It’s 1978 and I have a newborn son. I’m so excited about being a dad! I’m only 21 and I barely have an idea what I’m doing. I don’t know what’s coming, but I’m working hard to be a good provider and now a good father whatever that looks like.
I have the example of Dad and how he illustrated the love of a good father. I can be that for my son who will need my love.
I have a job opportunity in a town a couple of hours away. My wife, reluctant to come, encourages me to go, offering to join me in a couple of weeks. You can imagine the surprise when I get divorce papers instead of her within those two weeks.
Seventy Times Seven
I learn to forgive in the coming years as she takes away my dream of happily ever after, including the dream of fathering my son. I will be assaulted with court papers over and over for many years, along with her demeaning phone calls, verbal assaults on me, my manhood, and my very existence. I don’t have the boundaries yet to stop her.
She has a different agenda she is working behind the scenes, one that will betray and break my unsuspecting heart. It feels like she only wanted a son from me, and getting that, she no longer had any use for me except to extract my money, emotion, and life force.
“I feel like I’m tied to the whipping post.” The Allman Brothers
I don’t feel like that anymore. Happiness began for me the day I married Linda 33 years ago.
Forgiveness & Boundaries
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you continue to live with abuse. Often, boundaries are necessary to create a healthy situation. This boundary could mean removing the tormenting influence of a destructive person from your life, unless or until they can behave. It can mean physical separation for safety in cases of physical abuse, substance, or sexual violation.
My boundaries were invaded for as long as I can remember. Growing up as a child, a sense of identity and personal power was not imparted. Performance for acceptance was the order of the day with affirmation and approval in short supply. This left me with a deficit of feeling approved of or affirmed in any way except performing and working harder to gain it.
I had no boundaries with my ex because I gave my personal power away to her to gain from her the approval I needed. This gave her the power to emasculate me, a distressing dynamic.
Even after marrying Linda, the phone calls continued from my ex, allowing her guilty poison into our relationship. When I sought counseling to help with the confusion this was creating, I learned that I needed boundaries. What she was doing was inappropriate, and I needed to do something about it.
I learned it was good and positive to feel indignant and offended when she trampled on me in disrespect, violating me and my sense of self worth. I learned the inappropriateness of what I’d been letting her do all these years.
I began to see that I had created the relational dynamics that were causing so much pain in my life. I opened the door to this by making my ex my “god,” by looking to her for what only God could give me.
Danny Silk, in his book Keep You Love On, pg.72,3 says;
“We have a deep God created need for intimacy, love, and comfort. But if we look to things that were not designed to meet these needs and elevate them above everything else–making them idols–then the result is always bondage and destruction. It’s only when we place God at the center that we can access comfort, peace, safety, joy, and pleasure that truly meets our deepest needs…
Think of a man who makes his wife his god. He makes her responsible for his joy, identity, and comfort–all things only God should satisfy. Inevitably his anxiety goes through the roof whenever he can’t control her. He has put her in charge of such deep needs in his life that he becomes scared of her. She is his addiction. And when he can‘t get his fix he’s a mess. His only hope is to turn to God. God must satisfy his needs. No one else can do that God job like God can.”
Out of the dark into the light
My experience was that I was doing this without realizing it. God never shamed or punished me in this process of self-awareness. He always leads me with love, joy, and tenderness, even though the process is painful, dealing with identity issues. I know it’s for freedom.
Not knowing about forming an identity, or what a healthy one looked like, I didn’t know where to reach for one. A lot of conditioning went on at home creating the only “normal” I knew which was not relationally healthy.
The first time I saw it, I was sitting in front of a counselor explaining my woes when he said to me;
“You need to remove her from the list of people you’re trying to get approval from.”
I saw it immediately, I needed her approval and was allowing awful abuse in because of it. I determined then that I could choose to repent of approval seeking and go to God for what I was going to a woman for in my brokenness. Chains were about to break.
By erasing her, I could take back what I was giving her in my idolatry. This was the beginning of learning about boundaries and regaining the personal power I was giving away as a victim.
We were divorced now, she no longer had inappropriate access to my emotions to manipulate me with guilt. The next barrage of questions to come from her were met with the words;
“That’s none of your business, we’re divorced now, I’m not answering any more of your questions.”
She would use my answers to guilt and shame me and tell me what I should be doing with my life. It was her means of controlling me, and get me second-guessing myself.
I would no longer do this victim dance with her, it was over, though not instantly. She would still try to crank up the old music, I had to choose not to take her hand. 🙂
Old patterns die hard and take work, but once you can see where darkness had you, you can choose the light again and again. Different choices create different outcomes.
