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Life's Little Lessons

"If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud." – Emile Zola

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forgive

Own It

A couple of weeks ago, I showed up at the vet for an appointment with two dogs only to be told, “I’m sorry. Your appointment isn’t until tomorrow.” But it was on my calendar. I vividly remember booking the appointment the week before and going over the date. Could I be wrong? Perhaps. Do I think I was? I truly don’t.

And tomorrow didn’t suit.

I have had happier moments. And apparently kinder ones.

And this week, another vet appointment. I walked into the reception area and was greeted with a smile from the vet tech, the same vet tech whom said several weeks ago, “I’m sorry. Your appointment isn’t until tomorrow.”

As soon as I saw her, I remembered that I wasn’t quite the kindest as I walked out the door with two dogs wrapped around my feet who were most likely wondering why the heck they were walking in and then quickly walking back out.

Silence and *possible* stomping speaks rather loudly.

Truth was, I was mad. Was it because I cleared my morning and loaded two excitable dogs into my Jeep and drove across town which is never easy or convenient during a work day? Was it because I didn’t want to be wrong and admit I may have made a mistake with the date? Was I expecting whomever made my appointment to be held to a higher standard, one of perfection, than I myself would be willing to held to?

Grace indeed is a crooked road.

But is a doable one.

As soon as I sat down, I apologized. I told the vet tech I was sorry for not being the kindest the last time I was there and I left it at that and made no excuses.

She accepted my apology and told me that my silence *and my stomping* didn’t quite seem like me and maybe I was just having a bad day. Perhaps other things were going on.

Boy were they ever.

I wish I could say that I *never* behave badly and that I am the poster child for good behavior but I obviously have my moments and some of those moments are rather large. I take my frustration out on innocent people after I allow it to build its home in me deep and wide. Through a series of unfortunate events, I’m learning that it’s important to recognize the WHY and then make amends with the HOW.

It’s important when you realize that you’ve stepped outside yourself to allow your heart to be searched so you can figure out what is REALLY going on in it. I wish I could say that I could do the figuring out all on my own but I can’t. I get snippets here and snippets there but if I really want to be the person I say I want to be, to be the person that God says I already am, then I need His help. And He gives it.

And when He gives it, there is always a small charge, a price to pay on my end. Recognizing my error or places of potential growth usually cost me the things that I often try to hold dear and close like pride, the very presentation of myself. It’s humbling to make the journey to the offering slab and lay my heart in front of another person and ask for forgiveness and admit I made a mistake.

It’s called vulnerability.

You cannot change without searching your heart and taking responsibility for your behavior. You are kidding yourself if you think you can maneuver around this process and negate this step. And if you are in a relationship with another person who refuses to take ownership of their actions and would rather place blame then take ownership, you are in a relationship with a stubborn-hearted person and the same pattern will most likely cycle back around again and repeat themselves. It’s the very definition of insanity.

If your heart gets checked and you realize that you’ve stepped outside yourself an inch or two…own it. Say you are sorry. Be sincere. Don’t make excuses. And if your heart is rarely checked…you are the author and perfector of your own faith and I wish you well.

It is very hard to be in a relationship with someone who is never wrong.

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Her Heart Cry

A couple of weeks ago, I came into the office to find a frantic woman had left a message on our office machine. “Please call me back. I am so sorry. I want to come in and talk to you.”

About what? I had no idea.

So I called her back and left a message, disconcerted as I was, and three days a later a letter showed up in the mail.

“The other day I was traveling down Main Street and I past one your school buses when it had its red lights activated. A student was getting off and…”

She cried. About died. Went and saw her priest.

She went on and on in her three page letter about how sorry she was and how she will never do that again as she realizes now the damage she could have caused by not paying attention. She left me her name and her number and a copy of her DRIVERS LICENSE in case I felt the need to turn her in.

She would do it herself but she wanted to leave her fate in my hands.

I couldn’t even.

She is sixty-seven years old.

I’ve thought about that woman every day for sixteen days. At some point in my day, my mind runs to her and sits with her, for just a bit and I say,”

“You are forgiven,” because I hope she has left herself off the hook.

“Teach me your ways,” because her grieving heart is intoxicating and a commonplace abnormality. She had not just given me lip service. I FELT her sincerity and repentance.

And I bet all the school buses in the world, she will never run the red lights of another bus. She will be more aware and alert while she is driving because her actions told me she wasn’t just sorry.

Remorse is easy to muster in us all, especially if we are caught.

No driver turned her in that day. No State Police showed up at my door. No school called.

But she did.

If you take it upon yourself to grieve and mourn over your actions, good for you. I got your back and will cheer you on regardless of what it is that you did. Seriously, a heart that checks itself against itself is teachable and open to moving forward. It makes changes.

