“How could he DO that! It’s not fair! It’s not right! This just hurts too much! How can he say he loves me, when this has hurt so much?!”
Have you ever felt this way, Gentle Reader?
We look at these words and we see a hurting heart. Hearts break when we feel betrayed, when we expect to be treated one way, when we expect one thing to happen, and something entirely different… hurtful… painful… traumatic… happens instead.
Looking at this so far, we think of the times people, loved ones, friends, family, lovers, have disappointed us. Trauma… whether physical, mental, or emotional… can rupture relationships. Love is impaired in a ruptured relationship. When trust is undermined, there may still be love, but the flow… the expression… the freedom of that love is slowed. Sometimes, it can even feel like everything about the relationship has just… stopped.
A short while ago I posted In Love We Trust discussing some parallels of intimacy between our human relationships and the incredible Divine relationship. In that post we touched on forgiveness for just a moment, how we cannot completely trust those we do not completely forgive, and we cannot completely love those we do not completely trust.
So, for just one moment, let’s discuss the question of completely forgiving the Divine.
“How could I?” “How dare I?” “How can you even think such a thing?”
Yet I can, I dare, I think… because I am REAL and these are real feelings in a real relationship. Our relationship with the Divine can be as real and immediate, as deep and as passionate, as any relationship we’ve ever known… perhaps even more so. King David, a man after God’s own heart, poured his passions out in song and poetry to the Divine that man has yet to equal. The Psalms sing of jubilation, lament, fear, worship, exultation, remorse, and every other emotion imaginable between a child and their Divine Parent.
God delights in transparency. God HONORS transparency. Anything less than transparent honesty is DIShonesty… and that NEVER belongs in this relationship. Dishonesty undermines trust. David did not always like the way God managed affairs, and expressed his feelings and concerns openly before Him. Yet, David always acknowledged God’s RIGHT to manage affairs in His own way, for God is/was God, and David is/was His servant and son. David chose to trust, even when he did not like or understand God’s will.
Jesus did the same. And so we, too, are challenged in the present day.
Rather than go through a lot of Scriptural examples, I just point to the Psalms, or the Garden of Gethsemane for the biblical supporting texts, and pose a few simple ideas and questions for your consideration.
Idea One: Countless wonderful Christians that I know, have gotten stuck in a rut, stopping their forward progress and growth in the intimate knowing of God, the drawing closer of relationship with Him. They get “so far, and no further”, because they suffer some terrible trauma in life, they come to realize the utter sovereignty of God, and they simply CANNOT bring themselves to forgive Him for their pain.
Idea Two: They cannot forgive Him, because they dare not admit (even to themselves), that they hold Him in offense. They are too programmed, too domesticated, too Christianly-trained to admit that they are angry with God (regardless of how reasonable it seems to be angry with Him)… and therefore they do not know that it is right to, or the manner in which, to approach Him and resolve the conflict in their spirit.
Idea Three: To deny one’s sincere feelings, reasonable or not, reverent or not, “acceptable” or not… with regard to one’s transparent sincere and intimate relationship with God, is to introduce a subtle “falseness”, a “lie”, between the self and God. This lie is progressive and toxic, ultimately makiing distance between the heart and God, and can stop our growth in Him.
Idea Four: True intimacy, love, and trust requires transparency. Honestly to share with the Divine that the heart feels wounded and wronged, is NOT the same thing as accusing the Divine of having wounded and wronged the heart. One can state “what is”, without assigning blame or passing judgment.
Idea Five: “Forgiveness” has nothing to do with assigning blame or passing judgment. It is a decision of the will to release offense and bitterness, restoring trust to the prior state, making way for the further growth of love.
Idea Six: The two areas where we are the most likely to “blame God” or “hold offense”, are the two areas we acknowledge as least in “our own control”, and most “totally in His”. Those are the areas of “birth”, and “death”. If there is ANYPLACE we acknowledge the pure sovereignty of God, it is in the matter of the family, culture, lifestyle into which we were born (well beyond our control)… and all matters of the death of those we love (also beyond our control).
“Well, all well and good, Little Monk, but what are you saying here? What do we DO about this, to get past this roadblock and grow in intimacy?”
