The senior pastor in my current denominational home gave an excellent teaching on forgiveness. I should be applauding; instead, I’m quaking and nauseous and cold to the bone.
It’s not him. In any denominational pew, forgiveness homilies or sermons or teachings get me this way.
Part of it is that my still, small Voice says that to receive His forgiveness I have to forgive others. If I don’t forgive others; He doesn’t forgive me. Without that forgiveness, I fry… like bacon… eternally. So, I am constantly trying to do a seek and destroy mission on any hint of anger or unforgiveness or retribution that is hiding in my heart.
But there’s another part… a part I rarely discuss or disclose. I’m going to take you on journey that is not for the faint of heart. In fact, if you start to feel overwhelmed or angry or depressed, please stop, close the browser, and move on to another blogger for the time being.
I am an adult survivor of childhood teasing and bullying. In those moments when pastors are talking about forgiveness, I’m feeling sick and scared and angry and humiliated and sad about the way I was treated. My Heavenly Father made me fearfully and wonderfully, but fragile and easy to break. I was bright and brainy, scrawny, with a sensitive side that I just couldn’t explain or reach because I didn’t have all the experience or words.
I remember breaking at being accused of calling someone an “asshole of homosexual” when all I had done was try to tell him he was an asinine homo sapiens, to use my brain to say “Your actions hurt and I need you to stop using words that break my heart.” Funny thing is, I didn’t even know what a homosexual was at the time. It didn’t help that the teacher involved turned it into a capital case and spent 30 minutes investigating from the perspective of all involved. It made me feel like it was wrong to be smart and stand out for being intelligent.
I remember my cheeks flushing hot with shame because I didn’t understand physical versus emotional hurt and a teacher was so angry with me that I had to wear a donkey tail all day. I go back to that moment every time a classmate recalls it as a funny story. They don’t seem to read the physical cues that say I hate what they are doing and I need to forget that moment. I do give that teacher credit; over time, he changed and did things that built my special needs daughter up when he had her.
I remember how indignant and hurt I was when I was supposed to have time with just my father (a precursor to the current daddy-daughter date concept) and someone would stop him on the street to talk about school. I felt invisible, like no one could see it was my time… with my dad… that was interrupted without any consideration for me as his child.
I remember having no interest in boys when a gang of girls gave me a choice between eating a worm or kissing a boy. When I couldn’t express which I wanted (both turned my stomach at the time) quickly enough, they dragged me over and threw me at him. After “the deed” was done, I sat sick and confused, and some other kids who saw the whole thing threw a worm in my lap. I wanted to cry, but I knew that would make me a target, so I shut down and didn’t say a word until I got home.
I remember my confusion and shame as people teased me because my father taught and they didn’t like the way he taught. I didn’t understand the concept of using someone to hurt someone else they were related to.
It was the frustration of being prepared for class with a homework assignment done a few days in advance and stored in my locker. It was the shock and sickness of being “blessed” to find it missing the day before it was due, replaced by a dead flower (blessed because I had time to redo it). It was the anxiety and fear and forgetfulness of trying to reproduce the assignment, only to have the missing assignment reappear the class before it was due.
I remember feeling dumb and ashamed and guilty at a trick that was played on me. It started out naive and innocent, like a party game. You try to flip a coin from your nose to a newspaper funnel in your belt. Unfortunately, the “leader” dumps water down the funnel when you least expect it. Cold and wet and sick and feeling stupid, I stood dumbfounded with everyone laughing about me peeing myself. The teacher offered to get my jeans dried. Unfortunately, I was afraid they’d disappear, and I’d have to finish the day in my gym shorts in winter when I hadn’t shaved my legs.
We’ve already talked about the speech I earned that was only finally “heard” on this blog in a previous post. I went away to college broken and making choices that got me into even more brokenness. For another decade or more, I just kept breaking me because I didn’t know how my Heavenly Father felt about me, I couldn’t imagine Him feeling it about me, and I didn’t want to believe it possible for Him to feel it about me.
The reality is broken people break others. Broken parents break children; broken children break other children; other broken adults break the children with whom they have contact; broken adults break other adults. We all are broken people living in a broken world. It’s not a question of if brokenness will happen; it’s a question of when.
So how do broken people become unbroken, put back together, less likely to have sharp edges that break others?
First, we have to acknowledge that we are broken and can’t fix ourselves, that we need our still, small Voice to lead us and guide us. We acknowledge that we can only control ourselves, and we do a poor job at that without the still, small Voice to guide us and help us.
