Random Blog Clay Feet: February 28, 2009
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Saturday, February 28, 2009

My Eyes Are On You

I am still dealing with the swirling emotions inside related to a number of situations. But what I am aware of is that the real issue has little to do with the current situations and much more to do with deep, unresolved issues from long ago that still haunt me and dictate far too much of my current feelings and reactions.

Much of the information that I have been blessed with over the past years about healing of damaged emotions, freedom from internal embedded lies and the real truth about forgiveness and about God's feelings toward me are all coming into play in addressing my sensations of current re-ignition of old fires. But at the same time I am feeling somewhat a sense of confusion, or maybe more along the lines of a loss of perspective. I feel the increasing need for others to remind me of who I really am – except that I have serious doubts as to whether anyone really does know who I really am.

One thing that keeps coming back to my attention is the issue of forgiveness. As I was thinking about forgiveness a couple days ago in reference to my current repeated temptations to indulge in feelings of anger and bitterness toward those who are acting wickedly, the distinct realization came to me that forgiveness is very much like dying. The more that I sense the real truth about forgiveness the more it resembles in many respects a choice to die. I suspect that this is maybe why Jesus talked so much about dying to self if we ever want to enjoy real life as it was designed for us.

This also confirms for me that the typical notions about forgiveness are seriously off track. Most of peoples assumptions about forgiveness do not go anywhere near causing one to feel like they are dying. Many of them feel much more like engaging in a very long-term intense effort to suppress feelings of resentment, rage and desires for revenge. Because pseudo-forgiveness does not get rid of the original cause for the internal pain we suffer emotionally, we end up having to continue to deal with that pain over and over again and get very discouraged thinking that this whole notion of forgiveness may be just a mistaken idea that doesn't really change anything.

But I have been exposed to much clearer insights about the real truth of forgiveness that have caused me to shudder at its intensity to its similarity to death. Real forgiveness is far more sobering than the false concepts of forgiveness and makes a person reevaluate and take stock if they really want to do this or not. It forces a person to tally up the pros and cons of whether this is going to be worth the risk involved, whether this is going to produce a decent return on the investment made in ways that we often don't take into account.

This accounting and evaluation of whether real forgiveness is worth investing in will be heavily weighted and influenced by what we believe about the value and truthfulness of Jesus' assessments of the factors involved. If we come to decide that forgiveness is worth the high risk involved, it is only going to happen if we can come to believe that we can trust God's viewpoint about the risks and benefits that He says play into the decision long-term. Because in our own experience the benefits are sometimes not seen at all in some situations and are delayed uncomfortably in many others.

So it seems from this perspective that to take the risk of choosing to forgive someone that we first have to have a certain amount of trust in the integrity of the God who tells us that this is the only real option we have if we want to live in true freedom and enjoy life. Of course this is the same God who also tells us that if we want to save our life we have to be willing to let go of it; all those who try to keep their life will end up losing it. This all sort of has a similar ring to it as the issues I am starting to see in forgiveness.

I keep finding myself going back to the parable of the debtor in Matthew 18 where I learned the most stunning truth about forgiveness a number of years ago. I keep reflecting on the implications embedded in this story and consider how they relate to other stories by Jesus about forgiveness and related issues.

The original creditor in this story chose to forgive the astoundingly enormous debt by the first debtor – 150,000 years of normal wages! We tend to focus on the size of the debt as well as the cluelessness of the debtor to seemingly comprehend the gravity of his situation as demonstrated by his actions soon afterward. But I am drawn to consider the situation of the first person in this story, the master who forgave this enormous debt to start with because, it says, he had compassion.

It occurs to me that the loss that was incurred by the master is seldom very seriously considered in this story. We almost take for granted that it should have been somehow easy for him to just offer this forgiveness. Maybe we think that we was so incredibly rich that he might not really be affected by this write-off of this incredible debt. But that is not necessarily true. Because the size of this debt is so staggering, I think that we tend to gloss over the cost that was involved for the master to simply write it off and give up his right to collect on this debt.

It is this point right here where I am beginning to see the connection with death being closely linked with forgiveness. By relinquishing his right to collect on the debt, this master had to of experienced something very similar to death himself. If someone owed me that kind of money – well, I really can't even relate to how much money that really means. I guess this would somehow need to be put in a context that would make more sense emotionally to me.

This is the part of the story that I sense I must connect with for it to have its intended effect. Until I can begin to really sense and appreciate how much it really cost the master to forgive this level of debt that was legitimately owed to him, I cannot begin to really appreciate the intensity of that kind of forgiveness.

I suppose that the reason Jesus used this figure and put it into monetary language was to attempt to make it relevant so that we could begin to sense the value that God gave up in order to offer forgiveness to us. Saying that the debt was this size in terms of wages is trying to connect us to the fact that it is something extremely valuable involved here, something of unimaginable worth, something very costly to the original owner that had to be relinquished in exchange for settling the account that prevented these two people from being able to have a good relationship.

This master did not just temporarily suspend the debt for this debtor and then later re-institute it as most people assume when they read this story. There is not the slightest hint that the debt was ever re-imposed by the master. In fact, in the story it states very clearly twice that the debt was forgiven. This infers that the master had officially given up all rights permanently to ever collect on this debt again; he had literally died, so to speak, to his rights to collect or hold this account open against the debtor. This was an irreversible decision on his part but was taken by his own free choice with full knowledge of the enormous risk and loss that would be involved.

