Tag Archive | forgiveness

Confessing My Affair

Something shifted in my heart. It felt heavier. Or maybe it was my stomach. That’s where it churned the most. The physical manifestation of my unconfessed sin. The sickness compelling me towards revealing my long held secret. But not to the person who most deserved and needed to hear the truth. Not to the man I had vowed to love, honour and cherish.

After a few weeks of counselling related to the sexual betrayal trauma I experienced due to my husband’s sex addiction, I walked shakily into my counsellor’s office. Sat down on the edge of the chair closest to the door. Easiest to bolt out of the room that way. Then silence. And more silence. And looking at my feet (me, not my therapist). Looking everywhere but him while he waited for me to speak. Attempting to hold on to the illusion just a little longer that I was the only betrayed spouse in this marriage. That husband equalled bad guy and wife equalled victim. Once the words left my mouth, we would be on level footing.

“I had an affair.” I looked at my counsellor’s face expecting to see a reflection of my shame and guilt. There was none. Somehow those words spoken to a sexual recovery therapist were not as shocking to him as they were to my plagued heart. That was reassuring. I breathed again. He asked how I felt. I had no answer. My thoughts, emotions and body had not yet realigned. He said that usually people felt lighter after telling him these things. I had to think about that. I did feel a sense of relief. The roiling in my stomach was diminishing. But now that my horrible words were spoken out loud, there was no taking them back. The enormity of what I had done sixteen years before was now sinking in. I had committed adultery. And now it was exposed.

“Do I have to tell my husband?” I half hoped he would say no. I would have been surprised if he did. During my devotional time just that morning, I had read in 1 Samuel 2:25 “If someone sins against another person, God can intercede for the guilty party.” Well, that was me. The guilty party who sinned against my husband. I told my counsellor about this scripture and he asked me if I knew what a “rhema” was. I didn’t. He explained that a rhema is a verse or portion of Scripture that the Holy Spirit brings to our attention with application to a current situation or need for direction.

I looked at my counsellor with a flicker of renewed hope. God was with me. God was promising to fight for me. These words didn’t come from him, they came directly from God to my ravaged soul. Although I was about to devastate my husband’s heart, shatter the image of my innocence in both our minds, and add another damaging and painful layer to our messy marriage, God wasn’t leaving us on our own. God would be with us, whatever that meant. It was the whatever that meant that remained dubious.

My counsellor believed it was too early in my husband’s recovery process to shock him with the news of my infidelity. He thought it would be best for him to be more solidly entrenched in his recovery to lessen the risk of a relapse and to be better able to offer me forgiveness and understanding. We would wait. We began the planning of my disclosure.

Initially, the plan entailed a waiting period for my husband to gain stability. Looking back, God provided the waiting period for both of us. It wasn’t just my husband’s heart that needed preparation and healing for this disclosure. Mine did too. I had justified and kept hidden my affair for almost sixteen years. It was only now when he sought help for his sex addiction that my guilt began seeping through.

God had some chipping away to do at my heart. A healing process to begin in my soul from the consequences of my own infidelity. I was only then beginning to realize that I needed that. I had fairly easily put the affair behind me many years ago, believing that it had no effect on us now. The only offenders in our marriage being the sex addiction and abstinence of sex. If I hoped for my husband to offer me forgiveness from adultery, I needed to admit to myself the magnitude of my sin and open my heart to God’s forgiveness. And then learn how to extend that forgiveness to myself.

Over the next few weeks, that is what I did. I fell into God’s arms and immersed myself in His Presence. Read my Bible, soaking in the life giving words. Trying so hard to believe that the promises of forgiveness, mercy, grace and love were for me. I prayed, and talked with God. And listened. I walked in the dark and cold of the winter nights. I journaled. I continued to lose weight because of the constant ache in my stomach. I was awake at night more than I slept. It was a battle to be kind to myself.