Next, we forgive. We forgive at first because we know it’s a command with eternal consequences if we choose the option of failure (which isn’t an option); then we forgive because we realize it helps to heal the wounds and shatter the chains that keep us from a better destiny than we could ever imagine in the dark world of pain and bitterness and revenge. We may even forgive because we know it will heal another or encourage another. We forgive even if the other person doesn’t know they are broken or that their brokenness broke us.
Note: Forgiveness does not mean we have to be buddy-buddy with the person who hurt us.
So in the list below, I am publicly declaring choices I believe I made long ago. I am asking the spiritually mature who know me in real life to hold me accountable to walking this out; I am asking the solid Christians who follow my blog to hold me accountable as I blog to writing this out.
- I forgive the children at school at all levels who hurt me.
- I forgive the teachers who hurt me either by direct action or by tolerating the actions of my peers.
- I forgive the townspeople who broke us through gossip or intrusion or some other action or inaction.
- I forgive the people in denomination A who refused to accept me because I had tolerance for and friends in denominations B, C, and D, just as I forgive the people in denominations B, C, and D for their stands because of my connections to denomination A.
- I forgive the college men…no, boys because we were all young… who couldn’t see me as a person because I was competition or the wrong gender just as I forgive the ones who saw me as something to use to get some thing or feeling of value to them instead of someone to be valued and treasured.
- I forgive the people who can’t accept the freaks, geeks, and outsiders and use shame, guilt, and humiliation to box in the freaks, geeks, and outsiders and steal their beautiful voices full of uniqueness, dissent, and difference.
- I forgive my ex husband (note, I didn’t say trust).
- I forgive all the spammers who hit my email and my blog regularly. (Sorry, needed a humor break.)
I will still sometimes write about the things that hurt. It’s not because I want to hurt back, but because I want… no, need… to write to process all this stuff. I want to take people along on this journey. Partly, I choose this to share how the pain has shaped me for ill or good so they can maybe gain from what I’ve gone through and learn more quickly so they can get out more quickly. Another part shares because I want to stop the brokenness; I want people to try to see the impact words and actions have on others long after the initial interactions are past. I want parents to consider if they are challenging their kids to do better than they did, not financially, but emotionally, spiritually, and socially with everyone in their social circle.
In essence, I want my writing to not break people but to build them up, to sand off the sharp edges, and to polish to a finish that reflects the glory of the Heavenly Father of us all. And I believe that situations can be discussed in ways that hide the identities of the breakers and the broken but still reveal the patterns that lead to the point of brokenness and show a path toward wholeness.
So that’s the standard everyone who reads my blog can use to hold me accountable. Am I drawing people to explore the thoughts their Heavenly Father has toward them by attempts to reflect His glory? Does my writing build up and not tear down?
So to that end, I ask forgiveness for the following:
I am sorry if the way I’ve painted where I live gives anyone indigestion. It is really a beautiful place. The people are broken and break others; but we’re all broken inside. It’s just a question of what kind of brokenness do you have and how open are you about it with others (in a positive, working-on-it, non-whiny-hiney way).
I am sorry to anyone who thinks I’ve stolen the ideas or words of another. That is not my intent; I try to give people credit where credit is due. If I’ve used the ideas or words as a springboard, I give credit for the original idea or word, but the reality is I’m expressing it in a novel and different way for this generation. (The reality is there is nothing new under the sun according to Solomon.)
I am sorry to all non-Christians for any way I’ve made you uncomfortable or feel condemned. I am trying to be a “real” Christian, warts and all, to show Christianity is a conscious lifestyle and relationship choice minute by minute to act in accord with the words of our Heavenly Father and it is not a series of acts by brainwashed robots to make everyone clones of us. I will however sometimes address differences in belief systems; I cannot apologize for this as this is my job as a writer–to research information, analyze it, and synthesize a series of ideas that may sometime be challenging to consider.
I ask any offended Christians to forgive me if I seem to have watered down the Message. I am experimenting with some ideas on my blog, particularly how to express things if that wonderful Name above all Names, the name of Jesus, should ever be outlawed in our corner of the globe. I know the thought is horrific, scary, and inconceivable. However, history is a repeating spiral. Persecution can and does happen. It is happening even as I write in many other corners of the globe. I know there are places where certain passages, like the first few chapters of Romans, have become illegal because of emotional distress. I want to experiment with how to be a Christ-follower and express the ideals of our faith if words and the Name are outlawed.
May the highest praises be to Jesus and His Name, the mention of which ensures that eventually every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth.