Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wrestling With Forgiveness


Wrestling With Forgiveness

An email from my doctor read, “You have an enlarged heart wall and extra electricity . . . this could be from damage to your heart  . . .  or. . .”  Immediately, my mind raced and my heart raced faster causing me to lose an entire night’s sleep!

A few days earlier, my doctor expressed concern for my slightly high blood pressure.  “How could this be?” I asked.  “I exercise regularly and I try to eat fairly well.” She ordered an EKG with a follow up stress test to see if I had any signs of heart disease.
The above test results of the EKG showed up in my email box two nights before I was to speak to a group of college students.  The topic?  Perfect Peace!  With every ounce of will power, I recalled Scriptures about anxiety, trust and health.  In my heavy breathing prayers, I even accepted God’s sovereign rule that I could have a health issue.  But nothing could slow down my beating, anxious heart.

As I retrieved my notes for my talk, I prayed with my intercessor and tears stung my eyes as my physical heart danced wildly inside my chest ~ as if it was expressing something to me ~ making me appreciate its constant and faithful service to me all these 43 years.

Although I was desperate to call my doctor first thing that Monday morning, I could not because the chapel talk was scheduled. The call would have to wait until after lunch.  Moments before I started to speak, I whispered a prayer offering God my body, my mouth, my anxious thoughts. Suddenly, when I opened my mouth to deliver my talk on Perfect Peace, my heart slowed down to a normal rhythm.  Isaiah 26:3 tumbled from my lips: “You will keep in perfect peace him (and her) whose mind is steadfast, because (she) trusts in you.”  

I taught for a few moments from Acts 12 when Peter was asleep in prison on the eve of his persecution.  And I embodied peace.  Miraculous, I thought.  Even with my heart acting somewhat normal, I still had lingering thoughts and real concerns about what the stress test could reveal.  Perfect peace?  Not quite yet.

A few weeks later, I did indeed show up for a stress test.  My blood pressure was so high that the nurse in charge asked if I was anxious about the test.  “I don’t think so . . . but what if something is wrong with my heart? Can I speak to a cardiologist right away?”  I wanted, more than anything, to speak to an expert.

Within 12 hours of the stress test, I received another note from my doctor announcing that my heart is in excellent condition; she noted that I should rest more in between my activities to see if that lowers my blood pressure.

And with that email, in that moment, my mind and my spirit knew (fully convinced) that my heart was good and my breathing leveled out.
What does this have to do with forgiveness?  Why am I writing this to the leadership within you?  My point is twofold:  Scripture spoken aloud to one person or 1000 people restores the soul.  And, second, we need to wrestle truth to the ground until we have the answers we need, in hand, from the Expert.

As the beating of my heart and the pressure of my blood are foundational, even basic, to my overall heath, so is forgiveness the basic foundation to our spiritual health.   You and I check our hearts and blood pressure regularly but why do we ignore our forgiveness capacity?

Women in leadership have been hurt and will continue to experience pressures, stresses and injustices that men do not.  It is what it is.  However, just as Jacob wrestled God all night long asking for a blessing, so must we wrestle with forgiveness as long as it takes so we won’t depend on deceit or scheming to receive the blessings God has prepared for us! 

But a wrestling it is ~ when I succumbed to the stress test, examining the true condition of my heart ~ I was running fast on a treadmill with wires strapped wildly on my mid-section.  Three nurses surrounded me, vital statistics flashing, sweat forming on my body: the only way we could get an accurate reading of my heart was when my body was maxed out to its capacity.  The only way we can lead others with healing is by maxing out our spirits in full forgiveness.  We must wrestle with God through the night hours, not letting the sins of bitterness and grudges overtake us.  We must hold on until God responds and spares us, giving us another day, another 24 hours to rejoice and lead with full forgiveness as our foundation, pumping fresh blood and life into our cells.

Who do you need to forgive in this day and are you willing to struggle with God until the blessing of forgiveness is yours?

Let’s talk about this issue

1)   How might you depend on deceit and schemes when someone offends you?

2)   What does it look like to receive forgiveness?

3)   In the story of Jacob and Esau, how do you think Esau could forgive Jacob?

4)   When does unforgiveness impact your capacity to lead others?


4 comments:

Bergy said...

When I am unwilling to forgive that seed of unforgiveness places a wedge in my heart and in my relationship with the Lord. This wedge inhibits me from being able to hear the Holy Spirit speak to me and festers into anger which makes me feel less willing to even "want" to lead,

sarah baldwin said...

thanks, Pam, for this piece. your trust is a such a symbol of hope!

Melanie Springer Mock said...

Pam, Thank you for sending this along and for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate your transparency (and am glad everything's well with your heart). I agree so much that many women in Christian leadership have been hurt, and carry their wounds with them in ways that keep them from serving God--and others--the way they best can. Goodness knows, I feel wounded often by those who question my own gifts, and sometimes think I go through my days at GF trying to justify that I belong where I am, whether than leaning into God's grace and forgiving others for the ways they've hurt me, questioned my intelligence, doubted my teaching. Thanks for the valuable reminder that I need to forgive and go forward.

Dee Ann Hutchins said...

It wasn't really until I was an adult and a mother that I learned the power of the question, "Will you forgive me?" When our children needed to apologize for an offense against mom or dad or each other, they were taught to follow their apology with the question, "Will you forgive me?" Then the admonition followed that sounded something like this, "Since you have chosen to forgive your sister, love requires that you remember her sin no more." But we do so like to lick our wounds, don't we? May we strive to be women who keep short accounts and pray that others will extend the same grace to us.

Thanks for the gentle nudging to ask God who I need to forgive, and then remember their offense no more!