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More Than They Have to Give

Throughout my life, I’ve wanted a greater depth of relationship with my parents. Instead, they want to give me things. Yes, they’ve helped financially from time to time. But it stops there. When I want to go deeper, I’m met with either misunderstanding, or resistance. What more could you want? is the implicit question. What more?

Someone to call for advice.

Someone who’s there when I’m hurting.

Someone who cares beyond the surface.

Believe me, I’ve tried.

And I’m learning to let go of my expectations. I can’t make anyone be what I want them to be, shape them into someone, or something, else. I can only take what is, and work with that.

It’s the same with God.

He’ll only take what we yield to Him, and no more. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” He says. “If anyone hears My voice, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Jesus doesn’t force His way in; rather, He knocks, waiting to be let in.

It’s the same with other people: we can only go so far as they’ll let us. To which the only response–the only sane response–is:

“God, grant me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

It just flat out sucks when it’s someone close to you, because you don’t want to be that person subsisting on crumbs, but you can’t make them give more than they’re willing, or able, to give.

You learn to take what you can get. Hope for more, but learn–as Jesus did–to accept this world as it is.

Not as you would have it be.

And that’s a hard thing. When you can’t make someone love you the way you need. Because it’s more than they have to give.

My Lunatic Friend

I want to tell you about my friend.

My lunatic friend.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at him. No, from the outside looking in he appears to be as normal as anyone else. He’s calm, cool, collected. Has his stuff together.

Or at least appears to.

But in his chest beats the heart of a beast.

Yes, despite all appearances to the contrary, he doesn’t have it all together. He knows it, and it drives him up a wall!

He is a mass of conflicting desires, thoughts, emotions, pent up frustrations. He wants life to get easier.

But it never does.

It never does.

You see, my lunatic friend can fake it with the best of them. He can pose.

But in his heart he knows:

He’s not strong

He hasn’t got it all together

And prays everyday, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”

You might know my lunatic friend. He’s me, you see. He’s me–and you, and everyone who’s ever lived.

“For the flesh lusts against the spirit,and the spirit against the flesh. The two are contrary to one another.” And no matter how long we walk with Christ the flesh never gets better. We can get better at resisting its allure.

But it is never sanctified. Our souls are. But not our bodies. “Who shall deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

We, as long as we are here on this earth, shall never be sinless. But let us pray fervently to sin less and less. And let us remember to be as forgiving towards the lunatic friends of others as we are of our own. That to my mind is what it means to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Are you brave enough to admit you have a luntic friend? Are you ready to do something about that? Put it down in words below.

God bless you!

Goodbye to My So-Called Upbringing

'Dysfunction Junction: Cold Spring NY Photowalk' photo (c) 2010, Nick Harris - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

I don’t want you getting the wrong idea–I wasn’t beaten as a child. The spankings I got, I earned (helping your buddy try to burn down his grandmother’s garage, anyone?). I wasn’t a battered child, but I’ve got come to the conclusion that abuse is never just physical.

There are psychological, and emotional, abuses, too. And if I was abused, it was in this way:

I was ignored. One of my earliest memories is being told to go away, relax, unwind, watch T.V. And then later, when she checked on me, my mother was aghast to find me drinking a beer in front of Sesame Street. Why? “Because it wat daddy do.”

When I fell, got hurt, got a boo-boo, there was precious little soothing; instead, I was indoctrinated with the mantra “I’m alright.” Even though I most decidedly was not alright. They say the lessons learned earliest go the deepest.
And are hardest to overcome. I’ve been alright far too many times when I shouldn’t have been. Been okay in places I never should have been…

If my mother’s chiefest failing was practiced indifference–emotional diffidence, my dad’s was indifference followed by the bitter wash of sarcastic chasers. I would go from being ignored to verbally masticated, spit out, left to put myself back together…

And I had to be alright.

After their inevitable divorce, the neglect only deepened. My mom, of course, didn’t share her pain; instead, losing herself in work, she hoped (I think) to give others something she couldn’t give herself: an intact family.

