Category: Relationships

Forgiving Ourselves and Forgiving Others

I have been thinking about forgiveness a lot lately. I know many people who struggle with it, in that they are either unable to forgive themselves for something they have done or they are unable to forgive someone else for hurting them. When I think about God’s limitless grace and that it is through Christ’s sacrifice at the cross that we have received forgiveness for all of our transgressions – what is even more amazing is that God initiated it! We read in Romans 5:8, “For God demonstrates his great love for us in this; while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” He died for us knowing we were a mess, yet loving us anyway. His forgiveness heals us and if we are unable to forgive ourselves, or others, we are unable to fully experience the peace that comes from the healing power of Christ.

When we forgive others, we make a choice to humbly follow the example Christ set for us, and I believe God will use that step of faith to release healing in not only the person offering forgiveness and the person being forgiven, but also anyone else who has been affected by the broken relationship.

It’s no wonder we sometimes struggle with forgiveness – it is such a universal struggle and that is why songs are written about it…For those of you who are battling with events from the past, it might help to remember what Paul writes in Philippians 3:12-14,

“12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Many people focus on verse 14 but notice what Paul says in verse 13: “Forgetting what is behind” is SO important before proceeding to verse 14 – We need to NOT allow our past to dictate our present or influence our future. It doesn’t mean we won’t have consequences from the past that we will have to deal with, but the past need NOT affect the choices we make today or determine what is yet to come. If you consider Paul’s past before he became a Christian, he crossed many lines in persecuting the church. This becomes very powerful because he put his transgressions behind him and by focusing on what lay ahead, he overcame his past to become a great pillar of the church whose influence through the Holy Spirit has guided Christians for thousands of years. Wow! He initially had to deal with a lot of unpleasantness because of what he had done previously, but he didn’t let that stop him – something you might want to share to encourage someone who may be struggling with their past. The example of Paul in Scripture reassures us that there are no lost causes and we can all have a new beginning. God forgives us when we ask, therefore we should be able to forgive ourselves and receive the peace and hope that comes with the grace He freely offers.

forgiveFor those of us who have trouble forgiving others, I don’t believe you will ever be truly at peace until you do. It doesn’t even matter how the other person responds (if they are even around to respond – offering forgiveness is an intentional action that flows out of your heart – while it is hoped that it blesses the person you are forgiving – their positive response is not a requirement). Scripture is clear on God’s desire for us to forgive one another. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

I believe God gives us a great gift by teaching us to forgive one another and it is also for our own benefit – a heart weighed down by the bitterness of being unforgiving can never experience true joy. I love this video by Matthew West called “Forgiveness” because it speaks eloquently to both sides of forgiveness. If you have something weighing you down, I hope listening to this song will help you to take the steps God may be calling you to take, so that restoration can occur through the power of Jesus Christ and despair and disappointment can be replaced with healing and love.

Matthew West – Forgiveness

 

[image courtesy of markuso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

 

 

 

Start With A Smile

Here is an interesting premise to write about. Imagine that you are going to live in a foreign country. Your company has transferred you there, and you are expected to adjust to your new surroundings and begin work immediately. You have learned the language in a classroom, but have had very little, if any, conversational practice. Your physical needs of food, shelter and transportation are provided through your employment. But when you venture out, it is into completely unfamiliar territory. And while your co-workers are very nice, they don’t have a lot of time to provide guidance. If you are going to explore your new home, you must be brave.

I have recently been hired to help three young adults from Japan, here for one year, to learn Business English, while they work for their company and interact with American clients. When I spend time with them, it amazes me at how courageous they are. They have been living and working here for only about two months, and are driving our highways, shopping in our grocery stores, and venturing out on their own to experience American culture, which in so many ways is very different from their own. Something we take for granted like going to an American grocery store is very bewildering since it is much different from grocery shopping in Japan. I can be brave in my writing by exploring new places on paper, but these young adults are doing it for real.

StudentGroup1.jpg

One of the great things about being their teacher is that while they are learning from me, I get to learn from them. That opens up new ideas and ways of thinking, enriching my own experience as I enrich theirs. Just because I have been hired to teach them Business English doesn’t mean it has to stop there. Conversation and cultural immersion will greatly facilitate their success in their goal of becoming proficient at conducting business in the United States and promote understanding between our two countries. We took them to ride my horse this weekend, and what a blessing it was to introduce them to this part of American culture. Their smiles were priceless. Lunch at a local country cafe with real Texas chicken fried steak and mashed taters topped off the day. It was fun to see the waitresses equally fascinated with my students and smiling – they were showing each other the signatures on their master cards which were in Japanese. The great thing about smiles are that they are universal, they transcend any language.

If you are wondering what you can do to get inspiration to write about something new, just look around you. You don’t have to be a teacher to befriend someone who recently immigrated here or is working here for an extended period of time. Sometimes it takes bravery on both sides to reach out to someone different from us, but the blessings you’ll receive by doing so can turn into lifelong friendships and may even turn into a great story for you to write about someday. And it really is not all that hard – all you have to do is start with a smile.

It’s Not About the Candy…

Yesterday I was thinking about Valentine’s Day. I usually don’t think too much about it, because it doesn’t hold that much importance to me anymore. I must admit that before I was married to Phil, Valentine’s Day used to mean a lot more. It was with much anticipation I awaited its arrival during those times that I was in a relationship, as an opportunity for the person who professed love for me to show it in tangible ways such as with flowers and candy. The irony is that because those relationships weren’t that great,  I needed them to prove their love by remembering me on the holiday that is a celebration of love. (No ruffled feathers here please – for those of you in great relationships that still love Valentine’s Day – enjoy!)

But for me, as the years have gone by, its importance has grown less and less. Phil works hard to support our family and spends his free time doing things with us and for us. So on those occasions when he forgets to get a card or pick up a present, it seems ludicrous to me and unfair to him to get upset. Rather, I am grateful because I am incredibly blessed with a loving husband whose actions show me his love for me every day, not just on holidays.

candy

So when Phil came home from Walmart today – not with a big candy heart, flowers and a card, but instead with Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate and Peppermint Altoids (which he knows are my favorite treats), it made me want to cry (and I did a little). Not because he gave me the candy (although I’m glad he did – Yum!) but because of the heart-spoken message behind it. In those packages of chocolates and Altoids was a message that said “I love you so much, that I know what your favorite things are and I want you to have them.” No, it’s not about the candy, but it is all about the love behind it. And if he didn’t have time to do anything or he forgot, it would have been just fine. Because it really is not about the candy…