Thursday, September 10, 2009

As We Forgive



In Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Anne Elliot chides Captain Benwick for allowing too much poetry in his reading and recommends to him “a larger allowance of prose.” I have often felt as if I leaned too heavily to fiction and should allow more non-fiction into my habits, yet I still tend to be drawn to a good story, first and foremost.
For that reason, it is no surprise than when Catherine Claire Larson’s As We Forgive made its way into my hands (via my husband, who got it from my critique partner!), I had to read it.
As We Forgive recounts some of the incredible stories of reconciliation that are happening today in Rwanda, in the aftermath of the horrible genocide of the 1990’s. I’ll admit, I didn’t know much about this. In the 90’s, my world revolved around diapers and bottles and potty training, my three babies coming in a span of three and a half years. As I read this book, however, my ignorance appalled me.
But education and information were not the reason I couldn’t put this book down—or the reason it has stayed with me since. Instead, the stories of reconciliation between perpetrators and victims captivated me, for such things can only happen by the grace and power of God.
When I finished this book, my thoughts centered on myself: how can I refuse to forgive petty, hurtful things when others have shown the power of God to forgive those who have willfully stolen the lives of their parents, spouses, children? It’s an important question for each of us, challenging us to question how much we really trust God to not only be our protector but to be the righteous judge of others.
After awhile, my thoughts shifted. I began to wonder: do I foster reconciliation and forgiveness in my world? You see, most of the time that I encounter a victim of injustice, whether it be someone stung by gossip or someone sexually violated against their will, I tend to commiserate with the victim about the perpetrator, not speak words that will point toward reconciliation. Maybe because I, like so many others, tend to believe God doesn’t really mean that. He didn’t really mean my actions had to confirm my words of forgiveness.
So I’ve pondered my role. Wondered what God would have me to do, besides seek reconciliation when possible in my own life. And the Lord answered with a conversation overheard.
A person I know detailed to another the devastating effects on their child by an authority figure, meting out an overly severe punishment. This parent admitted they still held bitterness toward that person.
“But,” the parent said, “I’ve been reading As We Forgive, the book D’Ann gave me.”
I didn’t hear the rest of the conversation. Instead, the corners of my mouth pulled into a smile. In a tiny way—by simply recommending a book—I became a small cog in God’s big wheel of forgiveness and reconciliation in someone else’s life. It’s a start. Because, after all, reconciliation is the work of the Lord. It’s what He did for us. It’s what He desires us to help do for others.
Question: Have you been an instrument of reconciliation in your world? How?
In keeping with my theme of reconciliation and forgiveness, if youd like to be entered to win Mary DeMuth's hot-off-the-press novel, A Slow Burn, book 2 in the Defiance, Texas series, just leave a comment on this blog. Please leave an email address so we can contact you if you're the winner (include spaces or brackets around the "@" sign so Net spiders, etc, can't phish your address). We'll pick a winner at random on September 13. Remember, all comments left today will also be entered in our grand prize drawing on November 1st.

30 comments:

  1. Good morning, D'Ann!

    Beautiful post. I brought coffee to share. It's early, I figured it was a good idea.

    And don't you love the power of the Holy Spirit, how he smacks us upside the head, how little things, a word here, a smile there, inspires others? Even just a well-thought opinion like you just gave.

    Good job, kid.

    And totally great blogsite. Beautiful.

    Ruthy

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  2. D'Ann, I know I tend to offer empathy to a victim but do I really encourage forgiveness as I should? No.

    As for your admission of being ignorant of the violence in Rwanda--

    A friend of mine grew up in war-torn South Africa. She told me once that Americans have no idea really what goes on in other parts of the world. I agreed. She said we should all have to spend some time in a third-world country and it would change our hearts forever to the benefit of our country.
    My safe little world is really so insulated. Perhaps that's why we are so easily offended by the silliest of things.

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  3. Great post. Beautiful new blog. Well done ladies!

    Kit

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  4. Good morning, everyone!

    Ruth--I'm glad you brought your coffee. I did, too!

    Thanks, y'all for taking a gander at a little bit of what goes on in my heart and head!

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  5. Your words convicted me D'Ann, I'm another one who prefers to commiserate rather than advocate for forgiveness. I think part of my problem is a fear of seeming trite or condescending. But what is more trite than agreeing with everything someone says? And who better to give us the right words, than the author and finisher of our faith? He is, after all, the one who mandates forgiveness. Not for the well-being of the one who hurt us, but for our well-being.

    No real healing can take place when it is hindered by the infection of bitterness and resentment. Thanks for giving me something meaty to mentally munch on today!

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  6. Incredibly beautiful.

    Forgiveness isn't about letting the other person off the hook, it's about freeing ourselves and our own emotions. Actually, your post fits really well with Jen's from yesterday since a lot of our personal fault lines have to do with unforgiveness.

