About this time last year, I wrote a blog post called Why I Can’t Run Home to My Tribe. I never did explain what drove me to write that post. I never will either.
I had spent decades believing I had forgiven someone only to discover that I really hadn’t. The idea that this person had changed had been my subconscious basis and justification for forgiving. Once I realized that my forgiveness was based on a lie, that this person hadn’t changed after all, I realized I had to forgive all over again, because I apparently had done it all wrong the first time around.
The problem was, I couldn’t. I honestly don’t remember ever feeling like I could NOT forgive someone.
By withholding forgiveness (though not intentionally), I unwittingly entered into a season of learning firsthand what Christ meant when He said,
For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
The measure I used to judge, was indeed used on me. I’ve spent the past year reminding myself of who I was becoming in my teens and early twenties (deceptive, selfish, destructive, arrogant, careless, envious, full of rage, disrespectful, and worse) before God opened my eyes to the idea that my life belonged to Him, not me, and looked at me with a holy gaze and a glimpse of His wrath that left me no logical choice but to surrender to His redemptive plan for me. I’ve also spent the past year imagining who I might have become had God not intervened and comparing/contrasting that nonexistent, dark future-self to my offender so that perhaps I could justify forgiving or else feel terrified at the prospect of a godless life. What pointless torment to recall the worst parts of a long-gone past and invent an alternate, nightmarish future!
It wasn’t God Who was doing this to me, it was me doing it to myself. But I wasn’t not doing it on purpose. In fact, it was hell. Although, I spent a good portion of the year enjoying happy distractions, in quiet moments and times of deep thought, the hell returned. I wanted to stop going there, but I didn’t know how.
And then one day just a couple of weeks ago, I had an epiphany. Perhaps it was something I’ve known all along and somehow forgotten or something I knew in an abstract, theoretical way, but failed to fully comprehend in a real and concrete way. While I was driving and listening to Christian music, the words of the song reminded me of something the Apostle Paul wrote:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!
This is the kind of forgiveness God expects me, and the entire human race for that matter, to show toward one another. It is not enough that we forgive only those who change. We must forgive those who can’t or won’t change. Our mercy and grace toward those who misuse or abuse us must be applied with the same generosity as that of God Himself.
Forgiveness is not the same thing as trust! Please read Forgiveness ≠ Trust.
The FINAL outcome of God’s Grace will yield both [forgiveness and trust] …He makes all things Beautiful in His Time…
— Stephen Helbig
***End of Disclaimer***
Through all of this, the main takeaway for me is that I have never truly learned how to forgive unconditionally. I thought I had. But I was mistaken.
I am still learning how to forgive unconditionally. Although I involuntarily visit the self-created hell of judging with conditional mercy and grace even now, I have hope, because I know the way out. The way is Jesus Christ. I’m not just using religious jargon here. Following Jesus Christ is quite literally the way out of this particular dilemma. Christ not only forgave His abusers, He forgave them while they were in the act of abusing Him to DEATH. And Christ lives in me. Therefore, I have the ability to forgive as Christ forgives. It’s only a matter of time until God works this out in me.
Now, perhaps you are wondering why this post is entitled Blog Hiatus.
Honestly, I should have taken a break from blogging a year ago.
About a week ago, we had an unexpected, very tragic death in the family. The preacher at the funeral literally screamed into the microphone, “If you want to see him again, you better get right with God” or something to that effect. I didn’t write a blog post about it, even though it is incredibly important that I do. In the past, I not only would have tempestuously written the blog post about the preacher’s insensitive and inaccurate ideas about Who God is and what God does, but I would have made sure to share a copy of the blog post with the preacher so that perhaps the Spirit of God could use it to help the preacher give an appropriate eulogy next time he is called. (There was, however, a beautiful slideshow and poem by the father of the deceased that gave comfort to mourners in attendance.)
Why did I, instead, end up with this blog post about me still dealing with something from a year ago? Well, I can’t help but think that if I were not shunned from my tribe, if I had the benefits that come from getting together with believers locally, I would have been able to more efficiently work through this other junk and write the blog post I am actually supposed to be writing today. I have a handful of believing friends and family that I see sometimes, and have spiritual discussions and occasional prayers with them. I also have a few Facebook friends with whom I feel a sense of spiritual community. I am thankful for them, but it isn’t the same as getting together with other believers locally for the express purpose of spiritual fellowship.
Do you see that this is a catch-22 situation? Believers are supposed to get together and use their spiritual gifts to help and strengthen each other. I need to be helped and strengthened by my tribe and vice versa. But every time I cross paths with my tribe, I am reminded that it has a devastating disease called RELIGION, and I am also reminded that my spiritual gifts (which involve bringing attention to said disease) are systematically quenched and despised. Therefore, neither I nor my tribe are helped and strengthened in the unique ways they need to be strengthened, because the fellowship is broken.
Between fresh, new grief and old, heavy baggage, I just need step away for a while. My good guess is for several months at least, maybe a year at the most. Please visit the archives and make use of the resources on the Home page, as needed. In the meantime, perhaps we will bump elbows on Facebook. Thanks for reading and see you after a while…