How can emotions be used to help us with the forgiveness process? Can even the negative emotions be useful?
In keeping with my recent trend, here is another blurb from my up-coming book: Forgiveness Fail: How the Millennial Church can Rediscover a Forgiveness Process that Works.
Anger. Jealousy. Shame. Sadness. Guilt. Fear.
These emotions have been comprehensively labeled as “bad.” Yay for us! I mean, what would we do if we couldn’t feel guilty about feeling… guilty?
I actually don’t believe that any of these emotions are bad. In fact, I don’t believe any emotions are bad, but all emotions (even the “good” ones) can be used wrongly…
…I wouldn’t classify pain as “good” because, honestly, it hurts and I don’t like to hurt. I can, however, recognize that it has an important role to play and I shouldn’t ask God to take Pain away.
She always excelled at everything she put her hand to, be it school, sports or work. Everything that she started, she wanted to complete with a high level of excellence. She had been praised and affirmed for her success in academics her entire life and had demonstrated that she had a very strong work ethic.
On the outside, everything looked great. But, deep down the enemy had been working in a very subtle, damaging lie that was trying to subvert everything good in her.
The lie that had infected her strong work ethic was that she is only as valuable as her contribution.
“I am only as valuable as what I do.”
As we brought this before her Heavenly Father, He revealed that this lie had been establish, in part by people very close to her who had a pattern of comparing her against others. Even though she almost always was on the “better” side of the comparison, she was being taught that these actions were what made her more valuable than others. She was standing taller than others on a platform of her own performance, but such a structure is unstable at best. With one failure to attain excellence, the platform could collapse, sending her down into the pits of worthlessness.
She lived her life in a constant state of vigilance, careful to maintain her value through what she did.
God’s rest is available for all who put their trust in Jesus, but this lie was not allowing her to enter into that rest. She had to get stuff done in order to be worthwhile.
All of us have a deep-seeded craving to feel worthwhile.
Hungry people will eat.
She didn’t feel valuable just because, so she tried to earn her value. She was feeding her need for value with a lie, but it always left her hungry for more.
She accused some people in her family, before God, of adding strength to this lie. She chose to forgive, asking her heavenly Father to do justice on her behalf.
She confessed her own sin. She confessed that she believed such a damaging, subverting lie and had lived her life as if it was true. She also confessed that she had judged others as less valuable if they were not capable of the same level of excellence. This was a very difficult confession, one that hit home as she realized how bad it was.
She asked God to forgive her. He did.
She rejected the lie, making it clear before God where she stood. She was able to recognize it as a destructive belief and did not want it in her life any more. Then she asked God to do His part. She asked Him to break the power that the lie had in her life. Then she asked her heavenly Father to replace the lie with a Truth.
She waited for God’s response. There was no tangible response, only sense of comfort, like she could keep listening and waiting on Him for a very long time… but nothing ever came. She was disappointed. She felt like she had done something wrong. Wasn’t she supposed to hear something from God?
We talked about what God could be trying to tell her through this “lack of response.” Suddenly, it became clear that she had accomplished “nothing” but she still had deep peace with God. She had neither heard nor seen the “right” thing. She had not “performed correctly.” She felt like she was supposed to get something from God, and she had not. And still, God’s peace was there.
Through our discussion, it became clear that God was indeed communicating something.
I am okay to just be me.
She was no longer dependent on doing something to earn her value. God had accepted her and confirmed her value before Him when she was accomplishing nothing.
Her value is now tied to her existence, not her performance.
Her mother was always angry.
There was nothing you could do to reason with her.
She would shame her and the rest of the family into making false apologies and would force them to take responsibility for things that were not theirs to take.
She would blame her daughter for her being unhappy.
She had unreasonable requirements that were impossible to fulfill. She was never at fault. It was always someone else’s fault.
She demanded that everyone else take ownership for her problems.
Her co-worker was the same way. She would blame her for not feeling included in the group and would not accept her own responsibility to communicate her needs. She expected everyone else to read her mind and meet all her needs.
Both of them had taught her a lie:
I am responsible for other’s emotions.
She accused and forgave both of them before God for teaching her this lie.
She asked God how she should be acting towards her mom. She saw a picture of her mom hitting her with a dirty mop, making her dirty. She put the mop away and told her mom, “You cannot do this to me anymore.”
She also confessed her own part in believing the lie and trying to take responsibility that wasn’t hers to take. She asked for God’s forgiveness.
She rejected this lie and asked God to give her a truth to replace it.
She saw a hamburger.
That’s what I said. This is probably one of the strangest truths that I have ever witnessed God give in response to a lie.
She was holding the hamburger tightly when someone came up to her and tried to cut it up. When she wouldn’t let them do this, they got angry and threw it on the ground and stomped it.
When she looked closer, she saw that the meat was black.
This picture confused her so she asked God to explain it to her. Apparently God is still in the business of speaking in parables.
God told her that the Hamburger is something that can give strength when she is hungry and that the meat is not bad for her. It is good food and it tastes good. This other person saw the meat as bad and called it bad, which made her think that it was bad.
I asked her what the meat represented. She said it was her words.
I asked her what the entire hamburger represented. She said it was her.
God continued to unfold the picture in her mind. She saw other people coming to her and helping her clean off the meat, which only had dust on it, making it black. These people reacted to her words in love by helping her instead of being angry.
Her words were meant to bring strength to herself and others.
She is a blessing.
This is true even if her words aren’t perfect. Some people will react to her words with violence while others will react in helpful love.
I used to think that what I have to say is awkward and horrible.
I used to think that I caused people trouble.
I used to blame myself when people got angry at me.
Now I feel like my words are a blessing to people!
The truth is that my life and words are a blessing.
Father, I give up the lie that I always speak badly and create trouble for people.
Thank you for letting me know for the first time that when I speak I can bring happiness and blessing to people…
That it’s not my fault when people get angry when I speak.
I am a hamburger – God’s hamburger!
I am a blessing.
Help me to live the life of a hamburger.
Thank you for bringing this hamburger into my life.
I used to think my mouth was zipped shut and it was hard to open. Today my mouth was unzipped and the zipper was taken out.
Seriously, I’m not making this stuff up… how could I?
This woman is an active minister of the gospel in a country where that could get her into serious trouble.
This truth from God, no matter how strange, unlocked her lips to speak truth from a place of freedom, not fear.
Teaching and speaking used to be a burden because she was afraid that she was going to cause someone to be angry at her. Now she knows that she is a blessing to those that God brings to her.