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Forgiveness

Sunday Reflections, 15 February, 2015

By | Forgiveness, Reflections, Sunday Reflections, The Lord's Prayer | 2 Comments

Last night was such a deep and profound time for our Practice Family. A week ago we immersed ourselves in what it means to experience and receive God’s forgiveness and last night we took on the difficult task of exploring what it means to become forgivers.

Dre spoke this time about the second half of this line from the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Some of the highlights from what she shared are still settling deep in my heart as I start my day:

  • The secret to becoming a forgiver is that we can only offer forgiveness after we’ve experienced being forgiven by God.
  • Sometimes we focus too much on the SHOULD of forgiveness, wrongly turning it into an issue of mind over matter. A caterpillar must go through stages of transformation before it can fly, so too do we need stages of transformation before we can forgive.
  • In the face of forgiving, sometimes it feels easier to disconnect from our heart to cope. But it’s a lousy life to live without a heart.
  • Forgiveness isn’t pretending you aren’t hurt. It doesn’t mean that trust is automatically restored. We need to grieve what has been lost.

An incredible gift of the night was Dre inviting Rhianna Godfrey to share her experience of how God has led her into forgiving her mother. It was so powerful to hear a real life experience laid out before the room, making forgiveness seem tangible, real and raw. I was so encouraged by Rhianna’s courage and honesty, hearing how she faced into the pain of the relationship with her mother to pursue forgiveness, yet knowing how human she felt throughout the whole experience. As Rhianna shared the journey God has been leading her through, I could begin to identify some important moments of transformation in her story; how God transformed her anger, increased her compassion and is continuing to give her strength to release and forgive.

In light of this beautiful testimony to God’s grace, Dre shared David Benner’s model as a suggestion on how to journey through forgiveness:

  • To begin the journey of forgiveness, we first need to feel our pain. Instead of pretending we aren’t hurt, we should allow the pain to resurface and invite God into our pain.
  • The next step is to let God reframe our pain, to reveal our offenders as human, to understand what happened to us in a new light.
  • The final step is to release the anger. Allowing God to redeem the aching parts of you, soothe your sadness and invite you into greater freedom.

What happened next was truly a sacred moment with the Holy Spirit. Dre led the room through a guided time of reflecting on the stages of this model, asking God if there is anyone he would like us to think about forgiving. I feel like the collective heartbeat of the room began to quicken, and as Dre held us tenderly in that moment, I could hear the sniffles and tears throughout the room as God brought people to mind.

It was a heavy time, but such a beautiful time of our community opening up our posture to the guidance of God. We ended by approaching the table for communion with John’s words ringing in our ears that this is ‘a table of reconciliation.’ How amazing to receive communion and in that moment feel the reality of our reconciliation with God, in doing so feeling hope that through that same power we could be reconciled to others.

I was so moved by the openness of our community and so proud of us for facing into the pain together. It truly is always safer and always better to pursue forgiveness in community and in relationship. It is my hope that each and every one of us would continue to heal in a trusted relationship as we navigate forgiveness – do not forget to follow up with our Forgiveness Next Steps blog that will point you to different ways to find those relationships.

Scott Gibson then closed us with the benediction and a beautiful word on how precious it was to serve communion to our community, to see each face and each story pass before him as they received the blood and body of Christ. He also wisely reminded us that forgiveness is a process – I certainly needed to be reminded of that.

I plan to sit with God in prayer this week and carefully consider, “Who can I walk this path of forgiveness with?” Would you pray with me and be bold in your prayer? If it’s a counselor, a pastor, a spiritual director, or a trusted friend – would you pray with me that God would give you the courage to reach out? If you woke up aching this morning from all we explored last night, remember, don’t do this alone. Find that relationship to heal within.

May we continue to take one step at a time, learning to receive forgiveness and in the process, learning how to be forgivers.

