Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Labyrinth of Relationships: Wrestling With Forgiveness

There was an incident that started this ball rolling and all of this introspection I am now doing. If you haven't read this article yet, you should read it first prior to continuing to read what I am now writing, because it will give you a good picture of why I am where I am now. Aside from that, it's really the starting point of this whole thing.
Now, after I wrote that article, the pastor's wife read it, because they had requested testimonials about the event, and I sent her the link. So she emailed me to tell me that there was some info concerning that situation that she needed to tell me, and would do so on the following Wednesday evening when she saw me. What she told me was that the two women that were supposed to be my roommates originally, were offended too. (Now at this point, my thoughts will be italicized.)

Whaaaat???? They're offended???? Hmph!

Then she continued, "There should have been some discussion."

At that point, I thought the implication was that I had tried to take the entire bed for myself, so I said, "I did tell them that the other half of the bed was available. I told them this 2 times."

Then she smiled and said, "Well, there were 400 women there, and out of all that, we only had 3 problems. I'm glad you met some nice ladies and did have a nice time at the retreat. They were OK, too." Then she left.

Meanwhile, I was reeling. They were offended?!?!? THEY were offended?!?!?! I couldn't imagine why. At first, I thought they had told the pastor's wife that I was dictating the room arrangement, which was a lie; so I was angry. 

I can't believe those heifers told her that! Yes, I thought that word...heifers, can you believe that? Something I had to ask God to forgive me for later. But, at the time, I went home angry...really angry. They came in the door with phony smiles and that "we don't even want to share a room with you" attitude, but now, THEY were offended?!?!?! Oh yes. I was hot! My son noticed my anger, and when I told him that the pastor's wife had told me that these women had played the injured role; he said, "That's still bothering you?"

"Yes, it's bothering me. They left the pastor's wife with the impression that I had been dictating the room arrangement, when that is not what happened at all. I'm upset that she is left with this false impression of me!" Then I sank into sullen silence for the rest of the ride home, and retreated to my room when we got there. The whole thing was now just eating at me.
Then I heard the voice of Watchman Nee, an amazing Chinese Christian, telling me, "You need to sit with the Lord." You see, I had been reading his book, which our pastor had mentioned in a sermon weeks before. In the book, Nee was explaining the concept of sitting. First he said that when we are born again, we enter into His rest. We don't have to do anything, but rest in Christ. After we learn to rest in Him, then we have to sit with Him. We can't walk, or stand, until we learn to do this.

Now, my unconscious mind had grasped this concept, but my conscious mind is still struggling with it. I sat on my bed, and the tears started to flow. I knew that I had to forgive them. The words of Madea came up again.

It was about me. It was about releasing myself from the injury...from the pain that was eating me up inside. I knew this, but I was still struggling with it, because I was angry and trying to rationalize this whole concept of them being offended. I was trying figure out how this could even be a possibility after the way they had treated me.

I told the Lord that I knew I was not capable of forgiving them. My flesh wouldn't allow it, which is why I was struggling and wrestling with the idea. The wound was still too fresh. It had cut too deep. I was still hurting and now, angry on top of that. So I tried something else. In the midst of my struggle, I was praying; I was sitting with the Lord, spending time with Him, and talking to Him about my pain. 

I realized that the reason this was hurting me, was not because these women were people whose opinions I cared a lick about. It was because their attitude and reaction to me reopened the can of worms that contains my personal insecurities; something they have nothing to do with.

Then I remembered something else Nee had said in the book. So I told the Lord, "Lord, I can't forgive them. I'm not able, but You live inside of me, and have already won the victory over pain, sin, death. You can forgive them, even when I can't, so I have to rely on You to do the forgiving, because my flesh won't let me do it." 

That was the concept. It wasn't supposed to be by my work, or my power. It is by His Spirit that is within me. He does the work. I don't have to do anything, but give it over to Him. And frankly, that's all I could do. But I was still depressed; more so than I've been in a long time. Then He said to me, "What was your first thought when you got up to your room?"

