Tag Archive: forgiveness


Forgive Again!

This morning I visited an AA meeting before my regular OA meeting. While sitting among them listening to their Step Eight shares, the following occurred to me:

I, like many Twelve-Steppers before me, resist listing harms done in Step Eight because I am fully aware of the Step Nine amends to follow. One of the basic spiritual concepts linked with Step Eight is forgiveness, and many people mingle forgiveness with amends because they believe an apology is necessary in order to forgive. I often say that the hardest ones to forgive are those who know not what they do. I can tell that I’m getting the two confused when I repeat an apology or fail to repeat forgiveness. I don’t want to be the guy who starts every day telling his wife he is sorry for cheating on her in 1985. That guy is ruining two lives. I also know there is something amiss when I ask God to forgive that sorry, no-good, son of a trouble-maker! I cannot leave all the forgiving to God.

The hardest ones to forgive are those who know not what they do.

When I think of amends, I think of a tailor repairing a garment. I don’t know much about how sewing machines work, but I do know there is a spool at the top and a bobbin underneath. If the thread only comes from the top and never the bottom, as soon as the fabric is lifted, the thread pulls right out. So it is when forgiveness only comes from Heaven. When it is not met with forgiveness from someone of us down here underneath, it has no chance to bind to the fabric and all the blessed progress just comes unfurled.

There is a white board on my bedroom wall, and on it I have written a forgiveness prayer that goes like this:

“I love and forgive _____ in the Name of Jesus, and I call my feelings, thoughts, and behaviors into alignment with God’s will.”

Below that prayer is a running list of my resentments, each one an answer to my fill-in-the-blank prayer. The list has changed some since I first took a Fourth Step, but it is my way of continuing to take personal inventory and admitting when I’m wrong. The thing is, I have to list those people, groups, and institutions regularly, or my carnal self will begin to slip back into judgment, I will hold those parties in contempt, often trying to punish or correct them, and maybe even despising them with bitterness that poisons only one soul — mine. While praying this list, sometimes I think, “I don’t even think about that person anymore,” and they retire off my list. Other days, I storm into my room and emblazon a new name on my list, and I start again, calling God’s will into my life and aligning with it my intentions for a loving attitude.

I confess I suck at this forgiveness routine. That’s one of the many reasons my own name appears at the top of my forgiveness list. I despise the me that failed at being kind and generous today almost as much as the 6 year-old me who never stopped crying because he was convinced nobody loved him. I want to tell that school kid to suck it up and get a grip, and I want to tell the grown man in the mirror how ashamed of him I am for failing at grace so quickly after committing to mission living in his morning devotion.

Still, the stitches of forgiveness are made with a spool from above and a bobbin below, so I’ll bob and weave my part while God supplies the good stuff from above. As today’s AA meeting closed with the Lord’s Prayer, I heard “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” a little differently. God and I are stitching a tapestry, making something new of many tattered shreds. It’s His masterpiece; I’m just submitting to His work.

The stitches of forgiveness are made with a spool from above and a bobbin below.

 

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5, NIV

“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:15, NIV

 

 

Advertisements

Amendment to my POE

Weight is not valueDear Sponsor,

I got on the scale yesterday and discovered an undesirable weight change has crept upon me. Since I haven’t weighed in several months, I am not greatly disturbed by this discovery, but I am prompted to make some changes in my daily Plan of Eating (POE). My daily calorie intake goal had been 2150, due to my continued weight loss at the standard 2000. Since that no longer seems to be the case, I am dropping to the standard 2000 until things level off.

In practice, I plan to eliminate:

  • the half serving of raw almonds from my typical lunch (75 Kcal.)
  • one half serving of almond butter from typical dinner (100 Kcal.)
  • though the above represents 175 calories, I am committed to reducing the daily target by 150 calories, whether the “typical” meals are on the menu for any given day or not.

I haven’t written much lately, but great changes are taking place regarding my personal development. I was recently reawakened to the existence of my character defect of wrath as expressed by outbursts of rage, harsh criticism, and verbal condemnation. While addressing this defect in prayer, I was convicted that is is correlated to my habit of judgement, for which I am responsible. When I look at these and the way they correspond to my progress regarding food and weight, I am reminded that I cannot control my weight, but I am responsible for my food choices. When I make healthy food choices according to properly administered limits, there is a corresponding body weight change. I cannot merely pray that God remove my excess weight while eating whatever I want whenever I crave it, and neither can I stew in my hateful judgement and expect God to remove my character defect of wrath. I have some habits to change. So, I am addressing each instance of judgment much like I would a craving for food, cigarettes, booze, or any other toxin. I recognize it as judgement, turn from it, turn to God in prayer, and relinquish the craving to His care and control, offering the outcome to Him. So far, it works when I work it.