Blessings and Peace to you,

Jenna and The Practice Team

Practice Resources: And Forgive Us Our Trespasses…

By | Books, Forgiveness, Resources, The Lord's Prayer | No Comments

It is such a joy and a privilege to gather and share these resources that will hopefully take our tribe deeper and deeper into all we are learning and experiencing at The Practice. If we remember that Sunday is not the main event – rather Monday through Saturday is, lets not leave our learning, our shaping or our understanding solely to what we hear on Sunday. May these resources provide a path to  help take us all deeper into a dialogue of transformation, growth and unforced rhythms of grace.

This past Sunday Deirdre did a beautiful and profound job of guiding us through what it means to pray “And Forgive Us Our Trespasses…” Here are a few recommended books, sermons and videos to help any of you who love to connect with God this way, to deepen your understanding and expand your experience.

 

Recommended Resources

Recommended Reading

Recommended Videos

  • Les Miserables, “I Give You Back To God.” Scene
    For those of you who have read or seen any screen adaption of the beautiful novel Les Miserables, we could think of no greater picture of the father in the prodigal son, than the Priest as he interacts with Jean Valjean in this scene.As you watch, pay attention to how the punishment in this case is deserved, yet the incredible mercy of the Priest still forgives and releases Jean Valjean. In many ways, I feel that we can glimpse our forgiveness from God in this scene.
“The Prodigal Sons.” by Tim Keller 

In this teaching on the parable of the Prodigal Sons, Tim Keller shares how Jesus redefines God as Father, redefines sin, and redefines salvation. We recommend this sermon as an invitation to know the initiating love of the Father that leads us to learn to repent for something besides sins.

 

"We urgently need the mediation of another's eyes to love ourselves and accept ourselves. The eyes may be those of a parent, a friend, a spiritual director; but above all they are those of God our Father. The look in his eyes is the purest, truest, tenderest, most loving, and most hope-filled in this world. The greatest gift given those who seek God's face by persevering in prayer may be that one day they will perceive something of this divine look upon themselves; they will feel themselves loved so tenderly that they will receive the grace of accepting themselves in depth." (p. 36)

Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe

May the wisdom of those who are in this journey with us, nourish, inform and help guide you as you learn the unforced rhythms of grace. Blessings on your week!

Grace and Peace.

Jenna and The Practice Team

The Other Son

By | Forgiveness, Notes and quotes, Reflections, The Lord's Prayer | 5 Comments

Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

The other brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 

“My son,” the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

 – Luke 15: 25-31 (NIV)

How incredible is it, that Christ included these words about the other son in the parable of the Prodigal son? I have to marvel sometimes at the amazing foresight Jesus had to understand every heart in the room because I have to be honest with you – for most of my life, I approached my need for forgiveness much more like the older son in this story.

I remember sitting in Sunday School, almost smiling with self importance as the Sunday school teacher let us color in pictures of the lost son feeding the pigs. I would say in the quiet of my heart, as I chose the ugliest crayon color for the pig slop, this serves you right – you were awful and you got what you deserved. (I was admittedly a very self righteous 5 year old)

I wonder how of many of us can relate to that? The Prodigal Son is an incredible image of mercy, grace and repentance. A father running. A lost son found. A dead relationship mercifully brought back to life.

But I grew up in a Christian family. I went to church. I behaved in school. I served at home. In many ways there was an ambitious nature to my faith that strove to be rewarded for my obedience, my works of righteousness and my morality.

There are times when I’ve sat in this passage… and I’m pretty sure that I too would have been in the field. If I’m honest, there have been times when I’ve loved being in that field a little too much.

I’ve heard music and dancing in the distance, thrown down my work in frustration and marched back indignantly to pull the plug. I’ve pulled friends and family aside, hissed from the sidelines to ask, “What on earth is going on?”

I can almost imagine the older son’s face as the servant responds to him, “Your brother has come home.”

Sinking Feeling. 

“And your Father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.”

Shortness of breath. 

Anger…. Refusing to go in. Creating a scene. Resenting the Celebration. Writing retorts in my head.