I thought about that. We had been standing in several long lines during the check-in process. My back, which now has two herniations from last year's trip and fall accident, was killing me. After waiting in all those long lines, I still had to carry my 3 bags, and pillow upstairs to my room, but I had to wait in yet another long line at the elevators.

So when I got to that room, I was very happy to be the first to arrive, because I wanted to rest. I was expecting there to be at least 2 beds, and I had thought it was like a Days Inn, and I could grab the bed, or at least the side of one of the beds that was the furthest away from the ac unit, because previous experience near it had been too cold for me. My first thought had been, "First come, first serve" for this reason.

So yes, initially, my thoughts might have been a little selfish, but once I got in the room, however, and saw that it was only one large bed, I figured that either we could all squeeze into the one bed, or, if someone wanted to take the couch instead, the option was there. 

I knew I could not take the couch on account of my back. Because I was tired, and needing rest and to work on my back; I got on the far side of the bed near the window, and laid down trying to ease the distress in my back.  I always work on my back in bed at home; and my new site will  be specific to pain reduction techniques that I do for injuries and problems like this, so this was nothing out of the ordinary for me.

I was there for about 2.5 hours prior to the other two showing up. In that time, I had worked a bit on my back, and then simply tried to relax while watching a movie, still laying on that one side of the bed. I ordered my Chinese food, and had even started to munch on it while in the bed, but decided that I didn't want to risk a food accident there, so I got up and went to sit on the couch and continued watching the movie there. That is where I was when the two women arrived.

When they came in with their phony smiles, and obvious disdain, I was taken aback. I had forgotten what it was like sometimes, dealing with some church folks. Considering their fake smiles and obvious displeasure, I never imagined that either of them would want to touch the side of the bed I had already been lying on. Thus, I simply told them that I had taken that side of the bed (some of my stuff was on it), and that there was the other side, and the couch if someone wanted it. I wasn't trying to direct, but simply inform them what was available. I got up at point, and flipped up the cushion to see if there was a fold out in the couch, but I couldn't tell, so they looked at it, and saw that there was.

Yet, they paced up and down fussing; and I was puzzled as to why they were carrying on about what seemed very simple to me. There were essentially 2 choices. Yet they were complaining about what type of room had the pastor's wife arranged. The older one said that she was going to have to have a talk with the pastor's wife about it. There was no discussion, nor attempt at any conversation with me; just a lot of fussing on their part, and confusion on mine. At no point, did I get to even mention that I had been there for 2.5 hours prior, or that I had already been resting on the one side of the bed due to my back pain and injury.

So at this point, when I had considered all of this, I realized that from their point of view, it may have looked like I was directing everything. However, that point aside, it does not remove nor excuse their obvious contempt of me that they tried to cover with phony smiles when they first came into the room. That pretentious attempt to hide their nasty attitudes happened prior to any questions or issues concerning the sleeping arrangements.

 It was their contempt that made it so blatantly evident that regardless of what they may have perceived as directing from me; they would have wanted to delegate me to the couch. I was the odd man out. They were friends and had chosen to room together. It was apparent that they would have wanted to  take the bed, because they had shown so much scorn towards me even being present. Since they were so upset about having to share the room with me; God forbid that either of them had to share the bed with me. 

This was evident in the fact that the younger one would have rather slept on the ottoman and a chair, than to utilize the other half of the bed while I utilized the other side of it. I realized that even if I had had the opportunity to explain the situation with my back, it would not have made any difference in her choice of using the ottoman, because their disdain for me. Then I realized why I was so hurt.

Their contempt caused me to start viewing myself through their scornful eyes. Prior to that, I was perfectly fine with myself; but suddenly, I stopped seeing myself through Christ's eyes for a few minutes, and saw myself through their disapproval. 

This is why I so appreciate the leadership of my current church home, particularly the pastor and his wife. What caught my attention during the first visit, had been the humble spirit I had seen in the people while I was sitting outside prior to the service starting. That spoke volumes to me, and aside from my son's agreement,  made the decision easy. My pastor constantly espouses the concepts in the New Testament about how the body of the church ought to show love, one to another, and that this is how the world will believe, because they witness this love among us.

