This is Part III of a seven-day series I’m calling Treatise on Life in 2010. The series is designed to be an inspirational account of my fall from the complacent plateau I was on; down to what might make some think about bringing it all to an end. Through my living hell, I’ve found that God has done some wonderful things in my life the past 18 months and much of that time I’ve thought he was doing things “to” me, not “for” me. My mistake.
My goal here is to help you see the changes that have come about in my life that are refocusing my life mission and melding me back into someone God is using to affect positive and great change. I’d very much gotten off that path, and to get my attention, He decided it was best to remove the “distractions,” what I thought to be “the good life,” so that I could indeed focus once again on the mission he has laid out before me.
Saturday’s first installment was entitled The Treatise on Life in 2010–How I stopped fighting God and Started Following Instead. Sunday’s was called–The Old Me. Today’s message contains a few thoughts about some of the regrets I have from the past several years and one of the most important things I must do now–Forgive. Decisions I didn’t make wound up costing me greatly. Failing to be forgiving has left God waiting for me to do the same. Therefore, today’s piece simply is entitled, Forgiveness and Regrets.
If, of all words of tongue and pen
The saddest are, ‘It might have been.’
More sad are these we daily see;
‘It is, but hadn’t ought to be!’ —Bret Harte
I don’t know much, well, anything really about Bret Harte, but his words above ring so true to my heart these days, particularly as I prepare to present a piece to you about my regrets of the past few years. My life since June of 2009 has been one of great upheaval. I’ve suffered great injustices, abuses of our court system, financial issues, unemployment, the stresses of having a family with seven children ripped apart, seeing what I thought was supposed to be a legal and just judicial system dispose of evidence with no basis on the law, seeing the police, who vow to protect and to serve–do anything but that. The list goes on, and could go on for as long as a HTML page can scroll. But such is not my purpose.
The hardest challenge I still face is forgiveness of those who have wreaked such havoc on my life. The nerves are still so very raw. Their pompousness nauseating. Their greed and deceit still so fresh in the air. The words and actions of their perpetual anger still wafting across the cells of my brain as though they were just a moment old.
On CBS Sunday Morning yesterday, Ben Stein gave his commentary about how this holiday season the greatest gift we could give others is the actual forgiveness for their offenses. He said we must forgive loved ones, exes, former employers, those who cut you off in traffic, those who made illogical decisions that brought financial ruin upon your house, those who apparently know no other way but being rude and spiteful, those who for reasons I shall never comprehend walk about angry about just about everything, imaginable or real.
It’s not a gift you can put in a box and wrap up with a pretty bow.
With all the pain heaped upon me the past 18 months, to me, that’s a pretty tall order. Like I said, the ozone around me is still fresh with the smell of the ignition of emotional gun powder, the pain still lingering as though it were an old injury aching whenever a cold front approaches. “Forgive,” Stein said, “you’ll feel so much better.”
Whew. That’s so hard to think about. Right?
Now I’m sure there are many of you out there who do not look to Ben Stein for your emotional or moral direction. But in Matthew in the Bible, Jesus tells us that forgiveness is paramount to God forgiving us. MATTHEW 19:14 “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
That Was Easy!
I think I liked it better when Jesus was saying to “sell all your belongings and follow me.” Having so little left, that feels like it’d be much easier. But that’s just it, isn’t it? God and life seldom present a way out that’s easy. And yet so much of our society in 2010 is built upon the premise of easy.
Staples, the office supply company has championed the word “Easy” with their mashable, “That was Easy!” button. (I actually have two of them around here.) We’ve all grown so accustomed to doing like The Beatles’ Day Tripper subject: who is “taking the easy way out.” It’s a concept that’s been heaped upon us for generations. We’ve really come to think as a society that “easy” is the only way to go.
As noted previously, looking back from where I sit now in December 2010, I, too, had gotten into the habit of harboring grudges, not forgiving people, taking the easy way out, and ultimately, it now fills me with regret.
I still love my second wife. There’s no simpler way of saying that. But with the passing of each day, as clouds of the past lift from the path of my current daily walk, I’ve come to realize I’m on a road in the forest I didn’t realize I’d wondered upon. Call it blinders. Call it enabling. Call it, “if I just bare through it all, things will be better.” Call it whatever you may. The conclusions come to the same point every time. Regrettably, when it comes to affairs of the heart, I have a co-dependency; a desire to feel needed. I have this sad notion in my head that I can solve any problem that gets cast into my path. As John Lennon sung it, “When I was younger, so much younger than today, I never needed any help in any way.”
I was always able to overcome my challenges before. The money always appeared out of nowhere just in the nick of time. When I wanted or needed to change jobs or return from having done one, it just fell into place. The ball bounced my way. An elder at my church in Montgomery, Alabama labeled me a “survivor” in 1999. Even at that point, my life had changed. I was no longer making things happen in my world, I was responding to them.
My greatest regret of years past was to have become too complacent, too accepting, too co-dependent, too frenzied to put my foot down when I needed to and tell whomever needed to hear it, to “cut the crap.”
In the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to make more and more a conscious decision to forgive those who have sinned against me, who have robbed me of time, peace, my children, money, my dog, and my sense of safety, even within my own home.
Sitting here in late December 2010 with so little cash in the bank, with bills stacking up that I’m struggling to pay, with conflicts still remaining with my second wife over absolutely ridiculous things, I’m finding time to think in the overwhelming sound of quiet, and offer forgiveness to people who on one hand, “Don’t deserve it!” but whom I know I must forgive so that God can put me back into the mission which he has chosen for me–and leave me with enough of those wounds I spoke of before, to hopefully never slip backward into. And most importantly, so God can forgive me and put me back into the game.
I regret that it’s taken this long to get to this point on the path. I regret that so much has transpired between people whom I once loved very much, and maybe still do in varying degrees. What I’ve done wrong is to adopt their pain, their anger, their frustrations and let them become my own. I confused their own personal struggles with my mission from God. I thought my reason for riding in on a white horse was to “fix” other people, when God was working so hard to “fix” me. Perhaps that’s my greatest fault or sin of my own. But I have wide shoulders. A man is supposed to be able to carry great burdens, to be strong, masculine and never faltering. Right? Show me that guy and down deep, probably not very deep at all actually, we’ll find a man who is struggling himself.
And so here in this spot, I now offer my forgiveness to so many people, and here I also beg and plead for your forgiveness in return. I ask you to take that a step further and consciously forgive those who you want to remain angry at, who wronged you, who abused you, who committed egregious wrongs against you. God is listening. He’s been waiting an awful long time, and He can continue to wait, but remember, the longer you go, the shorter the leash is going to get and one day, like I found out, when you run out of it, it starts getting pulled back in. If you don’t do this, trust me, you’ll regret it.
Tomorrow’s message: Blended Families and Divorce
Part I: The Treatise on Life in 2010–How I stopped fighting God and Started Following Instead.
Part II: The Treatise on Life in 2010–The Old Me
Part III: The Treatise on Life in 2010–Forgiveness and Regrets
- Must You Forgive? (psychologytoday.com)
- The Power of Apology (psychologytoday.com)
- The Phases of Forgiveness – 2 Corinthians 2:5-8 (dianneguthmuller.com)
- I’ve forgiven the man who killed my family (2) – Dr. Tai Ikomi (vanguardngr.com)
- Stop Acting Like The Victim – You Are More Than That (pastorpaulvbsblog.blogspot.com)
- Are you strong enough to forgive? (successful-blog.com)
- The Art Of Forgiveness (andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com)