And my dad? Our relationship was as defined in the divorce decree: I saw him twice a year. His second wife hated my brother and I…

Divorce touches millions of families. And my life, seen from the outside, may have appeared to be, while perhaps less than ideal, a privileged one. I was white, lived in Scottsdale, had a roof, clothes  food. In short, the basics.

It has taken me years to pin down just exactly what I didn’t have:

A sense of love.

Part and parcel with growing up latchkey was, I guess, a sense of parental guilt. There were precious few boundaries, and even fewer consequences. I was left to my own devices, to indulge in whatever I wanted.

It’s a wonder I just got into smoking, and not drugs. My interest in porn was labelled “healthy curiosity.” If my childhood was defined by anything, it was these three things:

Neglect

Pornography

And Stephen King

I turned inward because there was nowhere else to go, no one to go to. My mom eventually had a live-in boyfriend, who’s example, and idea of culture, consisted of pizza, cigarettes, and “martoonis” in front of the T.V. This was my exemplar of manhood.

I wanted to escape, but had nowhere else to go. My dad didn’t want me, my mom was too busy, and this is “white privilege?”

None of this was talked about. I had to navigate a broken family, adolescence, on my own.

Habits developed then have not always been conducive now to  building healthy attachments. I’m almost 45 years old, and still bitter about what I didn’t have. Why couldn’t I have a normal, loving family? Why don’t I have meaningful relationships with my parents, brother, etc?

For years, as a growing Christian, I thought it was my job to put up, shut up, keep the peace. I allowed so many unhealthy things to happen, so many hurts to go unaddressed. I want to let my parents off the hook, say they did the best they could…

But I don’t believe it.

That’s why I want so much to be done with them. I can’t seem to get past the things which they’ve done, or I’ve done in relation to them. I want to say there’s too much water under the bridge. I don’t feel listened to.

I want to be done, but can’t. Because…

Because God.

He’s the God of second, third, thirty-third, and seventy-times-time chances.

Because He’s given me chance after chance, though I’ve blown it time and time again, I can do no less. I have to try.

If there’s a lesson I’ve learned in life, it’s this: the things we like least in others are usually the things which dislike about ourselves. That hurts to admit.

I’m not perfect (far from it), and neither are they. They dealt with their own demons, as I’ve dealt with mine.

God help me, I’m willing to try.

That’s the best I can do.

It’s Not Just Divorce

It’s Not Just Divorce

image

Joe Sewell

Folks, I have the great privilege of hosting Joe Sewell today. In his own words, Joe: is a 51-year-old software geek living in West Melbourne, FL, after he and his parents bailed on the Eastern Shore of Maryland when he was 18. His lovely wife, Joy, has put up with him on more than major holidays for 20 years so far. Joe writes about Biblical stuff on his blog, Consider This, whenever he gets something to write on. Joe also participated in NaNoWriMo in 2010 and produced a weird self-published book, The Quantum Suicide of Schrödinger’s Cat, available on Amazon and CreateSpace. Joe also contributed a piece for Anne Jackson’s Permission To Speak Freely and for the Not Alone! anthology. He claims to have some other book ideas locked in his head, but cannot seem to find the key at the moment. Joe is scared of kids, but can handle his 5.3-pound Rat-Cha, Cocoa. Joe first guest posted here last year with Choosing to Forgive My Pop. You can follow Joe on Twitter @joe_sewell

—————————-

I am constantly amazed by the similarities Chad and I have. I almost wonder if we were twins separated from birth. I wouldn’t wish that on Chad, though.

Recently he talked about his parents’ divorce, and it spurred me to think again about my own story.

The executive summary is this: it’s not just divorce that can affect your child for life.

My mother left my father after 25 years of marriage. I was 24 at that time, but still living at home for no reason other than convenience. No, I wasn’t the geeky kid living in the parents’ basement, mainly because Florida homes cannot have basements (the water table’s too high).