My husband was confused. He had fully embraced his recovery. We were slowly building intimacy, tentatively regaining trust. And now I was pulling away. He sensed that something was happening within me, but had no idea what. And I couldn’t tell him. I made an extra effort to pretend I wasn’t in emotional turmoil so he wouldn’t suspect anything. I felt phony. Like everything I was doing to restore our marriage was a lie.

Lie upon lie upon lie. But now it was me doing the lying.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

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Prayer for our marriages…..

Father God, this day we choose to lay our lives and our marriages before You to receive Your healing touch. I ask that You would keep our hearts soft toward each other and not allow any hurt to build to anger.

I ask that You make the changes in us necessary to be the husbands and wives You have designed us to be for our spouses and we release them to You that You should change them only as You will.

I pray Lord that you will protect our mind and our hearts from the lies of the enemy and fill us Heavenly Father with Your Holy Spirit. I ask you Holy Spirit to come and remove the lies that have taken root and I ask that you will plant in their place Your truth and Your love. Father, build in us a restored and new love that can never die…. for what You create will remain forever.

Father I ask You to make us tools of reconciliation. Enable us to communicate well and rescue us from the threshold of separation where the realities of divorce begin.
Father God, if love seems to have vanished then I also pray that You would speak to those hearts and souls and remind them of the love that they once knew for each other, let them rediscover that love and build in them a new and stronger love.

Father, deliver us from the bondage of past mistakes. Take away anyone and anything that would inspire temptation for our spouse.

Change in us our habits of indifference and busyness that we may not take each other for granted. I know Father God that only the transforming power of the Holy Spirit can make changes that last. I trust You to transform us and make us the husband and wife You have called us to be.

Father bring into our  lives Godly friends that they might openly share their hearts. May they be trustworthy people of wisdom who will speak truth into our lives and not just say what we want to hear.

I pray that we, as well as our spouses, will listen to Godly counselors and not be a people who are unteachable. Give each of us the strength to reject the counsel of the ungodly and hear Your voice above all others. Instruct us and our spouses even as we sleep and in the morning I pray we will do what is right rather than follow the leading of own flesh.

Father I ask that you would protect our marriages from the things and evil spirits that would destroy it.

Shield it from our own selfishness and neglect and heal the wounds that have been inflicted by such.

Shield us from the evil plans and desires of others. Set us free Father from the past hurts and ties of things that have happened outside of the marriage You designed.
I pray Father that you would convict each of us, as well as our spouses, of any error in our lives. Let there be nothing covered that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known. Cleanse us from any secret sins and teach us to be a person who is quick to confess when they are wrong. Bring all of us to full repentance before You.

 If there is suffering to be done, let it be the suffering of a remorseful heart and not because the crushing hand of the enemy has found an opening into our life through unconfessed sin. Deliver us Father from those things that bind us. Set us free from any thing that causes us or our spouse to stumble and bring deliverance  quickly and be a rock of refuge and a fortress of defense to save.
Father, You have taught us that if we regard iniquity in our hearts, You will not hear, I beg You to hear our prayers….. I ask You to reveal where there is any disobedience in our lives, especially with regard to our spouse. Show us where we have not obeyed You and we confess it as sin and ask Your forgiveness.

Father God, nothing happens in our lives that You have not given permission, and as hard as this is I pray that we will be able to see Your glory through it.

Please Father God calm our mind and spirit. I pray that You will grant us the confidence and patience to allow Your work to be revealed. Give us the strength to take the next step in faith.
We offer our marriages, ourselves, our spouse, and our children to You Lord God that we will glorify You.
In the name of Jesus Christ I pray these things,
Amen.

