Forgiveness: An Open Letter

Remember back to a time when you had gotten the worse sunburn that you can ever imagine getting in your whole life. Remember the sting, and how no matter how much Aloe you applied it was like a drop of water in a desert in the moment of agony. Then the skin starts to peel, and there is this exposed new skin that starts to dry, and feel more like sand paper, and in some cases the burn was so bad that your skin still burned. Now imagine that dry brittle skin doesn’t go away because there is this one brand of Aloe that you need to take in order for the pain to go away this sounds too good to be true right?

Sign me up for a cure all to sunburn, or sunblock. This is how unforgiveness plays out our hearts as a metaphorical look at the condition we leave ourselves in as we hold on to pain, grudges, hurt, etc. We become this baron dried up plot of skin, or maybe land would be a better analogy as the dust bowl in the 1920’s would be another good look considering the agricultural themes the Bible carries for us. One of the chief things that the Lord Jesus asked me to do when I professed faith in him was first to forgive my earthly father for what at the time I considered unspeakable atrocities. This was something that I hung  on to for years not wanting to forgive him for anything he said, did, or didn’t do as these were now all things I couldn’t control. This made life very plain, horizontal, and baron with harsh conditions like a harsh sunburn, dried skin, or a desert.

Do you believe that there is any rest in a desert?

We may come to this realization at some point in our lives that our lives are ours, and we can decide things like outcome, and fate, and how others are remembered. While there are momentary things can alter perception, and you may believe that about yourselves, and you are the master of your own destiny. But friends this is just the here and now when Israel wandered through the desert in the pentateuch there was no rest in Israel’s disobedience, and there were no heroes of the day that mapped out their best lives now. God led, directed, and mastered as well as provided, and established his people as he establishes us today.

What is unforgiveness? Popular Blink-182 song ‘Wildfire’ lyrics say this:

“I don’t forget
I don’t forgive
I’ll never change the way I live
I always fought the urge to fall in line
I turned my back on all the rules
I’ll never heed the king of fools
I’ll never lead the perfect kind of life.”

This is a perfect example of the dialogue of thought that manifests as unforgiveness or unrepentanted as this hostility boils out of our hearts as this were all defilement of humanity comes from the heart (Matthew 15:11). This is generational, and transcultural in nature so don’t think your aggressor is an anomaly as in the eternal view of things humanity as a whole is the anomaly when it relates to God who is holy and thus set apart from relating to us in this way. Unforgiveness is also a lifestyle as seen in the lyrics above this comes from years of hardness, rebellion, and sin that has dried in the heart like cement as this is what becomes of hoarders of forgiveness we become what we don’t want. We become like our aggressors, bitter, and often alone and apart from God. This is counter intuitive to those who do believe because this defies love which is the eternal currency of Christianity John 3:16, John 13, as it prevents the eventual  flow of those whom Christ calls into himself because he laid his life down in love to redeem, and love a once lost humanity forever.

Forgiveness also kills pride and in the West we are taught to be bigger, and bigger because we are more powerful. Corporate America demonstrates this ideology in the culture that they cultivate in the workplace we are groomed on all fronts to be winners at all costs in everything we do. There is no room for sorry in this closed system or forgiveness in terms with this culture which is why we demonstrate such fear, and hostility because it’s always easier to fight back, keep moving, or get revenge than it is to eat the costs of our offenses. It would then make more sense because the pain we carry is less if we engage these routes we can always say that we forgive as the words themselves can carry your name in text, or social media as a quick facebook message can do the trick as it requires no sacrifice on your end and you can still be the hero in your own right. Right? Why say what you don’t mean? Why give someone a gift if you don’t want to give them one? When we don’t forgive someone we indeed ingest spiritual poison that slowly eats away at us and while we are the ones that rage those who have hurt us do not share in this. Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 18:21-35 of the unmerciful servant whom is forgiven of this insanely large debt out of mercy given from the judge. Only to turn around and not forgive the debt of another shortly after being forgiven of much more himself only to be thrown in jail anyway for his hardness of heart, and unforgiveness to another. God forgives us of much more than anyone in this world can ever owe us, and because we are forgiven of much we too can than like Paul in Philippians 4 be joyful much and set our minds on things that are more restful than the pain, and debts others owe us.

You have no karmic duty to uphold, and no cultural superstition that plays out in this world so there is no shame in feeling hurt, grieving, or not being okay. You can allow yourself to be a mess, and mess up because you don’t have to grow old and become this bitter old dinosaur that doesn’t give out halloween candy, or relives his past life well into his 40’s and beyond chasing the rage, or disassociating yourself until you become a shell of who you once were. Jesus didn’t die for you when you were at your best but he died for you when you were and are a mess so he can be your best. So you have this freedom to allow him to wear the hurt of your aggressors, and the shame you carry as an aggressor, or expose those areas to you if you truly have a wonderful life in the here and now.

