As a painter and artist, one of the things I look forward to is walking into a yard sale, or thrift store, and finding some old cast off item, that to most people is just trash.
I purchase the item, take it home, and begin the process of its reclamation.
I start by washing off the layers of old dirt and grime.
Then, I usually sand and prime the object to prevent any further damage to it.
Then, my fun really begins.
I get out my paint brushes and paint and begin to magically transform this object into a work of art.
Our lives are no different from these old cast off objects.
We all have memories from our past that haunt us, and torment us daily,
a cruel parent,
a childhood fight with a friend,
and painful accident, etc.
No matter who you are, or what your circumstances, we all have pain in our past.
All of us!
So how can you live a surrendered life, when you are filled with pain, regret, and unforgiveness?
The answer is simple…
So, is there a way to resolve these issues and begin today to wipe the slate clean and claim your peace of mind?
Of course there is!
It is a process, just like when I am in the process of reclaiming some found object.
If I skip any of the steps along the way, my item will not look as good as it does when I take the time to COMPLETELY restore it.
Sure, it looks better than it did when I found it, but without following the entire process of reclamation, it will never be fully restored.
God understands our past often better than we do, and he longs to give us the peace that is possible through redemption and surrender.
Listen to the love that is spoken in this scripture passage from Psalms.
(Psalm 103:2-5) 2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
I don’t know about you, but just reading those words fills me with hope.
My past is filled with stories of abuse and pain.
My first husband abused my son in unspeakable ways, that forever altered his future.
The pain that this event caused both of us was nearly unbearable.
The abuse was definitely unforgivable.
How could I, as a mother, ever forgive such a cruel act of abuse toward my own child, especially when the one who hurt him was his very own father.
This event nearly ruined my life, and the life of my child.
The thing that saved me was a comment that my son made to me on one particularly difficult day when my heart was so full of anguish that I could not stop crying.
My precious little boy, who was only 4 yrs old at the time, took my face in his hands, and looked me in the eye, and spoke this truth to me.
He said, ” Mommy, I didn’t tell you what my daddy did so that you would hate him. I just needed you to keep me safe.”
Talk about powerful.
It was in that moment that I knew, I HAD to find a way to cope with this. To handle the feelings that were running out of control in my life.
That was when I began my quest to understand forgiveness, redemption, surrender, and the peace that comes from these things.
That is why the scripture above brings such joy to my soul.
God not only longs to heal our sins, but to also restore us to our former glory.
He longs for us to experience the freedom that comes from surrendering these things to him for judgement and healing.
He longs to restore our lives the way I restore objects.
Before we can begin the process of healing, we first need to get a correct view of God.
It is impossible to be redeemed if you don’t know who your redeemer is.
Here are the two steps that I used to reclaim my peace, and eventually find a way to understand forgiveness in a whole new way.
A way that made it possible for me to let go of the need to have had a better past.
1. Understand God’s ideal.
God never intended us to experience harm. His ideal life for us was not one filled with hurt. His ideal for us included free will, and often, we are hurt when another person uses their free will against us.
But remember that Gods ideal for us does not include pain.
Therefore, when people sin against us, we need to keep in mind that it was their choice, not Gods ideal for us. He cannot stop them from making the choices, but he can heal and protect us when they do.
It is devastating when we blame God for the choices of others.
When we do this it is actually keeping us from the very person who has the power to heal our broken places.
So step #1 is to always remember Gods ideal for us is happiness and peace.
2. Embrace the power of forgiveness.
I misunderstood the meaning of forgiveness for years, and that is why I was in such pain following the abuse of my son.
I thought forgiveness was no longer having negative feelings, or pretending nothing had ever happened.
Both of those ideas were impossible to accomplish considering the extent of the abuse.
This misunderstanding only made me feel even more guilty and angry.
I believed that I was unable to forgive, because I was not able to let go of the feelings I had about the abuse, or the anger I felt toward my ex husband.
I knew that scripture tells me that I have to forgive, if I want to be forgiven, that is serious stuff! I knew that I needed forgiveness, and that my anger was hurting my son even further, so I knew I HAD to get this forgiveness thing down, and the sooner the better!
It was so encouraging when I discovered what forgiveness actually is and what it isn’t.
What I didn’t understand was that forgiveness IS NOT a feeling.
The pain of the event is REAL, and the negative feelings are the appropriate response to the event.
Bad feelings aren’t wrong.
Even Jesus experienced negative feelings while living amongst men.
He felt sorrow, disappointment, and even anger, but what he did not do was allow his feelings to cause him to sin.
Forgiveness is also NOT pretending that nothing happened.
It is not unconditional trust, or maintaining the relationship like you did before the event.
Forgiveness is also NOT condoning someones sinful behavior.
So if forgiveness is not pretending, unconditional trust, maintaining a relationship, or condoning their behavior, what is it?
What does forgiveness really mean, and how do we achieve its beautiful gift of surrender and release?
Forgiveness is choosing not to retaliate or get even.
Forgiveness is choosing to give good to the one who has harmed us instead of the evil they have given to us.
Forgiveness is ongoing and might include setting healthy boundaries.
Ultimately forgiveness is a choice.
In the case of my sons abuse, I sought protection for him by using the law.
Once he was protected from this person, and would no longer have him in his life. We then began the process of repairing the damage by finding a therapist that could help us both discover where our boundaries were.
I can honestly say, that over the last fourteen years, I have come to a place where we no longer hate him for what he did.
We have accepted that he has the right to choose the life he desires, and that because his choices are painful to us, we choose to not be a part of his life in any way shape or form.
We have permanently severed all ties with him.
By setting boundaries, we set ourselves free.
Ultimately, forgiveness will come.
But you must always remember that you cannot FEEL your way into right behavior,
But… you can BEHAVE your way into right feelings.
When you have been wounded, if you allow your feelings to guide your life, they will bring you to wrong attitudes and behaviors.
When we choose to be obedient, and respond in appropriate ways, our feelings will eventually get better.
We will wake up one morning, and realize that the wound has healed.
That the artist who created us, found us again and scrubbed off all our dirt and grime, and restored our life, and that we are once again beautiful.