Over The Top Forgiveness

Remember Cain?  When I read those lines in the book of Genesis where God deals with Cain’s sin and retribution I always think of the movie ‘Michael’…  “I put a BLOCK on you!”.  You see, we’re all born with a little justice alarm that goes off when things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be.  Kids have it the worst of any of us.  No filters, no discretion.  Just try grabbing a toy away from a 3 year old who wasn’t done playing with it and you’ll know how acutely that child is in touch with the idea of what is right and fair.  But for Cain, humanity’s original son, God in His mercy blocked the natural tendency of human retribution against  injustice.  He said:

“If anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 

      ~Genesis 4:15, New International Version

Then along comes Lamech, arguably one of the most violently arrogant men in human history.  Lamech kills an innocent man in cold blood and then tries to escape justice by boasting about the retribution that he himself would magically bring on anyone who tried to hold him accountable.  He says:

 

   “Adah and Zillah, listen to me; 
       wives of Lamech, hear my words. 
       I have killed  a man for wounding me, 
       a young man for injuring me.

    If Cain is avenged seven times, 

        then Lamech seventy-seven times.”

           ~Genesis 4:23-24, New International Version

To be honest, Lamech and his violent boasting make me sick to my stomach.  And I think that’s the point.  Do you hear the arrogance in his boast?  God said he would revenge Cain 7 times – I’ll do it 77!   He’s the epitome of human self-centeredness – brash, over the top, and out of control.

So when Peter asks his master Jesus about the limits of forgiveness, he’s not far from Lamech’s score-keeping mindset.  But Jesus points him back to Lamech by saying:

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

     ~Matthew 18:22, New International Version

What’s His point?  Go over the top in forgiveness.  Forgive extravagantly, brashly, try to out-forgive God!  Forgive like your life and freedom depended on it.  Because it kind of does!

I am asking God what forgiveness is supposed to look like in my life.  I’ve written at length about forgiveness and what it is not.  It’s not about me feeling good and it’s not about making people happy with me.  It’s not about living a lie.  That said, how do I forgive lavishly, abundantly, even arrogantly?  How do I live in freedom?

Thanks for reading!

The Prodigal Son

(OK, maybe I should explain.  I got to thinking about forgiveness and what comes with being forgiven.  I wrote this from the perspective of the Prodigal Son.  I hope you like it.)

 

I bathed five times and rubbed my skin with rose petals.  I burned my clothes and shaved my hair.  It might be my imagination, but as my trembling hand pauses on this old familiar wooden door I can still smell the pigs.

 

A hundred eyes wait for me on the other side of the door.  The side where the wine flows freely and the song of the lyre drips like honey.  But I’ve already looked into the eyes that matter and those eyes told me all I need to know.  

 

In all my life I’ve never seen him run like he ran to me today, his robe hiked up in his belt like a common worker.  The disgrace he wore was mine, should have been mine.  Standing there in my father’s arms I cried like I haven’t cried since I was a little boy.  We both cried until we ran out of tears, until all I could hear was the sound of dry leaves scuttling across the path like so many crabs at the seaside.  He didn’t say much but the relief I saw in him only thinly veiled the pain and worry I had put him through.  I meant what I said, ‘I am not worthy to be called your son’.  But he wouldn’t listen.   Sometimes I think forgiveness is harder to take than it is to give.

 

This isn’t what I wanted.  If I could only work for him like I had planned.  I could serve them anonymously, alone with my shame.  In so many ways that life would be easier than living with the disappointment in my brother’s eyes.  For the rest of my life I’ll be living on his charity.  I’ve spent my part of the fortune.  Asking for my cut with my father still alive was like telling the world I wished he was dead.  My brother may never forgive what I’ve done.  But what I’m about to do is not for him.

 

My father wants things back the way they were.  His love powers the courage I need to walk through this door, the courage to put the past behind me, the courage to forgive myself.  Standing on the path I looked deep into his eyes and what I saw changed me forever.  I saw an image of myself reflected there, me but not me.  Gone were the smelly clothes, the dirty hands and ratty beard.  In my father’s eyes I was stood strong and tall and glorious.  In my father’s eyes I am a prince and from now on I will do whatever I must do to be the man he sees.