So after I had thought about all of this, I shook my head with regret at the thought that now, after two years of peace, I was back in the fray again. So, I told the Lord honestly that initially, my thoughts had been a little selfish. Did I come out of this smelling like a rose in the garden of God? Not exactly...and I acknowledge that, but at least I wasn't smelling like stink-weed. I can't say the same for those other two.

Yesterday however, something started coming to me concerning forgiveness. Once again, I know that I understand this concept; and its not because it has captivated my conscious mind yet. I know that I know the truth of this subconsciously, in my spirit, because Christ dwells within, and its His concept. He owns it, knows it, and authored it, so I know that somewhere within, the answer is there. But, my flesh is still wrestling to get the answer.

What I'm getting at this point, is that there is something in forgiveness. Its not about giving to the person who hurt you, but giving to yourself. When assault, or an attack like this comes, the thing is, we are waylaid by it. We are so taken aback and surprised. If we had been expecting the attack, then it surely would not affect us so much. We all know which people we need to be on guard around. We know which environments we are in, wherein we need to keep our guards up, like at work.

But, when you are in an environment, and around people with whom, technically, you should be safe, people that are supposed to be, in Christian brotherhood, your family; that makes it all the more of a shock to your system, and any shock to your system is like a pebble thrown in a pond. The effects continue long after that little stone hits, and can have long, wide, and far lasting effects if you don't take action to get rid of that hurt out of your system. 

It stands to reason then, that it is a greater shock to the system when you are attacked in an alleged safe zone and discover that you are not safe. In such circumstances, your guard is down, because you are around people that are supposed to be showing you love. Subsequently, that attack will nail you. It will hit you full blast, and figuratively, knock the wind out of you. 

It is the same when you have an accident. Your body is assaulted with the blow of the incident, and your muscles react. Likewise, with verbal or emotional incidents, your body still takes the blow, but that effect hits the mind first, and like the muscles, your self-esteem takes the hit and reacts. 

Your body or mind or both, have then absorbed something that ordinarily, you would not have accepted and taken in; something you would reject. Your self esteem then, begins to hurt, much like the muscles would hurt in a physical accident. Depending on how bad the accident, you may heal quickly, or not at all, and always be dealing with that pain. It is the same emotionally as it is physically, and I now see that.

So forgiving is like suffering from an injury, and giving to yourself, your body; taking care of it, whether it be through massage, or some other treatment to alleviate the pain, for the purpose of letting go of that pain. 

In the case of emotional distress and hurt, you give it to the Lord, because you, yourself, cannot, by your own strength, get rid of the hurt. You give it to the Lord for the purpose of taking care of your spirit. And, you may have to do this monthly, weekly, or even daily maintenance, to make sure that you don't accept that pain back into your flesh. 

You have to do it to keep out that idea, thought, or concept that goes against everything God says about you; everything that is true in your spirit. Its the same thing spiritually as it is physically. You have to keep giving that pain away, working it out of your flesh, particularly if it is a high level pain problem, that affected you on a lifetime level.

If you don't do the work to give that pain away, and get it out of your body...to release it, you will suffer and it will root in, becoming deeper and harder to uproot and eliminate. It becomes bitterness, and that is like cancer in the body. In this case, its a spiritual matter, so you aren't supposed to do the work; just simply give it to God. You have to sit with Him.

Its just like the info I'm going to be teaching people on how to manage and eliminate pain problems, for a pain free life. (for updates on that new site, check my main site) I use my hands and body as a massage therapist for giving people relief and release from pain. Some people have emotional pain locked in their muscles, and when I release it, they experience what is called somatic release. It is the same concept in the spirit, and the Lord would be, in that instant, my spiritual massage therapist. LOL...yeah I know...I'm stretchin' it, but you get the point, right?

So I asked the Lord to forgive me for my selfish, self-righteous thoughts initially. I now feel better, but have I forgiven those two women? I'm not 100% sure. I told the Lord that I didn't see myself associating with them at all, but that I would  keep giving this situation to Him to help me  to stay in a state of forgiveness daily.