Saturday volleyball tournaments mean early mornings, lots of snacks and an onslaught of flying volleyballs sure to smack you in the head when you least expect it. But this past Saturday, I was knocked off my feet not by a volleyball, but by a host of old hurts, suppressed feelings and long-standing anger.
As my daughter’s team warmed up, my son and I staked out our base camp for the day. We carved out a spot between columns and bleachers to place our chairs hoping our savvy knowledge of volleyball trajectory would keep us safe. Poor newbies sitting on the front row of the bleachers. Better have ice…bless their hearts. We were enjoying snacks galore during game one of the first match, when a cast member from the play that is my past strolled into the gym.
I expected this person to be there and I was actually fine with it. Years had passed since the Great Split and finding ways to be amicable had become a tad easier. More importantly, as I forgave I found freedom that allowed me to exist in the same space without spiraling into an uncontrollable rage, also known as a conniption fit. The Lord had worked on me for many moons before I found a shred of forgiveness. But I found it and I wasn’t going to let the devil steal it. Plus, days like this were much easier when you could be friendly versus imagining them twirling on a spit over an open flame. (For the record, I am not capable of actually committing such atrocities. Besides, you know you’ve imagined something similar about someone or something at some point in your life. Don’t lie.)
After five matches, my daughter’s team won silver and all 30+ of us were going out to eat to celebrate. The girls were bouncing across the gym with glee as my son and I were packing up our chairs and barricades. (OK kidding, no barricades. I just made my son block all the balls. <Grin>) And then it hit me. Not a volleyball… the realization that I was about to attend a celebratory dinner with this person. It would be awkward at best. But I was trapped. I couldn’t disappoint my daughter. I couldn’t escape the imminent reality that I was going to have to do something I was uncomfortable with to make my kids happy. Oh, if I had a dollar for every time…..
You know those days when you feel like everything is going great and then Whamo – you’re blindsided by feelings or fears so intense you can’t make sense of them? That was me. So many years had passed since the original hurt and I had long moved on, putting things behind me or so I’d thought. But as all 30 of us were seated in a private room of the nearby steakhouse, I ordered a small salad and a huge side of patience. I felt nauseas. I felt angry. I wanted to cry. I wanted to run. I glanced momentarily at the steak knife. (Just humor me.) I couldn’t quite understand why I was feeling such an intense rush of complex emotions. I prayed for strength. I prayed for peace. I prayed the waitress would come quickly. In fact, I think I asked for the check as I ordered my drink.
Hours earlier I had been proud of what I’d overcome to have such a pleasant day and coexist in the same space as this person who had hurt me so badly. And then I found myself thrust back into a host of raw emotions. It was as if I was being poked and prodded with flashbacks and my anger continued to build. It was about the time I needed to cut my son’s steak that I said a little prayer asking God to please cause the walls of the room to fall down so I could breathe. Either that or He needed to come on down from the sky right then and rescue me from this moment of torture. Yes, I know that was probably over dramatic but you must understand the intensity of the moment.
Well I not only survived the dinner, I learned an important lesson. First, forgiveness is an act of obedience. Ephesians 4:32 instructs us to forgive each other just as we are forgiven. It’s this act of obedience that will bring joy and peace. It’s not enough to say “I forgive you but I will never forget what you did.” We must not keep a record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13) You have to forgive as God forgives, to release that person permanently.
Second, we must forgive based on faith not feelings. Once that person is forgiven they must be permanently forgiven. When old feelings rise up and the devil tries to convince you that you haven’t really forgiven anyone or anything, stand firm on the Word. According to 1 John 1:9 believe that your sins have been forgiven and you are free from the burdens of unforgiveness including any memory of having been wronged. Say, “I refuse to let those old feelings rise up. I have already forgiven that person by faith.”
When we forgive, we are released from the prison of anger and bitterness into the freedom of peace, love and joy. And when satan tries to put those chains back around our neck, we can stand on the Word. It’s a whole lot more effective than any other ideas I had!
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
- DO YOURSELF A FAVOR….FORGIVE: LEARN HOW TO CONTROL YOUR LIFE THROUGH FORGIVENESS by Joyce Meyer…review… (mybookaddictionreviews.wordpress.com)