Pastor Grant Edwards spoke a passionate message on forgiveness today, (click here by mid-week to hear the podcast). He featured a testimony from Rich and Sharon Wildman, miraculously reconciled after 16 months in 2004, re: the role of forgiveness in their process.
Here's what I caught in my notes. Contact Rich and Sharon directly (click here) to receive personal coaching through their ministry, Stubborn Pursuits (see if you can guess why it is so named).
From Richard: "I held everything in to the point of depression. In my mind, I would forgive offenses during communion, but later that week something would happen, and I didn't know how to process it. I heard a fresh idea from Neil Anderson; that we need to acknowledge our feelings to God; our hurt, anger, bitterness. Confess it to Jesus. Name it all specifically. And then ask Him to heal my damaged memories and emotions , because they are so far beyond my ability to do that. Eventually I felt a lot better and Sharon and I began to be able to talk about how we'd offended each other."
From Sharon: "It was amazing how God taught us some of the same things during our separation. I learned how to process my anger hurt and offenses Richard did against me. . . . I wrote out everything that I was angry, hurt about, asknowledged it, instead of stuffing it. . . I also needed to admit to God and myself that I'd offended him, and ask forgiveness from God and from him. "
Pastor Grant drew our attention to grace and mercy of forgiveness; to give grace as something not deserved by the one who offended us and to withhold judgment as a merciful act of not giving them what they do deserve. Matthew 6:14, 15 was his text "14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
In theory, it's simple, right? While Grant didn't time have to expound on many of the complexities involved in a forgiveness AND reconciliation process, he seemed to intimate (and I observed as one of the Wildman's coaches) that their restoration required compassionate empathy from each of them to the other for the ways that their respective offenses effected each other.
Let me say it another way. It's one thing to make a decision to forgive another regardless of whether they ask for it or how they receive it, and quite another to repair and restore the relationship. We can forgive in the manner of Jesus, "Father forgive him/her, they know not what they do" as an act of obedience that God knows is good for us (our soul's aren't built to carry resentment or guilt), but it requires additional compassionate and empathic conversation to appreciate the devastating effect that our sinful behavior, attitudes, words, etc. have had on our partner. Short of that, in our experience, it is unlikely that an offended spouse who has forgiven, will again entrust their heart to their partner.
Are you stuck at any point of this process? Consider these action steps:
1. Meditate and pray over Matthew 6:14, 15. Ask God to show you whom to forgive for what.
2. Be willing to hear how the one you was impacted by your behavior.
3. Secure expert counsel, coaching, mentoring, facilitation through proven skills and exercises to share your truth without further damaging the relationship.
Richard said this about one of the important exercises they used, "It (the exercise) was like a fire place in a home. It gave us a way to have a fire in our relationship (truth-telling toward reconciliation and restoration)."
Finally, Pastor Grant encouraged a commitment to being a forgiving person, and in so many words said that our happiness in relationships depends on it!
Will you make a commitment to being a forgiving person? And will you take a step today to either apologize and ask forgiveness from your spouse, or to forgive them?
Blessings, Jeff (and Jill)