And yet this magnificent, merciful  father, leaves the party, goes outside and pleads, he actually pleads with him, to come and join the community in receiving their lost brother.

But he is stung and he has his retort ready made – “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

And now the real truth comes out. Pain. Pride. Hurt. 

Perhaps for you, the most heartbreaking scene in this parable, is that of the lost son, sitting among the pigs, weeping bitterly into their slop as he regrets his path of destruction and hopes for a servants wage in his former life.

For me, the most heartbreaking scene is this speech. I can imagine the heart break in the older son’s face as he spits out some of his deepest hurts, fears and wounds.

That the years of obedience spent slaving haven’t mattered.
That the absence of any reward was intentional.
That the younger brother was always loved more, preferred, blessed more.
That there are no consequences, good or bad for behavior.

That no matter what I do – it doesn’t matter.

How many of you can picture yourself in these shoes? Perhaps you can’t name a time of great wandering in a far off land. Perhaps, like me, there was a time that you truly thought yourself upright, obedient, good hearted and dare I say it worthy of more of the Father’s love. Perhaps your heart doesn’t break fro the son who ran away, but rather for the son who stayed.

Some of us have never strayed that far. Some of us have stayed in the field all our lives. Obedient. Slaving. Following Orders. We’ve watched our brothers and sisters leave. We’ve watched them fall apart in catastrophic and destructive ways. We may have even watched them get what we think they deserve – suffering, hard times, reality.

For some of us, it is a painful experience to watch these brothers and sisters be mercifully forgiven, re embraced into society and met with exorbitant celebration and seeming reward. For some of us, the very sight of a father running to a brother in need of forgiveness, feels like that same father is running away from us. Forgiveness can brew bitterness.

The beautiful part about Jesus including the older son, is that in just the same way the Father ran to embrace his lost son. He leaves the party to plead with the older son.

The Father also loves the older son.

After the older son’s pained retort – I can now imagine that same running, pleading father, holding his face, and with tenderness and love sharing,

“My son. You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”

Oh how I need to sit in this moment. For some of us we need to sit in this moment. To have the Father attend to our deep pain, our bitterness, OUR SIN, and respond with the same heart we see at times more loudly on display for others. The Father calls us his. He breathes intimacy and draws us close. He assures us that nothing, nothing is withheld from us. There is no favoritism. No ignorance of our service. The Father has seen, known and loved me all along. The fattened calf. The robes. The dancing. The party. It is all available to me just the same.

But.

The Father still shares an opportunity for growth with this field captive son. His works righteousness, his hardened heart, his bitterness are all still addressed with a beautiful invitation to see the world through the Father’s eyes.

“But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

Earlier the older son hurtfully shared – “but when this son of yours comes home…” In many ways wiping his hands of his own brother. This son of yours. Not this brother of mine.

But the father reminds him. “This brother of yours.”

We need to find solidarity and companionship in this family of God’s. We are not intended to be children vying for attention, but rather fully present and loving sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, who break when others break and who rejoice when others rejoice.

It is first, an invitation to stop being alone. To recognize that you too are a son, a brother, a family member, a tribe member – who breaks and who is built up by the collective community.

“This brother of yours was dead and is alive again. He was lost and now is found.”

The Father does not hold back the magnitude of the invitation. The scope is limitless. When our brothers and sisters leave, we grieve as if death has occurred, when they repent, we rejoice as if there is resurrection.

Once upon a time I may not have named my sins as readily as the Prodigal Son. My identity was wrapped up in the sins I hadn’t committed instead of the forgiveness I will always so desperately need. Now, with the eyes of the Father I can see, not only does my works righteousness, hard heartedness and jealousy also need a forgiving, pleading father –

But every brother who was lost and who now is found, is an opportunity for me to find a piece of myself again.

We are all prodigals in need of forgiveness, we are all brothers, we are all in this family.
May we never grow too old to join the celebration of the Father.

Grace and Peace to you,

Jenna and The Practice Team