Here’s the main point, though: I saw the divorce coming since I was 8! That makes 16 years of emotional torment as I watched my mother take … well, I wasn’t privy to exactly what she was taking at the time.

The first issue was that there was a 25-year age difference between the two of them. The generation gap was in effect even in the small town in which we lived, in an environment that was rural enough to be “inbred” in terms of emotional maturity. People did what they did because they were “supposed to.” No other reason was ever offered, so there was no point to discuss.

Pop, as I mentioned in my guest post relating to finally being able to forgive him, was stubbornly old-fashioned. Men had their place, and women had theirs. Don’t bother talking to him about it, because that was the way things were “supposed to be.” I saw no affection between them since I was probably 5 or 6, maybe 7. By the time I was 8, I got all the under-the-breath complaints Mom had against Pop. She didn’t dare talk to him about it, she says. It wouldn’t matter much anyhow, because in his eyes he was the only one who could be correct in such a discussion.

Much of my hatred for him grew during those years. Much of the emotional stress I still deal with started then. My desire to escape the torment by pulling the trigger of a probably-loaded gun came when I was 10.

They weren’t divorced, but the torture was still real for me.

The event that pushed [sic] her over the edge was the day when she told Pop that the door knob wasn’t working properly. He tried his best to fix it. She tried it again and said it still wasn’t right. He pushed her aside, into a wall. I didn’t know about that event until a few months ago, even though it happened in 1986. I did know then, though, that she “coincidentally” got a good promotion with the hardware company she worked for, but in a city that was roughly 80 miles away.

Pop knew what he had done, but was in deep denial. He kept saying it was the “change of life” that caused her to do this. The very few times she showed up back near home (also near where her own father, the only grandfather I knew, lived at the time) Pop would be in tears. He was a “man.” He wasn’t “supposed to” cry. He did.

So what did that do to me? I have been married almost 20 years now. Since I didn’t know until recently what pushed Mom over the edge, I have lived with the fear of pushing my own wife, Joy, too far without warning, with me being too stupid to know until it was too late. I have lived with the dread of having children and passing the damage on to them. That even led to a serious crisis of faith that God is still healing.

Divorce is necessary sometimes. Even Jesus allowed it under certain conditions. In our society today, though, with a lack of caring about marriage, divorce is all over the place. The only reason the numbers are so low, I suspect, is because more and more couples are living together as if they were married, but they haven’t bothered to make the real commitment that must be the foundation of every marriage. If Chad and I were so damaged by our parents’ divorces, what’s going on with today’s younger generation? For that matter, we have a generation of baby-producing semi-adults already afflicted in ways Chad and I probably cannot even imagine.

There is still hope. The damage may be done, but Christ still will clean us up, still heal us. That healing and cleaning may not be complete this side of Heaven, but His commitment to us is far more trustworthy than that of any married couple. Check out Romans 8 for a start.

We’re damaged property. Welcome to Earth.

The Limits of Hypocrisy

I need to get something off of my chest:

I’m a hypocrite.

And so are you.

We all are. It’s a condition endemic to our species. It’s a dichotomy, a clever bit of cognitive dissonance, that we are–by and large–quite comfortable living with.

How does this play out?

Mostly, like this:

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We get angry with those who sin differently than we do, apparently forgetting that we ourselves are sinners, too. It’s hypocrisy pure and simple.

Because we have to live with ourselves, we often give ourselves a pass, all the while condemning our brothers and sisters.

What’s the cure? How do we limit this hypocrisy, cut it off at its knees?

The Bible says we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, right? The late, great C.S. Lewis said that “loving one’s neighbor as oneself means being just as forgiving of one’s neighbor’s sins as one is of one’s own.”

That’s a tall order, to be sure. But it comes right from the horse’s mouth (as it were):

“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Gulp.

Does this mean that we must forgive in order to ourselves be forgiven? Afraid so, folks.

Jesus paid it all for you, me, and that pesky neighbor down the street.

The first step to healing is admitting our hypocrisy: that we are no different than those who sin differently.

Thanks for reading!

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