Forgiveness Part 2 – More Stuff Forgiveness is Not

Continuing on with the last topic…

#6 Forgiveness is not saying ‘it’s OK’ when it’s not OK.  That’s not forgiveness, that’s lying.  There are some times when it really is OK, and at those times saying ‘it’s OK’ is fine.  For example, when there’s been some small infraction that doesn’t require forgiveness — it really is OK.  No harm done.  Or when something happened that was unfortunate, but not wrong. Sometimes you just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and unknowingly or unwillingly set off a chain of events and cause some minor damage to someone.  In those cases ‘it’s OK’ is a perfectly fine thing to say.  But there are other times when real wrong was committed that steps up to the level that requires real forgiveness.  In those times I can sometimes feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up straight when I hear the offended party saying ‘it’s OK’.  I think saying that demeans real forgiveness when it happens.  (Don’t worry, I always manage to keep my thoughts to myself.)

#7 Forgiveness is not blocking things out of your mind.  That’s not forgiveness, that’s dissociation and it’s a bad idea.  Take my word for it.  I believe there are some cases where a person could forgive so completely that the offense could be completely forgotten.  But I believe there can also be deep and true forgiveness without forgetting the offense.

#8 Forgiveness is not always preceded by repentance.  Holding out until the person who hurt you repents only hurts you even more.  Sometimes the long awaited apology never comes and sometimes it can’t come because the person who hurt you is dead or you don’t know who he or she is.  I’ve heard people say that God doesn’t expect us to forgive people unless those people are sorry for what they did.  That never made sense to me.  Why should my suffering be compounded by not getting the blessing of forgiving someone because the person who hurt me is unable or unwilling to be sorry for what they did? 

#9 Forgiveness is not easy.  You can’t do it until you are ready.  Sometimes you have to forgive more than once because you get a chance to forgive at deeper and deeper levels when the pain comes back around.  Each chance to forgive again is a blessing, not a failure.

Forgiveness

I am no expert in forgiveness.  But in my search to give and receive forgiveness I have learned several lessons about what forgiveness is not.

#1 Forgiveness is not forgetting in the sense of letting people continue to hurt you.  You can remove yourself from dangerous or negative situations and still be a forgiving person.  Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for someone who is hurting you is to stop giving them the opportunity to continue hurting you.

#2 Forgiveness is not excusing.  A professional counsellor once told me that I would know when I had forgiven if I could say that the people who hurt me did the best they could do.  I couldn’t disagree more.  First of all, I can’t know for sure if someone did or didn’t do the best they could do because I can’t see their heart.  Second, we all have wounds and our wounds predispose us to hurt each other in ingrained, almost scripted ways but that is completely different from saying people always do the best they can do.  If we always do the best we can do we have no free will and no reason to try to do better.  That’s one philosophy I just can’t stomach.  Third, if there’s a true excuse for what you did then you don’t need to be forgiven because you are already excused for it.

#3 Forgiveness is not restitution.  I guess what I mean is that getting forgiveness is different than paying something back.  If I get mad and throw and smash my daughter’s cell phone I should definitely buy her a new one.  But buying a new cell phone doesn’t automatically make me forgiven.  As a separate issue she can choose to forgive or not forgive me for what I did.  It’s also not the same as trusting me again – like letting me hold her cell phone when I’m angry – but that goes more to point number one.  By the way, I didn’t really smash my daughter’s cell phone or any other cell phones – it was just an example.  I considered going with the neighbor’s broken window story but I think that one gets overdone.

#4 Forgiveness isn’t the same as ‘making up’.  You can’t always make nice with someone – but you can always forgive.

#5 Forgiveness doesn’t always take away the pain.  Sometimes you do everything you can do and still have to live with the consequences.  That works for the one who forgives and the one who is forgiven.

Well, that’s a start.  I have a feeling I have some more learning and some more blog posts about this topic inside of me.  What lessons have you learned about forgiveness?  I really want to know.