Finding the Freedom to Move On

forgiveness

I remember the mustard carpet in my little office. It had been 6 months since my world fell apart into the flat Texas soil. Barely out of my teens I graduated from Baylor and jumped right into “full time ministry”.

I had arrived. I knew what I was doing.  I had a vision for a practical school of ministry that was going to train leaders for the nations. At the ripe old age of 21, I sat down and wrote it all out.  Studied for months.  Developed and wrote pages and pages and pages of outlines and plans and lessons.

I shared this dream with a woman who I looked to as a mentor at the time.  Soon we were in it together. I had written 80% of the material, created the PR and the structure and we had 50 students signed up for a year long adventure… and I could show you the tile I stood on the moment my dream died.

Five minutes before I was giving the orientation, I was informed that it had been decided I was too young to have a leadership role in the school. I knew in that instant the door had slammed shut in my face and it would not be reopened.  A few days later I had a letter in the mail informing me that my services would no longer be needed as they were using a new and different curriculum and basically have a nice life.

I had friends in the class.  The only thing different about the curriculum was the name on it.  And the stories that were told about why I disappeared were so vicious I had to leave the city to find a safe place to worship.

Betrayal rips at the deepest level, leaves wounds so painful you think you will never recover.  Agony so profound you feel utterly isolated. But you are not. Ever. Alone.

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Heb 4:15-16 NASB

Jesus knew betrayal. Almost everyone scattered and one He had poured into for almost the entirety of His ministry sold Him out with a kiss for a price.  The word tempted could also be translated: tried, put to proof, tested.  In all things.  Even betrayal and loss. He knows and wears the scars to prove it.

Months went by and the injustice of it all was gnawing inside. I was desperate for something.  Closure, maybe? Just to be able to move on.

One day I lay weeping, ranting and fuming all at the same time.

“Jesus, it’s not fair. They stole my curriculum.”
“Whose curriculum?,” He replied.
“MY, um, ur, ahem Your curriculum.”
“Beloved, there is one way they can’t steal the curriculum.”
{Insert thoughts of copyright allegations and victorious legal proceedings.}
“Oh?” I hesitantly said.
“They can’t steal it if you give it to them.”

I was so totally frustrated with where I was and wanted just to be able to get beyond the ache somehow.

I packed all my notes and even all my study resources used and drove them down to the church, marched them into the pastor’s office, smiled and said I wanted to drop the box off in case it could be helpful to the new curriculum, turned around surrounded by incredulous looks and walked out those doors free.

This was my introduction “full-time” ministry and it was the best thing that could have happened. I didn’t know it but Jesus was protecting me from so much.  In weeks I was preparing to move to Calcutta, India and I never looked back.  A few years ago I looked up the person involved and was sad to see not much appears to have changed.

I am so grateful Jesus kept me safe from myself and from getting stuck in a situation that could have derailed my journey.  It was in that excruciating season I made some of the healthiest, longest standing, closest friendships I am grateful to still be walking with. I thought I had lost everything, but actually I was being set up to gain so much more than that which was taken away.

Forgiveness isn’t a one time thing. It is a moment by moment choosing to leave the justice part to Jesus and choosing to forgive the debt so we can move on.  Forgiveness isn’t primarily about the other person at all.  It is about us and the state of our hearts first.

Forgiveness isn’t saying the actions were acceptable or diminishing the pain those actions have caused.  To forgive doesn’t mean you are giving permission for bad behavior. You can forgive completely and set healthy boundaries of what you will and will not permit to operate around you all at the same time.

Forgiveness, reconciliation and rebuilding trust are three entirely different things.  Forgiveness is about our hearts and is something we choose with Jesus help. Reconciliation requires healthy choices from all parties involved and sometimes just isn’t possible.  And we are not responsible for that.  We are only responsible for our own choices.

Today marks a year anniversary for a very painful exit from where I served for almost 7 years.  It has been a process of letting go on whole new levels.  And it is still a journey.  But I am so incredibly grateful for what Jesus is doing.  More to come on all of that.

Jesus isn’t asking us to forgive for the sake of the person who wronged, abused or hurt us.  Our forgiveness can affect them, but He asks us to forgive so we can be set free and so that we free Him to move on our behalf.   To love in the face of pain is to be brave.  To forgive is to be free.