    In my ladies Bible study we've talked a lot recently about how the Bible is not a set of rules. It's more like an operator or instruction manual from the manufacturer. Follow these guidelines in order to get the most out of the product...in this case, our own lives.

    Holding onto unforgiveness will eat you apart from the inside out. It can actually lead to emotional and physical illness.

    Thanks for bringing up this topic.

    Dina

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  7. Thanks for the kind words about my book, As We Forgive. I'm always so encouraged when I hear that God is using it to cause people to rethink forgiveness and reconciliation in their lives. And thanks for passing the recommendation along to others. I firmly believe that God allowed me to share these stories because He wanted to give the voices of my African brothers and sisters greater reach to touch, challenge, and heal.

    (By the way, I don't need to be entered in the contest. I've already read and loved Mary's latest book, Slow Burn. It's excellent. I hope you all get the chance to enjoy it also.)

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  8. yes, wonderful post! i haven't read anything about rwanda, so i'd probably be shocked at my ignorance, too. it's nice having a husband with a military background. his perspective is so different!

    jeannie
    The Character Therapist

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  9. D'Ann, what a beautiful thought-provoking post. When I see the horrors if what goes on in other countries on TV, I often flip channels or watch it through my fingers. It's disturbing and so far from my own world. I pray for them but need to also find forgiveness in my heart for the aggressors. Thanks for the reminder.

    Connie

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  10. D'Ann, what a powerful post. I needed the reminder today that with the deepest hurts, we must truly cling to God and allow Him to work the changes in our hearts. Sometimes I pray not just to forgive, but to truly want to forgive, if that makes sense...to have a burning desire to make things right, and not clutch at the righteousness of my pain.

    I'll be adding this book to my must-read pile!

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  11. D'Ann, what a powerful post. I needed the reminder today that with the deepest hurts, we must truly cling to God and allow Him to work the changes in our hearts. Sometimes I pray not just to forgive, but to truly want to forgive, if that makes sense...to have a burning desire to make things right, and not clutch at the righteousness of my pain.

    I'll be adding this book to my must-read pile!

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  12. D'Ann, beautiful! Education, according to Achek Deng, provides that opportunity to reconcile.

    After reading As We Forgive, check out "What is the What?" to learn about Sudan's own struggle to reconcile.

    What am I doing to promote reconciliation? Not enough!
    Sigh. Thanks for the reminder!
    Patti

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  13. Catherine--so glad you found this! I actually got the book through Mary DeMuth in the first place. We critique together.

    Patti, Susanne, Lisa, Jeanne, (did I miss anyone?)--thanks for your comments. It's nice to know I'm not alone both in the journey toward forgiveness and reconciliation and in becoming an agent of reconciliation.

    Of course I think the biggest thing for me is to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit to show me the right time to just listen to hurting people and pray for them and the right time to breathe HIs words that encourage and foster forgiveness and reconciliation. Because of course it is His work. I'm just a mouthpiece!

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  14. "Forgiveness isn't about letting the other person off the hook, it's about freeing ourselves and our own emotions."

    Dina's words are soooo true.

    A couple years ago, someone asked me what issue I had with him/her. Honestly, I didn't think I had that big of an issue, but since the person asked, I shared.

    Side Note: Purging one's feelings isn't best to do in an e-mail.

    While I'm confident I didn't purge is the best means possible, bringing all those hurts to the surface forced me to have to confront my feelings and the inner bitterness that kept me from forgiving.

    Now I honestly had expected the person to say "I'm sorry. I handn't realized my behavior caused you to feel that way. Please forgive me. I'll not do that again."

    Instead, the person said, "Well, that's stupid of you to feel that way because my intention never had been to belittle you. Why don't you just get over it."

    Forgiving that response was FAR harder than the initial wound.

    Even as I type this I sense resentment creeping back from the resucitated (sp?) memory.

    That's why I say forgiviness is as much a one-time event as it is an ongoing process. Well, at least it is for people.

    "If we confess our sins, He[God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9

    Thank you, Jesus!

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  15. Fabulous post, D'Ann. Forgiveness is often very hard, but it's so important!

    I've tried to act as an agent of reconciliation with a relative of mine. A lot of bad things happened to her in her past... things that she has every right to be angry about. But I've tried to share that she's being held prisoner by the unforgiveness that she shelters in her heart. I think I've made a tiny bit of headway with her, but she's got a long way to go.

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  16. This is a beautiful post, D'Ann, and sounds like a wonderful book.

    I'm dealing with a tricky situation right now related to apologizing and forgiveness. I've been praying and thinking, praying and thinking. This post offered more great insights. Seems like everywhere I go, God is having me stumble over this issue...could it be that He's trying to tell me something?

    I hope you all have a blessed day. Thanks again for this timely post, D'Ann.

