Monday, August 24, 2009
As a believer, forgiveness often seems the hardest thing in our daily walk. I struggle with it continually, but the Lord took me on a journey of forgiveness and revealed that it is one of the easiest things, both asking for it and granting it. Often times, the pride of life stumbles us and we abandon humbleness, which separates us from God (1 John 2:16). Christ came to make us free and in Him we are free indeed (John 8:36), but we must accept it. Sin chains us to a wall like a prisoner, holding us captive, but the work of the cross removes those chains. By His stripes we are healed (Isa. 53:5) and the chains should fall free, but in unforgiveness, it’s as if we grab the chains and hold onto them; in essence holding onto our sin and imprisoning ourselves. 1 John 1:9 tells us that “if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” but notice the words “if we confess.” We have to confess them in order to be made clean; and I can speak from experience that it does make us free indeed.
My journey started with me in chains, but I thought it was due to another person’s sin and God revealed that it was mine. My husband made a choice that devastated me and our marriage. He later asked for forgiveness, and I forgave him so we moved on. The problem was things weren’t getting easier, they were getting harder. My heart still hurt, my pride still hurt, and I didn’t know how to get past it. Without any knowledge of my circumstance a friend stopped to see me one day and said that in a marriage the man has to be the leader and in essence “he is the king”. He wasn’t being sarcastic; he meant the Lord establishes the husband as the leader and head of the family. Like we all do, he said, husbands make mistakes and if they do so against their wife, or if the king falls off his throne, the queen is the only one who can restore him. My heart screamed in protest, because I felt like someone needed to restore me. I felt that I was the one wronged so how could I be the one restoring?
For weeks I struggled, I counseled with friends, I prayed, and in the end I was arguing with God because in my mind I objected “But God, what about me! HE needs to restore ME”. It was then that I felt the Lord saying that I was seeking restoration from the wrong person. It wasn’t my husband’s job to restore me, it was God’s. It wasn’t clear to me until another conversation weeks later when I told a friend about my conflict and waited for her to agree with me. She looked at me and said “this might sound trite, but I think your answer is fairly simple, you have to confess your sin to your husband and ask for forgiveness for the entire span of your relationship.” I was stunned, thinking it was impossible, but it was right. Throughout our relationship I had never truly let my husband lead, I had hammered him into decisions I thought were best, I had criticized him for not leading, criticized him when he tried to lead and made him feel like he was inadequate to lead. Though he was responsible for his choices, I had also made some of my own that had not made it easy for him to become the husband that God was trying to make him. All along I thought it was about him and his sin, when it turned out that it was about me and mine.
I prayed for hours for the courage to repent. As I approached my husband with a humble heart and spirit, I spent what seemed like 10 minutes asking forgiveness for anything I could think of that I had done wrong, thoughts, actions, behavior, all came pouring out and it was like a purging of my soul. In the end, I felt freer than I had in years, and without realizing it, somewhere in the middle, I was restored. All along I thought I had to be restored in order to give forgiveness and I came to realize that I had to be forgiven in order to be restored. Forgiveness came easily, my transgressions were removed as far as the east is to the west, and because of that night, my heart is set on forgiveness.
God tells us we must keep short accounts and seek forgiveness before going into His presence in worship. Inasmuch as we must quickly seek forgiveness, we must also quickly grant it, even if it is not asked for. When someone sins against us, the only way to remain free from the burden of hurt, anger, and bitterness is to free the other person from it and restore them, which in turns frees us and restores us to God.
To me, Psalm 139:23-24 is truly the heart of confession. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties, and see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” We must ask God to truly search us and see where there is wickedness in our hearts and then ask Him to lead us in His everlasting way, the way that was made by the cross. It’s not about what other people do, it never will be. It’s about us and our relationship with God and what He finds in our hearts when He searches it.
They say that confession is good for the soul, and it is, because it’s the only way to restoration with the King.