One that’s not, probably not. And those are the hearts you need to be watchful over…

 Upside Down

Rejection.

I think I’ve battled it since the womb and I’ve wondered if it’s the first thing people see when they looked at me. Has it been something I’ve hidden behind or has it been a shiny little pin I’ve worn on my lapel and I’ve used it as an excuse for the things I’ve done?

Probably both.

My parents dated in high school and my mother was a year older than my father which made him a Senior when she announced she was pregnant with me. He was honorable and gave her a little ring, which I store in a little wooden box in a chest in my room since their divorce, and I choose to believe they went in, full of hope, that a baby would save them.

But rejection was rooted deep in my family and everyone had their own baggage long before I was born. Unfortunately, as much as I love them both, their baggage became mine and sooner or later I had my own and before I knew it, everything was jumbled and it became very difficult to sort what was theirs, what was mine and what was ours.

I took it all.

Fast forward to my own marriage and here we are, all jumbled. Maybe we are normal. Maybe jumbling takes place in every marriage. Maybe every couple has their share of heart aches and breaks. Maybe it’s part of being human and being in human relationships. I am not really sure but one thing I am sure of is this:

I have continually allowed myself to feel rejected based off other people’s responses TO me. If it’s not what I had hoped for or what I had envisioned it would be…if their words did not match their actions and I found myself in the presence of a good talker rather than a good walker, I’d allow the perceived lack **of whatever** to pretty much obliterate my identity. I become worthless and not enough. Not valued. Not really liked or loved. I essentially allowed man to take the place of God and I’d worship the opinion and the approval of flesh and blood rather than The One who already says I am…

And I tell myself it’s easy. Too easy. “Anybody who has been through what I’ve been through within the span of my short life would be looking through the same clouded and muddled lens.” As soon as I have that thought, I realize I’m double-minded and rejection IS the shiny pin I wear on my lapel. I use it as an excuse. Rejection has been an old friend and as much as I loathe it, I don’t know how to live without it.

So over the last two weeks, I’ve been waking up each day choosing to intentionally posture myself to see how God sees.

How God sees me.

“Who am I?”

I need reminded because I’ve obviously forgotten.

I think of Jesus and I think of one of my favorite verses in scripture:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

This is WHO HE is. This is ME.

I read further and know I’ve been thinking like a child. I looked up the scripture “Do unto others and they do unto you,” and all I find is this: 

“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” Luke 6:31

Damn.

I think again of Jesus. My thoughts always go back to Him and I realize that deep within me, what I’m really longing for is to become Love. Not just a little bit here or there. Not just in pieces and parts or to have characteristics of but to BE…

So I give up my childish ways and I show up and it hurts. It hurts more than I thought it would.  It makes me feel naked and exposed. It feels all upside down. It sears my flesh and feels like salt on an open wound and it is not always reciprocated and as much as I want to adjust myself and alter WHO I AM based off of how someone responds to me, I do not. I choose to believe I’m worth someone’s time and attention because I know that I am and that knowing allows me to give freely without strings.

Until I stop reacting to my circumstances and start responding to the love of Jesus, my circumstances will not change.

And I know it.

Don’t stop showing up and being you based off of how people respond to you. How you love anything is how you love everything for love is a quality of relationship more than a statement about the worthiness or deservedness of the object loved. -Richard Rohr

The Shortcut to Forgiveness 

I sat at the table and I wanted to…a lot of things. I wanted to continue to cry. I wanted to get up and walk out the door. I wanted to numb out and drown my sorrows in a cup of coffee mixed with rum.

I felt my mind roll all these possibilities around in my head like dice. What would it be when all was said and done? What exactly would I do?

Would I continuing crying? Would I get up and walk out the door? Would I drown my sorrow in my coffee mixed with rum?

I stared at the grain of wood that made up the table. As I ran my fingers nervously crossed it, it felt smooth. It felt effortless. I wanted my next step to feel the same but I felt stubborn and rough, and I could feel the splinter, pointy and ragged, bury deep within me.

I was angry and hurt and I didn’t know how to make it stop.

“I forgive you. I choose to forgive you.”

They were just words at first and I knew it and they left a taste in my mouth that said I was fake.

My attemp felt awkward as I sat at my friends table and it felt forced and I did not feel free but I said those words again, this time not out loud but within me.

“I forgive you. I choose to forgive you.”

I knew if I waited till I felt like it, I would be waiting a very long time. Maybe forever. No one was expecting me to or even hinted or eluded that it would be a positive step but I knew.

I knew if I didn’t I would continue crying while thinking about walking out the door and numbing myself out with a cup of coffee mixed with rum.

