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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Endings and New Beginnings

I attended two funerals this year, (one of which you can read about here) and was privy to three others, but not close enough to attend. Although logically I know it's a path of life, to begin and then to end. My emotional side says that it was five funerals too many.

Funerals signal an end to one phase of our lives and the beginning of another, much like the approaching yearend. As you assess the past year and plan your goals for the New Year, it’s a good time to examine the choices or decisions, if you will, that have held sway in your life. Ask yourself:

  • Did I make good decisions?
  • What motivated those decisions?
  • When held up against God's standards, do those decisions still apply now?
  • If they do, how am I going to improve on them or move to the next level?
  • If not, have I the courage to admit that they’re passé or the will to choose differently?
In my case, my carefully hoarded litany of hurts which fueled my unforgiving spirit (when it comes to men) took a big hit earlier this year. God’s sense of humor reared its head once again when I was called to do a sermon on…you guessed it! Forgiveness!

After a full scale “but-I-don’t-wanna!” tantrum, I finally settled down to do the assignment as given by my Pastor. (All the while mumbling to myself, why God always gotta give me assignments I’m not ready for? First it was “Father into Thy Hands I Commend My Spirit” and I got nothing good to say about fathers. What frame of reference did I have? Now it’s forgiveness? Open a vein, why don’t You? Bible School is not all it’s cracked up to be! What with stuff like obedience, humility and compassion? What’s a drama-filled sister to do? When--light bulb! Why, I could use those very same tools to bring the Word to life…that’s what!)

After successfully working through my reluctance and being still (and repentant) before God, the Message, “A God Who Forgives” emerged. I was blessed, freed (if I chose to be) and was the conduit of freedom for a few women in the congregation. That being said, I’ll share an excerpt of that sermon with you:

“…Unforgiveness hinders our communication with God? It most surely does. To remain unforgiving, you have to nurse the hurt, recall it quite frequently, harden your heart. In essence you slowly poison yourself with bitterness. The bitterness acts as a wall between you and God.

Why do we need to forgive?

Two reasons:

  1. Matthew 6:14: which states “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you;”

  2. Romans 6:23 states that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Which means that no matter how big or small the disobedience, the punishment is death.

    Right about here, we get comfortable, because we’re confident in the fact that we love God, haven’t murdered, raped, committed adultery, blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, robbed a bank, embezzled funds or run over anyone with our car. Which is all good, but don’t get too comfortable just yet.

    If you’ve never told a lie, been envious, run a red light, stolen a quarter from your parents, jaywalked, listened to gossip, failed to return a library book, cheated, or disobeyed God in any way; if you’ve done everything you were ever supposed to do every single time…then you have no need to forgive. But for the rest of us, the following are some practical steps towards the process of forgiveness:

  • Choice -- Decide you are going to forgive - it’s the best gift you can give yourself.

  • Love –Allow love to continue flowing – don’t shut down or close yourself off.

  • Faith -- Realize that we forgive by faith, not by feeling: Utilizing faith allows us to act as if a thing is so, in order that it may become so. In other words…you may start out faking it, but your genuine desire to act on your faith will connect you to God’s store of faith for you.

  • Obedience--We must forgive others if we don’t want to disobey God and break our fellowship with Him. As Christ forgave us without being asked we may need to forgive others who have not nor will ever ask our forgiveness. The forgiveness may be undeserved, but the reward of healing and reconciliation makes it worthwhile.

  • Forget --You must be willing to forget past hurts. Forget about it. Stop willfully calling it to mind. Or if it does come to mind consciously replace it with a good memory or find something positive you learned out of the bad memory. You may even want to print out some scriptures dealing with forgiveness like Matt. 6:14 or Romans 6:23 on an index card and carry it around with you, to whip out when needed.

  • Prayer – Pray for the offender, a biggie, I know.

  • Turnover -- Give the hurt to God. Resolve to let it go.

I think the hardest thing for me to get about forgiveness is that it isn’t about me, it’s about obedience to God and in my obedience I reap the reward of being released from the yoke of my hurt. I had to realize that accepting grace means I have to be responsible enough to show grace myself. I had to remind myself of how I felt when I discovered that no matter what I had done previously, God still loves me. Or if you can’t relate, I reminded myself that no matter what a screw-up I was or still am at times, my family loves me.

Forgiveness is about passing on that kind of revelation, to others who have no concept of it themselves."

            Just a few thoughts to ponder as you approach 2006.

            Peace, love and prosperity in the New Year!



            dawn said...

            Thank you for choosing my blog! I first saw your story when I was looking for places to (beg?) try to rent. I have been thinking about this post and what I have done with this past year.

            I think that I made some good decisions, though some were difficult to make. I have tried to do right by my fellow man and beast, though I have done more for the beasts (cats) in the last few months than I thought was possible. I know that some of my choices of things need to be improved upon and I will be trying to do that in the next little bit. I dont make resolutions, as that implys, by current standards that they are meant to be broken.

            I too have been to a two funerals and missed two more, the first three were friends, the last was my Father. I know that they are in a better place, but the pain of their loss is very difficult. Especially my father, who was cruelly taken from us by cancer.

            Thank you so much for renting the space to me and for giving me something to reflect upon

            Dee said...

            Hi again Dawn,

            Accept my sympathy on the loss of your dad.

            You're quite welcome about the rental and the reflection material. It's great to have someone share in my reflective period.

            Beth said...

            This is a thought provoking post Dee. I too have had some losses this year and posts like this help to put things in perspective.