Let it Die
Let it die.
God has been saying this to me in recent days concerning a specific part of my life.
Sometimes there are things in our lives we’re determined to keep alive when it’s actually time for them to die.
Isn’t this too often the case with past offenses and disagreements? Months and even years after a negative experience with someone, we still relive the whole thing in our minds as if it happened yesterday – or worse, we continue to retell it as if it happened yesterday. This is a snare to which many of us fall prey when we experience conflicts that never get fully resolved or don’t get resolved in the way we think they should. Oftentimes, the person never even realizes what he/she did wrong, and therefore, never takes ownership of it, and therefore, never acknowledges it. No apology. No remorse. No request for forgiveness. Nothing.
Because of this perceived (and perhaps real) injustice, we feel justified in holding the offense against them. The justification can feel even stronger when the offending party is a fellow believer. After all, she, of all people, should have known better! So we sit in our self-justified resentment and unleash our minds to relive events, stir up emotions once more, and reinforce our rightness and their wrongness. Around and around we go, all the while trying to convince others that we “have forgiven them.”
It’s an inner cycle with which too many of us are all too familiar. We are annoyed when we see the pattern in others. “Here we go again. She’s going to tell another story about being a victim,” we think to ourselves. All the while we fail to recognize the same pattern in ourselves. It’s easy to let go of other people’s offenses for them. Not so with our own. Our grip gets a little tighter when we have our own offenders.
So what is the antidote for this hidden and life-zapping cycle?
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:18-19
Forgiveness is an essential in turning the tide of our inner life. I’ve learned that forgiveness is something we can extend, by our will, in Jesus’ Name and that it is also something that manifests itself over time. It’s okay if we simply forgive by our will at first, to start the process. Then we keep pressing into God, asking Him to align our hearts and our emotions with forgiveness – to give us His heart toward the person, to uproot any seed of resentment and bitterness, and to complete His work of forgiveness in our hearts. I’ve learned that we can’t force our emotions to change. Nor can we change our own hearts. These are works of the Holy Spirit. What we can do is keep inviting Him in to cleanse, release, and shape our hearts so that they increasingly align with His. He is able to do what we, in our own strength, could never do. He is also endlessly patient with us, desiring that His work be completed in us more than we could ever desire it.
* I feel the need to say at this point that forgiving someone does not mean that you trust the person. Forgiveness is a gift, but trust is earned. Some people will earn our trust again, but some people in our lives were never meant to be trusted in the first place.*
Along with forgiveness comes another essential: forgetting the past. Not “forgetting” as it is usually understood, but rather, a releasing of past experiences to the Lord. We give them to God, lay them at the altar, and relinquish our “right” to hold onto them any longer.
Why do we release them to God? Not to let the other person off the hook. Not to say that what they did wasn’t a big deal. Not to condone unjust treatment. Nor to become best friends with our offender. No. We release them to God so that our hearts are free. Free to live the abundant life that God has for us NOW. To be Kingdom-minded is to be fully present, ready to embrace what God is doing in the here and now.
How will we ever discern God’s voice and sense what He is doing in the present if we keep clinging to negativity from the past? How much time do we waste reliving old offenses that we supposedly have forgiven? How much breath do we waste retelling the stories of what “they” did to us? How much energy do we waste trying to prove the rightness of our position in past conflicts and attempting to gain recruits for “our side”?
We’ll miss the life he has for us today if we keep spending all of our energy on the past. Let’s choose, as sons and daughters of God, to forgive past offenses, release them to God, and experience the abundant life He’s inviting us into NOW.
Stop reliving the past.
Stop retelling the story.
Let it die!