Forgiveness is not a one and done thing someone of us reading have been through serious trauma, deep pain, and have lost more than we can imagine or maybe you know someone close to you in this kind of Agony. It isn’t something that you can give in haste or give in quantity there may be steps you need to take in which you can lay this down in it’s entirety, but it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible or not worth trying or something that should be done half heartedly because we know the Bible commands us, and because God has forgiven us of much more. It’s a journey you take one step at a time with Christ and one that may leave you repeating steps, or writing that letter to your aggressor or whom ever has hurt you everyday, or forgiving them moment to moment so your heart doesn’t abscess. It’s worth venturing because you will experience the freedom in Christ and the life abundantly that he promises in him when we dive in and follow him.

Calm seas have never shaped the greatest, but it’s worth travelling. So who do you need to forgive? And what is preventing you from forgiving them? What do you gain in Christ by forgiving them?

 

 

“Wildfire” performed by Blink-182, written by Mark Hoppus, Matt Skiba, Travis Barker, and John Feldman. Copyright 2017. All Rights owned by Blink-182.

 

Eternal Playlists With No End

 

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Banjos pluck as the band queues and rest of the set and music falls into place, and dust settles, and from now is all that is on your mind. Or maybe your band is on recording, and the CD, or Vinyl is caught itself in a loop, and your favorite song is stuck in a never ending build up. For me it’s the bridge in the middle of the song, ‘I Believe’ by REM where there is soft hum of the bass guitar and Michael is softly humming. Have you ever felt like your life is a series of hums? Or maybe you’re walk with God is a series of soft whispers as you’re listening into your telephone for a rhythm for God’s voice as you’re crying out in prayer?

I mean you can be sure that there was something at some time that led you to the course you’re on with him? Philippians 1:6 states that he who has begun a good work will see it completed on the day of Christ Jesus. Great! God has my life figured out and I don’t as we may not be sure where we will sleeping tomorrow night? Or where we will be getting our next meal from as we haven’t figured out the next few moments of our lives. Perhaps when we were children we asked to aim for the stars with our aspirations for our futures, and wish on a star so we come up with these large out of this world standard of what western, or even modern life has to offer. Maybe you saw yourself as a pro athlete, scientist, politician, person considerable interest, with no worries, or no considerable debt.

Perhaps your life was consequence free, and you could go from relationship to relationship, and decide to live anywhere with anyone. But life is in serious plateau with potential decline just like in the ‘Friends’ theme song, ‘It’s like your life is always stuck in second gear.’ How awesome that the universal aspect of being human really does speak beyond borders that lead to oceans with no end where Christ is the center where we exhume the depths of his mercy, and his love. This is different then from what we typically view love, success, and progress as we can remain at this stalemate where they can remain for an unsubscribed amount of time, and still find themselves in the fold of God in heaven. You have probably seen those memes floating around social media, or other Christian merchandise that reassure you that others in the Bible have waited in a season of life until God put their lives into gear and drove it into town where he unveils his purpose for them. While the cheese radar may go off this does hold true to what the Bible says about God being faithful to finish what he’s started with those he’s chosen.

But while we can remain as we are until our lives descend into the water park metaphor previous discussed we can come into this home stretch from really any walk of life. 1 Corinthians 3:12-13 goes into detail how beggars and kings go before God and will ultimately find themselves before him. There is no rush. Perhaps you need to realize that there is an imperfection on the album of your life, a scratched CD, or nicked vinyl doesn’t play music as it should it skips over key pieces of the audio making it rather un-listenable to the audience you lose rhythm, and momentum in the process, and you are left with garbled noise. This goes hand in hand with being salt and light attractive means in which truth is received, transported, and communicated. There is no repairing an album once it’s ruined but we are not hardware, and have means in which to get back on track.

We are provided one who has washed the imperfections from our souls with his blood so the records to our hearts, and souls eternal sing his praise. Jesus died for you not out of obligation because nothing was owed to him by us, and there is certainly nothing that we could give him that he truly can benefit from. Romans 3:23 shares how we fall short of his glory but in John 3:16 we fall well within his grace, and priority for baring the cross. My favorite imagery from any TV show is when the jukebox starts to skip and either ‘The Fonz’, or another character nudges it back on track. For the believer our petitions to be right with God, and before him is like allowing ourselves to submit to his refurbishing process so when you are in a place of constant skipping, and 2nd gear speed you are just a prayer away from being nudged back onto the symphony of worship that glorifies him.

Perhaps you’re not in Christ’s record collection and your life resembles one that needs a little extra love, and elbow grease. You might even contrast your album to being a Slayer album or maybe a Blink record compared to a Christian that you may see as Folk music, and Anne Murray records. While you’re broken at this moment you’re not lost as a lost soul is one that recognizes his distance and doesn’t come where you may be just a few scratches away from sounding like your favorite band in their prime crisp and new by trusting in Christ. You are probably like I was at one point and think well Christ wouldn’t listen to my music, I like dark gothic, or weird stuff that’s really vulgar why would this mix with faith in Christ. Christ calls you as you are, and his record collection contains an eclectic mix of people, and sounds that range throughout creation so you have room to be loved.

What track of your life are you on?