With me, the battle is mostly won once I come to an awareness of how deception is operating. Then it becomes a matter of doing the work and making the right choices, “dying” as it were to what another thinks or believes about you.
Freedom from people-pleasing comes when you lower the value you place on other’s opinions. When you care too much about what they think, you will forsake your own good for their approval. Jesus never did this. The fear of man brings a snare proverbs says.
Why Forgiveness is such a big deal
Have you ever wondered why God makes such a big deal about forgiveness in the bible?
We’re told not to take things into our own hands and work out the vigilante justice our heart is demanding. I think it all has to do with what’s happening inside our hearts, and the war between hate and love. God calls us to love, but hate has an agenda for our hearts.
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 RSV
It’s almost like when we say: “I’ll get even, I’ll make them pay!”
We actually step in front of God usurping Him and His plan to even the scales and say;
“I’ll do it myself.”
David understood this. Remember when Saul was pursuing him to kill him and they found Saul sleeping in the cave? His men said;
God has delivered him into your hand, kill him here and now!
David wouldn’t do it, but cut off part of his robe. Later;
His heart smote him because he had “touched God’s anointed.”
David had many reasons he could have used to justify his own balancing of the scales. After all;
He had been anointed king in the midst of his brethren, the word of the Lord had been spoken over him, everyone had heard it. He had killed the lion and the bear, and even Goliath for God’s sake! David’s the one who delivered Israel, not Saul. Remember the song that infuriated Saul? “Saul has slain his thousands, David has slain his ten thousand.” Saul had tried to pin him to the wall more than once. Saul had disrupted all his relationships with David’s own family, and Jonathan. This stupidity had gone on long enough, Saul was crazy anyway!
But David forgave, he surrendered to God’s way of doing things, no matter how long it took and whatever came with it. He refused to take things into his own hands. This was a radical model of obedience to God and David passed the test. This one anyway.
The more serious part of taking things into our own hands is that;
We are seizing control in rebellion rather than submitting to the wisdom of God in obedience. When we try to control, we will obsess over “what they did to me,” and the venom of bitterness will be occupying our heart instead of love. Our emotions and mind will be hijacked to play the tape of their offense over and over hardening our hearts.
These are some of the tormentors spoken of by Jesus in His parable on forgiveness. Mt. 18:34
Forgiveness requires transformation by submitting to the love of Christ and obeying. Un-forgiveness wants nothing to do with this transformation while pride rules. It requires extravagant humility to follow Jesus to the cross and forgive at the levels it takes to walk with a heart free to love.
Jesus didn’t say; “A new option I give unto you; that you love one another.”He said
“A new command I give you; love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
There is imperative in this command. A couple more thoughts and I’ll leave you with a short poem.
Not forgiving keeps you from loving again properly.
This means whatever part of your heart is locked in not forgiving will be unavailable to give to another. Simply stated, forgiving properly enables you to love anew the next time. Some are unable to move on into fruitful relationships because forgiveness hasn’t happened. There may be other reasons related to abuse or fear holding you back, but forgiveness is the key to your future. Whole hearts are able to move on, fractured bitter ones are not.
Think of bitterness as a piece of your heart being held ransom. You are unable to access this area or give it away because it’s dark territory being held hostage by hate. It’s a prison of hatred and the only key to the door is forgiveness. It doesn’t matter what they did or took from you, how much loss is involved, or how much it hurts.
I sat with my counselor. He had me write a letter to my ex describing all I had lost and all she had taken from me. I had to write out the pain of the loss, and all it represented in honest emotional language. All of it. He then had me “read it to her” in proxy, not “to her.”
After reading it all and agonizing through it, I then told her; I forgive you.
It didn’t mean all the pain and loss went away. It did mean that I chose to forgive her and give her to God. I built an altar of remembrance that “I had forgiven.” I got out of the way, released any and all control of the outcome, and forgave her because Jesus said to.
I chose to trust God’s greater plan and open my hands in surrender to whatever he has planned for my future. I can do this because I know that He is good and He never shortchanges those who obey Him and surrender to Him and His ways.
I can love better today because I forgave yesterday. I pray these words help you to let Jesus heal your broken heart to love again. Here’s that poem;
Made For Love
My Heart was made for love, but gets attacked by hate
I want to hang with tenderness, but bitterness wants a date
Her kiss is naught but venom, poisoning my love,
Killing heaven’s song, singing from above.
Forgiveness is the arrow, piercing hatred’s soul,
Bleeding out the darkness, my heart becoming whole.
Where is found the grace to have this point of view?
“Father please forgive them, they know not what they do.”