Another development in my life is the halfway mark in Nursing School. I would never have imagined it would be this difficult. I don’t know how much of my problem is that I am an adult learner returning to school in middle-age, or just that I have become an unteachable know-it-all who refuses to learn the new language of Nursing Academia. I can’t control the first option, but I have full control over the second, so I repeatedly pray that God will make me teachable, that I will study the right materials with focus, retain what I need, and be able to recall with clarity the answers I am called upon to know. I have been counseled by professors that I “overthink” exam questions, but I don’t really understand how overthinking can be a bad thing. I guess what they mean is I over-create details that aren’t written, or imagine what-if scenarios that aren’t articulated in the perfect vacuum of an exam. In my previous career, second and third guessing was routine, any possible outcome or precipitating cause had to be explored, and life balanced on my ability to anticipate the unimaginable. Now, in the world of the Nursing Student, my hyper-vigilance is considered an attention deficit, one I have to rein in or else. As a matter of fact, this very blog post represents a digression from my studies.

Because of that, I can’t really go into detail about the other personal development, but it’s huge. It involves the recognition of abuse in my life, forgiveness offered, and amends being lived out. I really must tell you about it soon.

 

(prayer) Holy Father, make me teachable. Relieve me from the bondage of self, especially as it relates to wrath, and help me cease this habit of judgment since it only serves to alienate me from Your children You put me on this Earth to serve in love. Thank You for progress. Thank You for grace. Help me live so saturated in it that, when I open my mouth or hands to share, Your grace is all that flows out. May Your will be done in every aspect of my life as it is in Heaven.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

“Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

No Secrets or Grudges!

Today’s reading was chock full of goodies, but even with Jesus addressing fasting and giving, I chose to highlight His instruction on the two-way nature of forgiveness.

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15, NRSV)

That’s pretty clear, but we do tend to avoid the truth of it. The rest of the chapter points out that our Heavenly Father sees all our secrets: our private giving, our discreet fasting, and oh yes, this matter of forgiveness and grudge-bearing. Forgiveness is promised to the one who forgives, but my experience is that being forgiven makes it possible for me to forgive. When I was under guilt, I wanted company, and I wanted them to feel more guilty than me, so I pointed out their sins, told them they needed a Savior, and did my best to hide away the log-sized guilt in my own eye. When hiding it didn’t work, I indulged myself in guilt-assuaging pleasures, which led to more guilt, and the cycle began to run over my life. It stops when we accept forgiveness, and perpetuates itself when we, out of gratitude for that forgiveness, forgive others. I cannot serve both grace and bitterness at the same time. Yesterday, I got wrapped around a silly bit of bitterness and it robbed me of my joy most of the day. Had I immediately forgiven my trespasser, I would have remained comfortably under grace. Instead, I stepped out into a flurry of hate and discontent and found myself bitten by the frost of it.

Dear Father, today, I thank you for the grace that You have given me in such measure that I can share it with others. I need not whine about the penny owed me when you have paid my million dollar debt.

My impending retirement, though still nine weeks away, is beginning to have an effect on me at work. I have been marginalized more and more these last few weeks, and was even told by my boss this afternoon, “Shut up. You’re retired anyway!” Later, seeing friends at work I don’t see regularly, I was told, “Goodbye,” by two of them who shook my hand like it really was goodbye!

I have been an active, contributing part of my organization up to this point. Junior employees have even complimented me for staying in the game even this close to retirement, like it was my first year. But the events of today took the wind right out of me. I don’t feel like crossing the street for my boss, and I’m not sure I would drag a hose to him if he were on fire right now. I caught myself doing precious little at work today. I’m not satisfied with myself, because I recognize I’m pouting with my inaction in response to how I felt at being belittled by someone I expected to be a trusted authority.

The fact is my expectations are MY problem, and acting according to feelings is the root of my disease, so I know I have to let this go.

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (Colossians 3:23, NASB)

Heavenly Father, help me forgive those who harm me; and help me not to expect security in authority from anyone but You. Christ forgave His crucifixion attendants. Surely I can rise above a little chiding. Help me gracefully accept the changes going on in my life, rather than resent them. I look forward to what lies ahead. Help me remember that. …but not to the exclusion of what You have for me to do today. Your will be done!

