Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Conflictedness and Forgiveness

Talk about forgiveness dredges up painful memories out of the mucky, muddy bottoms of our souls. The evidence of that is the discussion taking place in the comments section of my last post about my own conflicted feelings about extending forgiveness to someone that's flipped my life upside-down.

Here in Eureka, I live less than a mile from the very shallow Humboldt Bay. During low tide, most of the bay is a smelly mud flat. From time to time, the bay needs to be dredged so that boats can pass safely through channels. Dredging also provides an environmentally friendly flow of the tides. Moving that mud around is good for harmony and balance. And it smells.

When talking about forgiveness, the discussion inevitably turns to the topic of family members who have wronged us. A family is supposed to be a refuge of peace and harmony in a world that is incredibly competitive and hostile. So when our supposed refuge becomes a place of hostility and competition instead place where peace flows, expectations are shattered and injuries inflicted cause great confusion and instability. Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse are never supposed to exist in a refuge of peace and protection.

That's why when these violations occur, the wounds are infected with unforgiveness for years, sometimes decades. So the children of wounded children are affected by the transgressions of their grandparents. Someone has to break the chain.

Relationships with each other matter more to God than the junk we've done to each other out of selfishness or revenge. I'm personally motivated to forgive family. I want an on-going, growing relationship with the people that share my name.

Because we will wrong the ones we love the most, forgiveness must be free flowing within the family. Parents to kids. Children to parents. Jesus assumes that kindness to a son from a father is instinctive even among the most wicked among us. Everybody loves their kids. Dis-owning a child is unnatural. Remember the story of the prodigal son? Even when the child dishonors the father, the father celebrates the return of the wayward.

Forgiveness flowing from children to parents is a little tougher. It's not a given. In fact, that's why a commandment had to be given in the Old Testament and a reminder in the New Testament pointing to the command. "Children, honor your parents so that you will live a long life." No other conditions are mentioned. We all have our parents' sins on record. My entire generation are offspring of parents who have parented and tried to hold marriages together through some of history's most tumultuous years. We all have many things we could hold against our parents. I come from a broken home and, quite possibly, you come from a broken home. We're a generation raised by alcoholic parents or absent fathers. This is a recipe for bad parenting and bad memories.

But God has instructed me to both honor my parents and not keep a record of wrongs. I refuse to dishonor my parents by making them acknowledge sins committed against me more than two decades ago. I was under their authority. Under it. They don't answer to me. They answer to God. I can't make them answer to me.

So how can I have a healthy, functioning relationships want to have a healthy functioning relationship moving forward? Yep. I can raise my kid's with all the fear of God and love I think should have existed in the house I grew up in. That's what I have in my power to do. I think that will produce at least two results: 1. that will allow me to share, live, express the gospel and the benefits of living in obedience; 2. it could cause them to want that for their lives. Parenting kids through their teen and young adult years has caused me to have much grace toward my parents.

My parenting has given me more opportunity to share the gospel with my parents than anything. What a pleasure it is to tell your mom and dad that God has good news; Jesus is willing to wipe out wrongs and guilt if we turn to Him.

That brings e to the original reason for my post about being conflicted about forgiveness. I don't have the same motivation to forgive someone outside of my family that has caused me tremendous pain. I don't want to be a friend. I don't want to move forward with him.

But I rarely get things the way I want them. And since I believe God is in charge and He's brought this situation to my doorstep, the reality is He may want me to have a change of heart. I'll allow Him to do that. I think it's a process, though. I'm His servant and I'll do what needs to be done. 

Jesus said on the cross, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." But Jesus didn't tell both thieves crucified with Him that they'd be in paradise with Him. According to the record, Jesus only had one conversation with one person that day that ended with a promise of paradise. An acknowledgment of who Jesus was needed to be made in order to follow Him where He was going in eternity.

If you are not in my family, I need you to acknowledge the wrongs you've done me if you want forgiveness and a relationship that moves forward. Otherwise, there is no foundation, basis, or grounds for you and me to have any kind of a relationship. And quite frankly, that's no skin off my nose.

Or is it?


Anonymous said...


I remember a literature professor I had in college and this is 1993 when the word "dysfunctional" was getting used all the time in reference to family. Well, we were reading The Cherry Orchard by Chekhov and he drew a parrallel to Chekhov's childhood being what today would be called "dysfunctional" and then the prof said "but then again, I'd actually one day really like to meet someone that came from a FUNCTIONAL family." I felt so vindicated when he said that. Ever since then I just came to the conclusion we have all had an imcredible imperfect upbringing in our own way. It's more like pick your poison. I think we learn, but I like to think my uprbringing was highly imperfect, but made me stronger in some aspects and a basket case in others...that's life. There's no other way


Anonymous said...

When I had begun to confront the effects on me of living in my own dysfunctional family, I heard this comment: "Studies [didn't say which ones] show that 96% of us came from dysfunctional homes...and the other 4% are liars!" I'm still a little inclined to believe that, although I'm married to someone who weathered his own dysfunctional parents in far better shape than most people I know. But, yes, it has to stop, somewhere, and surrender to Jesus is the place to start the transformation.

Bryon, I like your point about the conversations on the cross. Thanks for sharing it. I have no idea about the skin on our noses. I did hear a local Calvary Chapel pastor on radio, recently; he was talking about reconciliation and made the point that it often doesn't look anything like what we expect. It often does not mean we have to open ourselves up in vulnerability to the person who hurt or betrayed us. I was glad he said that.

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested in knowing what you think forgiveness entails. Is it a state of mind or does it require follow-up? Can you forgive someone and never speak to them again? Can you forgive but choose not to trust them with your loved ones? Is forgiveness granted or earned? Is it a one-time decision or is it a daily sacrifice? Can your brain tell you someone is a heinous animal but you forgive them in your heart? You don't have to answer ... just something to think about.

Bryonm said...

Luann: that's what I'm talking about: conflicted.

Shawn said...

Have I pissed you off enough to fall into that catagory? You know I love ya man.

Bryonm said...

no way, bro.

love you, too, man. miss ya...

Anonymous said...

I can tell you from experience that the Lord has a supernatural way of dealing with forgiveness in believers. This is not something that comes from our own human strength. We do not have the power to forgive some deep hurts and wrongs. We may say we forgive, but it takes Power From On High to heal our souls.

When the Lord comes in and magnifies His Glory, forgiveness just happens. This is an uncomprehendable thing. The only words I can use to describe this process are "God magnifies His Glory". When this happens Godly healing takes place. A healing that can not happen apart from the Lord. God has done this for me only a few times in my life. But, when He did there was no doubt that the power came from Him and Him alone.