Sunday, March 16, 2008

Cornerstone of relationships

This is going to be the longest post ever on my site, so please accept my apologies in advance, but give it a chance and read it, tell me what you think. I dumped my heart into this and have been working through this thought process and biblical principle for month. Enjoy!

As a teenager I was a huge fan of a band I watched grow from local San Diego musical geniuses to world wide rock stars on MTV over the course of about 3 years. They won a contest on MTV to become a signed band to a major label and blew up on the music scene after their victory. Papa Roach is their name. Many teenagers connected with this band because they speak of real pain and real life that their listening audience may have been or is going through.

I tear my heart open, I sow myself shut
My weakness is that I care too much
My scars remind me that the past is real
I tear my heart open just to feel

These are lyrics form the song “Scars” off of their “Getting Away With Murder” album. There is great truth in these lyrics. Many people live and die by their scars. They go over and over their past pains, fears, and accomplishments as reference points on which their lives are based on. The problem with these lyrics are tearing the scars back open. As I have watched, listened to, and been a part of many relationships I have noticed a trend that causes these relationships to be unhealthy and fail. Forgiveness is key to having a healthy relationship.

Without forgiveness one cannot move forward. As a child I loved to walk past this one house in my neighborhood. They had a little Chihuahua chained to one of those stakes in the ground. Chihuahuas are easily excitable dogs. So as I would come up to the yard I would start running into the yard and past the dog only to lead him after me. I knew he would not catch me for his chain would become taunt and the stake in the ground would pull him back quickly. As a little rebellious child I found great joy in watching this dog’s momentum stopped quickly and abruptly by being yanked back by the leash that was holding him back. In a less dramatic fashion this same type of show can be seen across the world in all sorts of relationships, dating relationships, marriages, parental relationships, professional relationships, etcetera… The spiritual truth is often separated from practical application in the minds of many people who will openly confess they know they are supposed to forgive. My biological father left my mom at a very young age, all I remember of him are several theatrical moments of despair. I remember watching him beat my mom, watching my mom carry him from the car to the house because he was too drunk to walk, being locked in a closet watching him snort cocaine, and one conversation on the phone where I was told he was going to replace me with another kid. My mom remarried when I was in middle school and that marriage did not begin with much ease. They are still married and doing quite well now, but it has taken time for them to get where they are. However, I notice in conversations with my mother that her life is still manipulated by her not forgiving my biological father. Her heart is callused. She has a hard time trusting, she still has a very weary view of men, she is guarded, and almost every argument or heated conversation brings up the ugliness of her past and her failure to forgive. My fears of failing as a husband and father are birthed from my failure to deal with my father appropriately, over a decade after I have even seen him. I only allow dating relationships to reach a certain point before I bail out because I fear failing as a man, like my father failed me. I was in a deep relationship when I was in my late teenage years. I gave her my every thing, she was my world. I changed myself to meet what she needed and wanted of me. Ultimately she cheated on me, told me she hates every thing about me, and just tore apart my identity. Because I have not forgiven her fully, I still find myself avoiding getting close because it allows me to be vulnerable, which can lead to me getting hurt like I was before. I promised myself I would never allow myself to get hurt like that again. People make promises like this to themselves every day and because of not forgiving people the way they act and interact towards and with people are affected in a negative way. She hates men because she was raped at 13, he cuts himself to escape the pain of being beaten by his alcoholic mother when he was a kid, he shot innocent people at college because he was tired of being made fun of, we read these stories and they break our hearts, but there is always a deeper issue in relationship issues. The problem is the lack of forgiveness. We go through life running from that point of getting hurt or being let down only to be snatched back to the very stake we are tied to, that moment that holds us back from progression. The resolution is not to drink away the memories, cut ourselves to alleviate the pain, or live life pointing the finger, it is not to forget, but forgive.

The flawed promises of, “I’ll never allow myself to get hurt like that again,” leaves us empty and miserable. Forgiveness is making yourself available to get hurt. There is no limit to forgiveness. There is this misconception that when you forgive you must not allow yourself to get hurt like that again. Peter asked Jesus once how many times he was to forgive. Jesus responded well in saying, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:22, NIV).” Then he followed this up with a parable to further illustrate His point.

"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. "The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart (Matthew 18: 23-35, NIV)."

This parable and Peter’s question about forgiveness follows Jesus’ discourse on discipline within the church. Jesus is saying that we are to forgive as many times as we are wronged. God forgives us, cancelled our debts in full and we are to show the same kind of forgiveness to others. To think about how many times we have wronged God, sinned against our master will bring about astounding numbers, numbers that mean nothing, because God forgives every time. God does not protect Himself from getting hurt by others. God even went as far to send His only Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to reside among His creation just to be sinned against and hurt, ultimately murdered. If Jesus kept count, we would all be in deep trouble, so how is it justified that we protect ourselves and make sure that we are not hurt again? The uncomfortable part about forgiveness is the relinquishment of control. When we forgive we give others the opportunity to hurt us again.

The uncomfortable part about forgiveness is the relinquishment of control. When we forgive we give others the opportunity to hurt us again. However, forgiveness is not forgetting. The beauty in scars is the reminder of the past. There is a difference in learning from the past and not forgetting it and not forgiving. Scars take time to heal, they must scab over and heal before they fully heal. There is ointment, band aids, blood, pain, and an ugly process that a wound goes through to become a scar. Often times we act as if we were children, little boys in the school yard though. When the wound begins to scab over and our boy begins to heal itself, we pick the scab only to go through the pain again and watch ourselves bleed. I have a friend who got into a fight with Boo Boo Lee when he was younger. He was hit over the head with brick and has a scar to remind him what happened. My sister has a scar on her eye brow from when she was jumping on the bed and hit the post. Children have scars on their hands from touching stoves they were told are hot. These scars remind us that the past is real. We are given opportunities to let our wounds heal and become reminders of past experiences we can learn from. My friend now knows what can happen in a fight with Boo Boo Lee and what to avoid, my sister no longer jumps on the bed, those toddlers have learned to not touch the stove. Without remembering our past we would continue to hurt ourselves. You cannot grow without getting hurt, the scars from that pain remind us of those experiences and the knowledge we learned from within. When I see characteristics of my father in myself, I can view them as warning signs and correct them, when she encounters an aggressive man, she can back away, he can stop cutting himself and be cautious of an alcoholic person in his life, we can all be aware of warning signs and act accordingly, we cannot control if we will get hurt, but we can make wise decisions based upon our past. We can stop picking our wounds and let them heal, we can stop bleeding by allowing ourselves to be healed (by the Holy Spirit), and find beauty in scars.

We have the opportunity to let go of the pain we feel from wounds. We do not have to keep picking and watching ourselves bleed, God wants to heal us, much like the body automatically begins to heal our wounds. It is up to us to learn to allow our bodies to heal our wounds by creating a scab and not pick it, allow God to work through and in us to heal the pain and eventually just have a scar. We have comfort in God, He is telling us like He told David, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV)." God is always with us and we have assurance that we can seek refuge in Him (Psalm 46). Forgiveness is the key to any healthy relationship. Without forgiveness we are tied to the stake in the ground like the Chihuahua. We don’t have to pick these wounds, we don’t have to be pulled back by a chain tied to a moment of pain or hurt, we do not have to tear our hearts open just to feel, we can treat scars and our past as reminders of our past, that it is real. Forgive, but do not forget.

May you forgive and allow healing so you may experience relationships in full.

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