 

Taking Chances- Jesus Party of Two

Imagine you’re in a room where all your favorite people were, and it’s a party people are serving themselves at this grand potluck where it’s always going to have anyone’s favorite food at any given time. Why? Because we are all close and everyone knows what you like, and so on you are surrounded by the portraits of how everyone is at any given moment. Sounds good so far right? It gets better the music never ends and there is an never ending loop that provides all the feels that your little heart can take. You meet the best people that your parents talk about exactly how they imagine they would appear and exceed expectations you didn’t know you had. Your sphere turns into a buffet line where you have conversations with your deceased relatives that you know are passed, and for a moment you figure that you’re being given some cosmic insight into how feel good the universe and God is and how this moment hinges on all of creation.

Imagine now all this starts to flicker like a neon light outside of a bar or night club in the evening, and suddenly this grand event in your honor starts to look like unplayable characters from a video game. Now these people start to leave, the dip is gone, and you’re stuck eating olives, plain lays chips, and drinking ginger ale that someone bought to be polite. The songs become routine, and unfamiliar, and you realize the people you were once talking to are gone, and that if you had only kept in place like your parents old TV antenna perched on the house, or the TV set you would have good reception back, or would have been able to have a little more time.

Okay so now the culture of this party that you remember changes from bright and beautiful to edgy themes, and maybe you weren’t sure why it’s changing but you now that you’re angry that it did. But your friends, and the people that surround you on an everyday basis are angry for real reasons like war, their job isn’t that great, pride, they are having car troubles, or maybe they can’t communicate with their significant others. Maybe they are just as alone as you are?

But you feel that your anger isn’t justified so you hide it under your bed and go to school, go to work, go out and have fun, go to church. But it’ a lit cigarette under your bed that someone lit at your party once upon a time and you don’t know it’s there and it burns into everything you do. Making you weird because other people know that you had this awesome party once, and they weren’t invited how dare you not include them in this awesome experience. Then you start to realize some of the people at your party weren’t what they seem, and were never there for you in the first place, and these people were important centers of the party. You want an explanation to why they pretended, and hurt you, and why they showed up to your party in the first place, but these people have moved away, changed their address, and number. The pull towards these people start to feel less because of the rift between you and them, and now the constant doubt to whether you want to approach the situation. But you know that you can’t sleep at night and you’re up praying for them rationalizing with yourself whether or not it’s all in your head which most of it is. The pieces that you are missing to this puzzle are now outside your reach for two reasons; the first being that these people aren’t sorry for their trickery, the pain they caused you. They instead feel as if you owe them because maybe your party wasn’t like their previous parties that they went to, or maybe they just wanted to inflict on you which was why they came. Perhaps the dream of punching you drunk in front of your guests would make them strong, or maybe they didn’t get a chance to hit you and they instead pulled you in to stab you anyway, or they wanted to lead others away from you. Maybe this was successful but the bottom line is that these people aren’t sorry for anything that may have come against you on their behalf.

The second reason is that these people are unreachable for a few reasons like they have passed away, or they have moved and you have no way of contact. Perhaps these people ruined things so bad that it’s going to cause you damage just approaching them in any means. But you still know that you have to move past this and so there is now a four way intersection that you are parked at.

You still remember how awesome the music was, and how the food tasted, and smelt and those conversations you had with the ghosts of family past. But those people who are no longer are still on your mind, in your heart, and in your blood and as much as you try and forget your party has become a series of locked doors, a museum of thought, and memorial to a period in time that no one can see which is meant to represent some of the best pieces of you. You find love, and again and again but it strikes a match against this cold wet idea that you recall for flashes in the pan of excitement because the band is back together, and the droves of people will come back. But they don’t and you lose grip on the people around you, and become more and more angry because now the lit cigarette you left under the bed is now a roaring fire threatening structural damage.

One day you drown in flames then you jump into an ocean with no end, and in the sinking you are brought to the light, and in an instant these doors unlock, and the rotting water, and the dust are swept away by a carpenter that is now beginning to renovate the place in your heart where you kept these things locked. He then starts to rip out the molding, and the water, and fire damage that you sustained, and you begin to see that the party you threw once upon a time was very small. The people that you chased, and everything  you had wasn’t a means to itself and the party was actually really small, and the ghosts that haunted you weren’t what they seemed. So you’re alongside this carpenter helping by throwing away things he’s telling you need to be discarded, and you find things that you realize aren’t what you want to hold to.

Suddenly everything is different.

He begins to re-tile the floors, and rebuilds the room but then he doesn’t stop there he starts knocking down walls, and changing the layout of the house. Smoothing out the areas of full collapse, and cleaning out the animals that lived in the basement while finishing, and resetting the foundation. You don’t recognize the house anymore but it carries a familiar look, and those people don’t recognize you anymore and suddenly you’re able to detach.

But those people never gave you closure, and there’s one room that is still locked.

You have two options, you allow Jesus in so he can deal with the last remaining blocks of decay in your heart. Or you can hold onto it until you are dragged along with no means of letting ago you will eventually be stretched so thin you have to make a choice between your sin, or God?

What was your party? Who did you invite? How did your guests respond and would you invite them again?

What kind of life could you have if you were to fully let go of the past, and step into the upward calling of Christ Jesus without being cynical would you make that leap?

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