Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Forgiveness and Bear Traps

I have been thinking about forgiveness. Specifically, I have been thinking about Jesus, hanging on the cross, praying, "Father, forgive them." I mean, it is one thing to forgive the past. You did something to hurt or offend me, but you are not doing that thing right now. It is in the past, and I can choose to forgive and move on. It is healthy to do so. You don't even have to be a Christian to accept that forgiving the past is best for your own mental health. I believe it was Anne Lamott who said not forgiving someone is like eating rat poison and waiting for the rat to die. It just doesn't work. Your bitterness only hurts your own heart. It may even hurt those around you, who you love dearly. I have found bad attitudes to be contagious.

The reason I have had this on my mind is because, over the years, Corey has been hurt again and again by his ex-wife. He misses his daughter and nothing he does makes the situation any better. Our last lawyer actually made the whole thing worse, making us less confident that the legal system will ever work in our favor. Or Savannah's, for that matter. The courts are very mom-biased. Apparently, we liberated women are equal to men, except when it comes to raising children, and then we are still better. This just isn't a fair assessment. Mommy knows best is too much of a blanket statement to fly in this politically correct America. It does though. Here in the south, at least, the Mother Superior colors fly high and proud.

So, I was thinking on how hard it was for Corey to forgive after his divorce. Then, I had an epiphany. Corey did not just get divorced, forgive his ex-wife, and then it was all better. He is still on the cross. The pain hasn't ended, and somehow he is expected to forgive again and again, over and over, while the nails are still in his hands and blood still runs from his feet.

With all of this spinning in my head, I hear Jesus speak again, but this time I finish the sentence.

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

I think that last phrase is the key. When someone is hurting us, we have to step back and remind ourselves that they cannot possibly understand what they are doing. They think they know. They seem very purposeful, but they can only see this one view of their own actions. It is a distorted view that makes them think they are doing what is best for themselves or someone else. It may make them think they are acting in self-defense or seeking justice that they deserve. Sometimes, the people even think they are doing what God would have them to do. Most of us, myself included, are guilty of the same. We mold God until he looks like us and hates who we hate and despises the things that we, ourselves, despise.

Parenting is a place where this occurs often, in my opinion. From birth, a child is in our care and we need to know what to do. At first, we may ask questions, but we soon develop our own instincts and begin to trust our parenting skills. Sadly, thinking we know best will sometimes keep up from hearing better counsel. Sometimes, we think we are protecting our child when we are really protecting ourselves. 

It happens a lot in divorce. I am blessed, because my parents always put their love for us before their lost relationship. I have never heard either of my parents say something bad about the other one. My mother got left, and I can only imagine the hurt that caused her. She could have kept me from my father. She could have convinced herself and possibly a court system that it was better for me and my sister to stay with her, because if Dad had hurt her, she needed to protect us from being hurt somehow... Right?  Wrong. Had she kept me away from my Father, it would have only hurt me from another angle. And, then, when I grew up a bit and began to look at the situation, I would have blamed her for taking my Daddy away. 

It is hard to be selfless in the face of divorce. Couples who are breaking up cannot help but cause one another pain. God has sewn them together and the ripping of the stitches will hurt immensely. When children are involved, the stitches never really come out. The couple is always held together by the child or children, and it is natural for one or both parents to struggle against that connection, like a bear with its leg in a trap. 

There, with children to protect, Mama Bear and Papa Bear will learn the lesson of Christ's forgiveness, the forgiveness offered while the pain is still being inflicted and when there is no end in sight.

Oh, Jesus, help us to forgive, always.


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: 
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  
Romans 5:8

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