Well, three things, Gentle Reader. Call them a “Prayer Experiment” if you like…
- Think of all of your life as you grew up… all the suffering you knew… all the things you wish had been different… all that you endured before you reached adulthood and your decisions became your own responsibility… and forgive God for all of that. You are who you are right now, you have and use the gifts you have, you know what you know and you’ve come to THIS place with the Divine… as a result of every single thing you’ve lived through up to now. The painful moments of your childhood, the fears, the disappointments, the injuries, the betrayals, the wounds… all play a part in the redemptive and transformative work God has done in you, making you capable of ministering to and healing others.
Ask yourself: “If God could remove any of the hurts and wounds you knew as a child… but in so doing, you would lose some of your compassion and ability to heal and comfort others now… would you have Him remove them? Or would you prefer to stay as you are, and leave your past as it was?”
If you would stay as you are, then THANK HIM for your past, and embrace it. ALL of it. Because it is ALL part of His gift in making the you that you are now.
- In trials of great grief, in grave illness or injury, or death of a loved one, know that the sadness and tears we experience are the very PRESENCE of the Comforter. That He is with us, He enfolds us, He feels all that we feel of our sadness and loss. But know also, that He sees what we cannot. He sees our beloved’s glorious resurrection in Him, He knows and feels their joy as well. We can trust Him in all of that. We can express our displeasure at the loss of relationship here and now, yes. But in trusting Him, in forgiving Him for “taking them”, we can come to know His peace and even (in time) the joy of knowing their ongoing life in Him. We need not understand it, comprehend it, or deny the real pain we feel. We can trust Him by choice, and over time, watch our hope in Him become concrete reality in our lives and hearts.
Ask yourself: “If God Alone knows the perfect time, the perfect moment, in the complex weave of all of Reality, for a soul, a beloved child of His, to leave the body and return to Him… If He Alone knows and controls the moment for the shell of this life to burst forth into the fullness of the life He has for us in Him… would we really want to change that timing, even from the mist of our own pain of loss? Can we trust Him who gives breath to our bodies, to know precisely the right moment to give wings to our spirit beyond this?”
If so, then even embracing our own pain of loss, we can forgive Him for the death of those we love. We can embrace the truth, the faith, the hope that here and now we dwell in the midst of death, being overtaken by Life. And even bereft and sad as we are, we can trust and forgive Him for granting those we love the freedom of the fullness of His Life. AND, we can know that He embraces US, fully, in our sadness… as we recover and move on from this temporary period of loss, until we are reunited with those we love.
- In ALL the traumas and tragedies that we meet in our lives and our days, illness, financial reversals, tribulations, challenges of loved ones, divorce, whatever we encounter… when circumstances are beyond our control, it is natural to look towards the Divine with a heartfelt lament of… “Why, O Lord?” or “How long, O Lord?” There is nothing wrong with voicing such lament… that is being honest with Him, with ourselves, with life.
But the challenge becomes, “What if He declines to answer? What if He answers, but we cannot comprehend or hear His words or His heart? Can we accept the fact that GOD IS ALWAYS AND ONLY GOOD? That He weaves the tapestry of life ALWAYS to redemption and transformation from defeat to triumph?”
Can we… Will we… CHOOSE to TRUST Him, to embrace, to thank, to praise… simply for Who He is, not just what He does, or how we feel, or what we expect to get out of it?
Here is the challenge, Gentle Reader. The challenge is to “Forgive God”… openly, freely, rapidly. Here is where trust lies. Here is where intimacy and love lie.
It is not easy. It is, in fact, exceedingly hard. Perhaps the hardest thing we are ever called upon to do.
But it is simple. It is a choice, a decision, not to take offense into account. Not to DENY the sense of “offense”, but simply refuse to take it into account in the relationship.
Nothing I know, so consistently derails the spiritual growth of generous, loving, good-hearted Christian brethren. Try this… be transparent and honest, with self and with Him. Forgive Him for hurts (past, present, future), whether the sense of offense is “reasonable” or not. Do not be dissuaded by religiosity or pompous reverence. A child doesn’t have to be “reasonable” or “right” to express respectful displeasure at the decision of a loving parent. They just have to be truthful.
And then, embrace all of it… the was, the is, and the shall be… as though all of it were blessing.
(Because, Gentle Reader… all of it IS. One way or another, all of life is grace.)