As I sat and stared them all in the face, everyone was hurting and I wanted to hope that things could be different. Better. Their eyes told me they hoped for the same. We all wanted this to go any other way than my continued crying led us all to believe and my soul wanted nothing more than to get relief. To be made well again, whole, even if only temporarily by speaking magic words.

“I forgive you. I choose to forgive you.”

And I softened just a bit. I softened enough to stare him in the face. I softened enough to hug everyone goodbye and thank them for their time. I softened enough to get into the Jeep and be hungry for lunch.

I realized it wasn’t so much saying magic words or doing what I knew was probably noble or right as it was me wanting to crawl out of a heartache that had been holding me captive before despair swallowed me whole. I was trapped inside my own heart trying hard to stay angry and hurt and I had every justiufucation for it but all I really wanted was to live and love and laugh.

To be happy again.

To care and to hope and to dream.

I could not do anything of those things hanging onto bitterness and anger. Choosing to not forgive was suffocating me and I needed to breathe.

For me.

Did I use forgiveness as a fix? Was I tired of hurting and wanted to stop the pain? I don’t know. I just know there is no short cut. Magic words won’t satisfy the hearts longing to love and be free but a open heart can. I just know the power of a hearts that open….

And I know it takes way more effort to hurt, to be hurt then to forgive. As I ran my finger across their table, I remembered my heart IS smooth, that I am. I am not rough around the edges and all jaggy, leaving splinters in my wake.

Forgiving was just as much about remembering WHO I am as it was about anything or anyone else.

It was a very good place to begin again.

 

What is Forgiveness Anyway?

I sat around a table Saturday morning at our monthly woman’s group gathering and we were going around the table sharing when someone spoke up and asked a question that has been with me since.

“What is forgiveness anyway?” (or something to that effect).

We ping ponged back and forth sharing our experience of it and on we went.

But it hasn’t left me. No. Not one bit.

Last night the Hunger Games was on TV so while in the kitchen making dinner, I had it on. Katniss had just volunteered herself as tribute in her sisters place and Peeta had just walked up on the platform. They were encouraged to shake hands and Katniss flashes back to a memory of living in District 12. It was a memory where she was hungry, wet and cold and sitting outside a bakery that Peeta’s family owned. He comes out with burnt loaves of bread and feeds them to the pigs. He sees her sitting in the rain and throws her one haphazardly like she is an animal too.

Flash forward. She shakes his hand begrudgingly.

Katniss has not forgiven.

That memory is shown again on the train as they travel towards the Capital. The reality that her and Peeta are on the same “team” keeps her going back to that cold, wet day. It is the memory of him she has lodged in her brain, the very memory of him that remains in her heart and keeps them working against one another instead of WITH one another.

It makes me think about forgiveness and how often I too have been like Katniss Everdeen, stubbornly replaying a bad memory in my head and in my heart when it comes to a particular person. Like a broken movie reel, I play it and then hit rewind, again and again. The more the memory is replayed, the more I add to it. The more not good feelings and thoughts are attached to what now is a very twisted scenario and I get offended all over again. Each and every time.

Rita Mae Brown once said, “One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.”

I could agree more.

I know from experience there is not a clear-cut definition of what forgiveness is. My sharing with you probably only touches a single aspect of it because it is multi-faceted and probably looks different for all of us. For me, I know whenever I refuse to stop propping my feet up in the back of some old movie cinema watching bad memories replay over and over, I take steps towards healing and healing always opens me up again to loving.

Jesus implored the Father on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” I really do think He was saying, “Father, LOVE them…”

And my heart opens up more easily when I am focused on moving forward. The past is the past. I can live there, in what happened or what was said but then I realize that I am not really living for one can only live in one moment at a time. If I choose to live THERE then I cannot live HERE. And here is where I want to live.

I am sure life has afforded you with opportunities to discover what forgiveness is to you. Probably as you read, someone has come to mind. Someone attached to a memory that constantly gets replayed in your head; a memory that holds you back from moving forward.  Perhaps that person is YOU. I can’t tell you what to do to forgive. I believe it is a process and looks different overtime and is an act of our choosing and not a feeling. I have found that the more I choose to intentionally keep my heart open to being searched, the more acutely aware of how much I truly am loved. Unconditionally. I always have been and always will be. And if I have been loved like that as in, “Father, LOVE her for she knows not what she does…”

Surely I can do the same.

Much Love,

August

 

Round Table Discussion:

*What is your initial reaction to the concept of forgiveness? How do you feel about the whole idea of forgiveness as a necessity?

*What does forgiveness look like to you? How have you given it and how have you received it?

*What characteristics in your life might indicate that you haven’t fully forgiven past hurts, even if you know in your head what you need to do?

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