Abstinent Today:

I am a gratefully recovering compulsive overeater, abstinent by the grace of God one more* day at a time.  †

The word “deserve” has been at the core of my disease.  I have vacillated between believing that I deserve all or whatever I cared to eat and believing that I did not deserve to live a long or healthy life.  Each of those beliefs opened the door to negative behavior.  In the first case I would reward myself with a string of unhealthy binges, and in the second I would sentence myself to a long tirade of unhealthy binges.  The outcome was the same either way: I overate, isolated, and spiraled into despair.  Outside the tiny circle of Me, I applied deserve to others as well, as I judged and sentenced every other person, place, and institution according to my warped sense of deserve.  As odd as it may sound, given the low esteem in which I held myself, part of me believed that every other human should aspire to be like me (or, rather, do things my way), and that I was somehow God’s favored choice for ruler of the known world, though the world did not seem to recognize it.  Very disappointing!

When I was at the gym this morning worshipping God in movement and praise, it occurred to me that the word “deserve” stands is stark contradiction to the word “grace” on which the Gospel is built.  In the times when I recognize my sin and feel ashamed, that is a good shame.  When I feel as though I deserve punishment or death, there is actually a spiritual truth there.  It is called conviction.  That cognition, however, is not there to drive me to suicide or harmful addictions, it is to bring me back under grace where God has wanted me all along.  As I stand in the cleansing flow of God’s undeserved forgiveness, I am washed of the hate that judges, the fear that despises, the material desire that covets, and the shame that seeks to overwhelm me in despair.  So that grace would cost us nothing, it had to cost someone everything.  Only one payee could satisfy the debt of the world by one death, the Creator Himself, who planted Himself in the human, Jesus Christ, just so He could demonstrate light and life to those of us overcome by the darkness of death, and then to die to buy that life for everyone who would accept it.  How exciting!

Deserve lets us know we are faulty; Grace lets us know we are worthy!  Today I choose to respond to grace.

Lift My Life Up, by Unspoken

From today’s entry in Voices of Recovery:

“The basic concept of Overeaters Anonymous is that compulsive overeating is a disease that affects the person on three levels— physical, spiritual, and emotional.” — Overeaters Anonymous, Second Edition, p. 234

I’ve been listening to a lot of recordings of medical missionaries lately, and it is amazing to hear so many saying what it took recovery for me to discover myself: that the physical, spiritual and emotional attributes of a person are all connected, and that one cannot be treated without addressing all three, or the problem has not been resolved.  I thank God for giving me the disease of compulsive overeating (or, if you prefer, food addiction).  If I had no malfunction of the physical body, I am not sure I ever would have believed I had a spiritual illness.  At 320 pounds (145.15kg, 22.9 stone), with acid reflux disease, chronic severe hypertension, chronic fatigue, severely diminished agility, unpredictable mood swings, explosive fits of rage, and finally a severed knee ligament that snapped under my weight, there was little denying that my life was in a state of dis-order.  I remember objecting to the word “disease” at first, until my sponsor asked me if I was at ease.  “Certainly not!” was the obvious answer.  “Then you are at dis-ease.  Wouldn’t you say?”  Suddenly the word “disease” fit perfectly.

Fortunately, the diseases of addiction have a treatment: a remediation of the Gospel of grace in the adaptation of the Twelve Steps.  From the recognition that I need help (Step One) all the way through to sharing that help with someone else (Step Twelve), these steps are, to me, what discipleship should have always been in the first place.

Thank You, God, for the disease of and deliverance from compulsive overeating!

From Proverbs 21, NIV:

A person may think their own ways are right,
but the Lord weighs the heart.

Self-delusion is the precursor to self-gratification.  This demonstrates the need for a constant Step Ten: “We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”  I need to ask God to identify and point out shortcomings, not so I can rid myself of them, but so I can surrender them to His loving care and redemptive grace.  He cleanses those who will be clean.

From my reading through the Bible, currently in 2 Peter 3, NIV:

17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Peter warns of the coming destruction of earth and the promise of salvation for those who hope in Jesus.  I think it is fitting that he tells us to be careful not to be deceived and fall from our secure position.  Peter, in his simple outspoken way hushes all the theological arguers who dispute the security of salvation, by calling it secure and yet warning us not to fall from it.  Priceless!  When we put our focus on growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, we will find less time to argue about such matters, because our hands will be full of the hungry, the sick, the hurting, and the imprisoned.

God, You know that I am a faulty human being, but one for whom You died, so I am valued beyond my understanding.  Please grow me in grace and relationship with You, so that my knowledge of You may be real, tangible, and useful and not merely scholastic.  Help me look forward to Your coming, but not idly.  Keep me busily pursuing Your righteousness by selflessly serving those around me like You did and do.

From the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, page 84:

This thought brings us to Step Ten, which suggests we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along. We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past. We have entered the world of the Spirit. Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness. This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them.

Footnotes:

*Abstinence began for me on May 11th, 2010.

† For the sake of accountability, the details of my eating are posted in my online food log.