, 17-year-old Ellie was very, very naive.]

I was just happy that he loved me. So I agreed to do whatever he said. I was so happy to know that I was going to marry someone so godly. I did (and would have done) anything he asked.

When his car broke down, I let him use mine for a month.

When his apartment was dirty, I cleaned it.

When he asked me for a loan (to fix that stupid car), I gladly cleaned out my saving’s account for him.

When he explained that it was God’s plan for us to “explore each other’s bodies,” I obliged. That one took quite a bit more convincing though…I’d never had a boyfriend, let alone been kissed before I was with him. Eventually though, I gave him my innocence.

I was complacent for the most part. I’ve always been the type to go with the flow, so we didn’t argue at all for the first few weeks. But then I started to do things wrong. I wasn’t cleaning the way his mom did. I was reading books that were pagan (I was in a Greek Mythology class at the time). I was saying things that made him doubt whether I really had a “right relationship with the Lord.”

When he got angry he would ignore me for days. If I was with him he would address everyone but me. If I wasn’t with him he wouldn’t respond to calls or texts. It was at that point that the “run away” feeling got stronger. I started to see the wrongness behind the fact that I thought of my time as “time spent with him” and “time spent away from him.”

After a few days he always sorted things out with me though. He was always the one to fix things between us.

Then one day I did something that bothered him a lot (to this day, I don’t know what it was…), and he told me that he didn’t want to see me for a week. The whole up-and-down thing was really wearing on me, so I went to see him anyways. I thought that maybe I should initiate the fixing-things-between-us thing.

It only took him hitting me once for me to realize just how mistaken I had been about him. And I finally listened to that still, small voice (that I now recognize as having been the Holy Spirit), and I ran away.

He never got in trouble for what he did…I told, but in the end his reputation and charm won out. He’s a pastor now…at a church not far from my school. Sometimes (like today, for instance) I see him in the grocery store or around campus. And then I spend the whole day remembering that dark time in my life.

He doesn’t know it, but I’ve forgiven him. And honestly…I’m grateful to him. If it weren’t for him, I would not have begun to question the principles of fundamentalism – starting with the teachings on what female submission looks like. I would not be engaged to the absolutely wonderful man I am today – I met my fiance a few months later when my parents sent me to visit family to help me clear my head. Most of all, I would have not learned to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. I had never heard that still, small voice of reason prior to him.

Quote

Heavenly Father…

26 Feb

Heavenly Father, we put our weak selves before Your silent presence. You alone know the things forgotten and hidden that lie on the shelves of our memory. We cannot heal ourselves. We find it hard to forgive and impossible to forget. Yet as we are absorbed and surrounded by Your Presence, we stand in that light and watch as the spiritual sores of us lepers disappear. The rotted limbs are restored, and our memories, at one time so ugly, are renewed and rejuvenated. Thank you, Lord. Amen.

Mother Angelica’s Prayer for Healing the Memory