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  17. Just found your blog. I am also ignorant from the 90's and your review sounded very interesting. Thanks! :O)

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  18. I've seen how unforgiveness can effect couples and families via the counseling I do. And it does eat people alive and can make folks very sick, mentally, spiritually as well as physically.
    It is wonderful to let go of resentments. I think a lot of people( I'm one of them) don't really understand that to forgive doesn't mean you forget what happened to you.
    Thanks D'Ann. I can't begin to comprehend the horrors of Rwanda, and those who have suffered so very much.

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  19. I needed this today. Especially today! Thanks.

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  20. Lovely post, D'Ann. Forgiveness is something that has been coming to my attention a great deal lately. Interesting, much that's coming through is self-forgiveness. How much do we get told that we need to forgive ourselves for our mitakes, our shortcomings, our foibles? Yet how can we forgive others or accept God's forgiveness, if we don't forgive ourselves and understand that the power of Grace extends from our hearts to our hearts?

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  21. What a thought provoking post. Forgiveness and reconciliation are too of the most difficult things to do. It is one I have sometimes struggled with. It is only by the grace and power of God that I have had the strength to do so.

    cherierj(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  22. I grew up in Lebanon during the war and during one of the battles a friend was killed not too far away from me. That spot became a source of anger and unforgiveness towards the group who killed him. A couple of years later I experienced God's love and forgiveness and one day when I was passing by the Spot an overwhelming feeling of love and forgiveness covered me and I was able to see the others in God's eyes and I prayed for them and asked for their forgiveness in my heart for all the anger that I carried towards them. When I walked away I felt like being born again again :)
    Thank you D'Ann for this lovely post.

    dani(dot)sleiman(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  23. Thanks, y'all for the great stories and discussions. I appreciate you sharing!

    I love that forgiveness is one of those issues we all fall on both sides of--giving and receiving!

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  24. My pertinacious grandma clung to the belief she’d see Jesus one day and although we didn’t see eye-to-eye on most things, I have no doubt she’s with Him now.




    Hey D'Ann, I really liked your post. And you asked for it…

    When I was 6, my 7 yr old sister and I were taken to live with my biological father and step-mother. My step-mom had 3 kids fm a previous marriage and one with my dad. The next morning, I was given porridge to eat before school. I hated it. It was thick like glue. I 'bubbled' it which is a way of saying I mixed my saliva with the porridge to thin it out so it could slide down better. This took time. Promptly at 7am, my bowl was taken away and I was told to go to school. When I arrived back home at 4, my stepmom told me to finish my porridge which had congealed in the fridge all day without a cover. No, I’m not kidding. I’d usually finish around 5. She would then take me into her bedroom, strip down my pants and strap me 6 times. Finally, she would tell me to go to bed. I did. I was not allowed to eat supper because you see, I’d just eaten a bowl of porridge so she said I was full. A couple hrs later my sister who always ate her porridge on time, would crawl into bed and cuddle me. We'd pray and whisper Sunday school choruses. And she'd make up plans on how to sneak me away. This scenario played out in this fashion every school day for the year I lived with them until our biological mother was able to claim us once more.

    My sister and I never talked about that year. I didn’t realize she harbored deep feelings toward our stepmom and dad until the year I was 16 and decided to visit them. To say my sister was livid would be an understatement. But it was something I needed to do. When I arrived at their house, my dad hugged me. I had always felt he didn’t like what was happening during that year but stayed silent to keep the peace. When my stepmom appeared, right away I could see the fear as well as questions in her eyes ‘What does she remember?’ It was quite enlightening. I acted as if I didn’t remember. When my sister asked me why after, I said I knew she’d acted the way she did because she felt threatened and took it out on me as the youngest instead of directing it at my mother which I believe is where it should have gone. After all, it was my mother who just dumped us on her. She already had 4 kids to look after, all young, and I believe she didn’t trust my dad. After all, he left my mom for her. What if he left her for some other woman? Whatever the case, even during that year I lived there, I felt these things about her.
    Since then, I believe because of my forgiveness, I was able to bring my sister and dad together with my stepmom before she died. No, it wasn’t a cuddlefest, but my sister said they discussed some things and she also forgave them.

    So, how could I, a young child, feel compassion for my abuser? It had to have been a God thing.

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  25. Beautifully stated, dear girl! I'm really proud of you. I look forward to more of your posts and to how the Lord will be using your abilities to further His kingdom.

    Thank you.

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  26. Wow, Anita! Truly a God-thing for one so young to be able to not only forgive, but help bring some reconciliation. Thanks for sharing!

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  27. Wow, Anita! Truly a God-thing for one so young to be able to not only forgive, but help bring some reconciliation. Thanks for sharing!

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  28. Wow, Anita! Truly a God-thing for one so young to be able to not only forgive, but help bring some reconciliation. Thanks for sharing!

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  29. Forgiveness is the first step to spiritual healing. Life is too precious to waste on anger and hate. Please enter my name in the drawing. gcwhiskas at aol dot com

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