Sunday, March 04, 2012

Hard to Give Thanks

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Who can't you forgive? Why can't I? I have someone I need to forgive every single day. You too? And I'm certain there is someone in my life who needs to forgive me every single day.

A discussion on a pastor's Facebook status today was in regards to forgiveness. If I don't forgive, God won't forgive me, this was the conclusion. I think the order is, however, that God has forgiven me, therefore, I must forgive.

I will forgive. It may take longer than I would like for me to get there. God may need to show me my reticence. I have forgiven in many situations. There are one or two remaining and new ones that surface from time to time. He may need to discipline me in ways that reveal my unforgiveness, but ultimately, since I am forgiven, since Christ is my life, I must, will, shall forgive. I am not alone in this effort. The power of Christ. The very Spirit of Christ who said "Love your enemies" and "forgive those who trespass against you" - this is the life I now live.

This is hard for me on so many levels. It requires death to self.

My human nature wants to rise. My "rights" are trampled and I feel resentment. My abilities are spurned for another's and I am envious. My needs go unmet and I am angry. These are the things for which I must give thanks.

Amanda Lindhout was kidnapped and held captive by Islamist insurgents in southern Somalia. She was held for 15 months, released in November 2009 when her family paid the ransom. She is now a sought-after speaker on the topics of forgiveness, compassion and social responsibility. She refuses to discuss the specific details of what happened to her in captivity.

However, a colleague of mine heard her speak recently and quoted Amanda as saying in her windowless prison where she was shackled alone in the dark for 10 months, she sought out something every day which she could count as a gift. If the guards handed her food instead of throwing it at her, that was a gift.

There was much more but it is not my story to tell. My story tonight is to find gifts that are hard to name as gifts. It is a little easier after hearing Amanda Lindhout's story. If she can find gifts in captivity, I better find them in my life.

Okay then. Let's get to it.

198. It is a gift that I am no longer invited to sing on worship teams in my church.
199. It is a gift to have someone in my life who doesn't share. This creates a lack in me. It is a vacant gift.
200. It is a gift to work full time. The hard part is to say it is a gift to not have my days free to do with as I would wish.

201. On the flip side, I can sing any time I please. No platform is necessary.
202. An unfilled hole is a space into which I can welcome the spirit of Christ. He offers to fill me to overflowing.
203. And being focused at work means that my time is spent in ministry instead of self-perpetuating indulgences. I think less of me and more of others.

Silence, vacancy and a lack of leisure can be turned into freedom, filling and giving - if I am willing.
Can I learn to say with the apostle:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. -Phil. 4:11-13

Question: Do you readily forgive? What helps you get there faster? If you're hanging on to unforgiveness,  what would it take to change your mind?

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