Saturday, October 4, 2014

poison & the f word.

Last week I Face-timed with one of my very best friends who is living across the ocean in a culture that is very different from my own. In updating me about her life and marriage and the various challenges she is facing in adapting to this new place, she said something adorable. I thought it was extra cute because English is not her first language and so she was trying to explain something very common but with her limited English vocabulary it came out like this, "Jess, I feel like there is poison in my heart. It came in there because people have let me down. They keep making promises to do things and then not following through on them. I know I need to get rid of the poison, but it is so painful."

a substance that is capable of causing the illness or death of a living organism when introduced or absorbed.

I never want to be someone who communicates ideas without living out what I say, which I happen to think is a very nice value and I respect others who share the sentiment, however I would have been just fine talking about the "poison" this week without having to experience it in my own life. But God doesn't work like that does He? He knows that real authority in anything comes not through talking about it, but in actually walking it out, and so this week the "poison" and I have been doing some walking together. Oh the joy.

The "poison" as my friend so sweetly put it, is the experience that happens when we have been hurt or offended. Whether the one who harmed us was intentionally malicious, or accidentally insensitive, it stings our hearts and we want to retaliate or hide.

That's what happened to me this week.

It wasn't just one venomous situation, but a series of almost unnoticeable ones working together like a slow drip IV leaking toxic ugliness into my system. The poison invited a mean skeptic to rise up in me. When they would say something nice to me I would question their sincerity. When they would say something insensitive I would take it personally and relive the moment in my mind over and over again, making up fake comebacks to put them in their place. Even their attempts to love me felt irritating and painful, like when your shoulders are sunburned and someone gives you a hug.

I've experienced the poison lots of times before this week too. Like when my exboyfriend made out with another girl during our relationship. Poison. Or when I overheard a family I loved talking badly about my little sister. Poison. Or when I found out a "best friend" was gossiping about me and spreading rumors. Poison. Or when I heard people making fun of my husband and accusing us of being dishonest. Poison.

There are worse ones too but you get the idea. The point is that when we get hurt by somebody the poison invades our hearts. Did you see that? It invades OUR hearts. Meaning the poison does not access the heart of the person who hurt us, but it most definitely gets inside our own.

It's the resentment that tempts us to stay silently offended, adding little tally marks to the secret sheet in our mind keeping record of everything they do wrong. Its the bitterness that causes us judge their motives and character, making us quick to assume the worst about them. It's the insecurity we feel, the hopelessness of "this always happens" and "people always treat me like this." Its the loneliness of being let down by someone we love and admire. Its the temptation to leave or hide, to give up on the relationship without an explanation of our pain. Its the desire to retaliate, to gossip, to slander, to yell at or seek revenge. That's the poison my friend across the ocean feels. That's the poison I have felt. But the trouble with poison is that it only destroys the one who has ingested it. Which means that as long as I am the one with the poison in my heart, I am the one who will be destroyed by it.

So how do we get rid of this horrible thing that is capable of causing death in us? The answer is....
the F word.


The other F word.


Forgiveness is not saying that what they did to hurt you was okay. Because in many cases it was absolutely not okay. Rather, to forgive is to release them from something they owe you. Essentially it is saying that you are no longer going to take responsibility for the justice of the situation. Shaun and I talk about forgiveness as something you are giving over to a higher authority, trusting that the authority will take care of it and you no longer need to ensure they get the penalty of their messed up actions. As believers in Christ we recognize that God cares about everything we go through and is passionate about justice. Therefore we can trust that when we surrender a situation to Him in our hearts, and practice forgiveness towards those who have hurt us, He will be faithful to work everything out.

Forgiveness is the only way to free us from the poison.

That's probably not new information for you. It wasn't for me either. But it was a reminder I needed. You have heard the quote, "Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." You have also seen what happens to the person who holds a grudge against someone else: It consumes them. They talk about it. They think about it. They wonder what the other person is going to think about their latest instagram post or facebook status. They gossip. They slander. They secretly stalk the person's social media feeds and then try to live a cooler more photogenic life as a form of revenge. I have even seen it happen where the two people haven't spoken to each other in almost a decade but one of them is still convinced that the other is doing everything possible to destroy her life. Poison. Absolute poison.

But Jesus calls us to forgive. More than that, He commands us to forgive. I think He takes forgiveness so seriously because of the lavish, mind-boggling, absolutely crazy forgiveness He extended to humanity by dying for our sins. I also think it is because He is passionate about life. All throughout scripture, anywhere He went, life happened. Blind eyes opened. Dead bodies raised. Lonely people loved. Shamed women given dignity. Children valued. It's everywhere. He even said, "I have come to give you abundant life." It's no wonder then that he calls us to be people who forgive. If unforgiveness is like a poison that causes death, then forgiveness must bring life, because Jesus only commands us to do things that bring life.

Sometimes forgiveness requires us to go directly to the person who offended us and talk it through with them. Other times, when things like abuse are involved, it is safest to stay away from the offender but to extend forgiveness in our hearts through prayer and with the help of loved ones. Often for me, forgiveness involves lots of journaling so I can make sense of my scrambled thoughts and sort out whether or not the person actually did something harmful to me or if I was just being insecure and easily offended. In those cases I may still need to forgive them in my heart but it may not be necessary to talk with them about it because they didn't actually do anything wrong.

Let's do everything we can to be free from the poison. Let's love extravagantly, forgive quickly, and seek to understand each other. May people see Heaven in the way we do relationships. May we be people who assume the best and protect each other's reputations, and when we don't understand what they meant when they said that thing that hurt our feelings.... let's ask them instead of judging them for it.

post signature

And how about another couple of F words??
Here's to fun & family! 
A couple great photos from the #batesweddingbash.
The bottom one is gold.


Theresa Anne said...

This is so true. Unforgiveness really hurts our own hearts much more than it hurts the person it's withheld from.

I love how God can teach and shape our spirit through the act of forgiveness. Consider how many fruits of the spirit are refined through this simple act. Patience... Kindness... Gentleness.. Love... SELF CONTROL... and in return God pours out Peace and Joy into our hearts to help us heal. It's a beautiful act of obedience that, I believe brings us closer to God.

Mama Liz said...

Jess, thank you for this wonderfully insightful blog. I really needed to hear every word. My favorite definition of forgiveness is exactely what you said. "Relinquishing the right (to God) to hold someone responsible for the hurt they caused, the things they broke etc." I thank God all the time for placing you in my life. You are an amazing inspiration. You are constantly growing in beauty and grace and wisdom. May God continue to pour His blessing over you. <3