I could feel that familiar, yet unwanted sensation rising first in the low of my belly and then moving into my throat, sticking like gum to hot cement.
I swallowed, trying to stuff it back down. But it spread, creating sticky strands in the firing emotion. My skin tingled then heated, ignited wounds of anger and hurt.
Those flames alighted those unforgotten (why?) offenses. Those lacerations that I thought I had exonerated, soothed then salved so no traces present, now flared.
I became internally enraged, inflamed by the duality of my frustration for these undesirable feelings and my sense of justice that I know is not mine to administer.
Outwardly I spread out kindness, grace, even good-deeds, believing my actions would convert the pain of betrayal, blame and condemnation. Act yourself into a feeling, so to speak.
Outwardly I resisted, controlling and protecting through avoidance by positioning myself to not be in the offenders presence for a duration. Time heals all wounds, so to speak.
Had I not then authenticated my forgiveness in gracious acts? Had I not healed my wounds through protection of situation vulnerability, giving time for the terrain to ice so no flame of ill will could ignite?
Why was I shifting back to condemnation of self and my offender again?
“When,” my soul and heart cried out, “will this be over?”
And the Spirit whispered: When you have truly forgiven. Forgiven yourself and forgiven the offender. Why do you still fear?
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
When in fear, when feeling exposed, vulnerable, trashed, and deeply wounded, perceived threats of others judgement and perception of us emerge. In other words, our identity is jeopardized.
When agreeing with the perceived threat against us, we condemn ourselves (what is wrong with me that they would think that of me?) and condemn the other (how could they have done that to me?)
And we become reduced to a slave of blame, betrayal, and criticism.
But there is another way.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
We can offer love, following Jesus’ teaching of the gentle way. And remember our safety from the perceived threats of the world (where we will always have trouble) lies in the confidence in the truth that we hold-complete in Christ.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus
We can give-up what we think we have a right to when wronged: judge the other. We can surrender and let go of the offense, ‘turn the other cheek’ (Matt 5:39) and be free of the chains of blame, criticism and betrayal. In this way we are The Way, turned to the light within us, our True identity as daughters/sons of Christ.
It’s our choice. “What choice will you make, Lynn?” the Spirit asks.
“To be free in love, or chained to judgement?”
Yes, I see now how I have not completely forgiven even in my doing of being outwardly kind, and in my resistance of being vulnerable to the offenders presence. And I know I cannot do this on my own. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can I so forgive, radically and completely.
So I take a moment, close my eyes and envision that moment where the waves of judgement threatened to crush the safety of my boat. Terror comes over me as I watch my offender rise out of the waves and enter my boat, standing dripping wet in front of me. I twist away. And He is there too.
“Why are you afraid?” He gently asks. “There is no storm or wave that rise above the love of Me in you. There is no judgement that can change your identity in Me. And there is no offense that is above my grace.” He smiles at me. “It is finished.”
And I see Him turn to my offender, His eyes pouring out such light of love and compassion I had to blink several times before able to really see. And my heart warms, but not like the heat of flames that destruct. But rather this warmth is like a sunbeam, embracing and restoring.
And I cannot help but be engulfed by this love that surrounds both of us now-my offender and myself, both broken people navigating this sea of life.
I release my hands that have been clinging to the boat. The waves still. And I find myself weeping in understanding. It is finished. All is forgiven.
Part 11 next week
(This story is inspired by my healing journey this past 3 years that included pastors and counselors leading me to bring Jesus into times of trauma, as well as more recently the readings of The Forgotten Way Meditations and Water Walker by Ted Dekker)