Compassion is the key element here that maybe lies at the root of part of my problem struggling with my own need to forgive. And I suspect that it also betrays the real reason that the debtor in this story seemed to have such a problem himself learning how to properly relate to those who were in debt to him. This element of compassion somehow baffles me and even frightens me in a way. I used to think that I had a lot of compassion inside of me, but now I sense that my compassion may actually be something else, more of a self-serving sympathy for only selected people whom I think may deserve getting a break from me. Or worse yet, it may be subconscious manipulative way for me to get others to appreciate and love me more.

The deeper I get into pondering this problem the more uneasy I am feeling. If what I am sensing is true, I am finding myself closer and closer to having to identify myself in this story with the ungrateful debtor who seemed unable to feel real compassion for those who owed him instead of being able to identify with the master who was able to so apparently quickly forgive a debt that I can't even wrap my mind around.

And that is really where I am starting to see that my own problem lies. I really am too much like the debtor who seemed clueless as to the enormity of his debt. Just like Simon at the feast where Mary anointed Jesus' feet, I find myself unable to see myself as the greater debtor weighted under an unthinkable debt toward God needing enormous amounts of forgiveness. To be really honest, I have never been able to identify very well with people who talk about our immense level of debt toward a God who provides us with life and blessings and grace all the time with very little in return. Yes, intellectually I can assent to that theory, but my heart does not buy into it yet. I really am an ungrateful debtor and I am getting more exposed as such all the time.

Maybe this is part of my rage problem. Oh no. Here we go on another discomforting insight that I wasn't expecting. It just became obvious to me that this debtor who was clueless about the size and impossibility of paying off his own debt displayed these very symptoms of rage and resentment against those who owed him. I suspect that these two things go together inseparably. My ignorance of just how much debt I owe is betrayed by how much struggle I find myself in trying to forgive someone else who has created a debt in me.

But I really don't see the answer for my problem very well yet. And that itself is quite frightening to me. I have always been amazed in this story of how this debtor could act so callously toward another person after just having such an enormous debt paid off from his account. But now I find myself in that very situation and am amazed at my own lack of ability to sense the same thing that I feel critical about in this debtor. That insight certainly doesn't leave me with warm fuzzies. That means that if I can't figure out how to have my perception changed about my own situation and whatever debt I have incurred that is so big, I am very likely to continue to live and relate to others the way this debtor did. And after reading the end of the story I really don't like that option in the least.

So far I can't detect any clues in this story as to how this ungrateful debtor was supposed to be able to change his perception of his own attitude and situation other than living under torture and in prison until he was willing to wake up to the option of freedom implied in the directions given to him near the end. But I really don't like that part of the story either, especially as I am seeing myself very much in his shoes right now. I don't know of anyone who thinks that being tortured in prison is something to look forward to. In fact, I rather suspect that this would only cause me to become even more angry, resentful and bitter. Given treatment like that I am afraid that I would melt into a ball of uncontrollable rage and hatred – which is generally the fuel that torturers love to feed off of and intensifies their delight. I really don't like where this story is taking me now.

I must find freedom from this rage and bitterness and hatred that is holding my soul hostage. It has affected me for most of my life, and even though it has not been very noticeable, at least not very often publicly, it has remained hidden deep in my subconscious memories and emotional psyche. I have felt its flames emerge at different times to torture me and cause me embarrassment occasionally and have had to be very careful to not burn others with its acid bitterness. But I am becoming increasingly aware of it over the past few days and sense that God is wanting to take me on a healing journey that is going to be way out of my comfort zone very soon.

I am not sure how to prepare myself for this trip. I have been feeding my mind with large doses of truth about God's love over the past few weeks and I wonder if that is not part of what is precipitating some of this happening right now. I wonder if I have been given enough soul training for the past few years that I am now prepared subconsciously to engage in an experience that will max out my ability to cope with old traumas so big that they will require a very large joy-bucket to handle them. Those familiar with some of the things I have been learning about the brain from James Wilder will know what this means.

Whatever is happening, I have to cling very hard to what I have been learning about the goodness and faithfulness of God to get through what I sense is starting to happen in my life. I am feeling more and more out of control and that is frightening to me. At the same time I almost feel a little sense of relief that maybe I am finally starting to really grow in some areas that have been deeply stuck nearly all of my life. One thing is very certain – I do not feel capable of facing this alone. I feel very inadequate to survive the trauma that I fear I am going to have to face as I experience eruptions from this deep cauldron deep in my psyche that has simmered for many years out of sight.

Part of my deep fears about this is that my reputation is likely to be seriously damaged at best. I am frightened at what people will think about me when they see feelings and attitudes and outbursts that are totally unlike anything they have ever seen before if they happen to occur during my healing process. I am also afraid that if this were to happen then God's reputation could be seriously damaged as well after all the things I have talked about. People may assume that I am supposed to be a demonstration of all the good things that I have been learning about what God is like. People might feel good reason to question whether God is really capable of changing a person who suddenly seems to be falling apart in the wrong directions as old garbage begins to spill out into the open. And even though that may or may not be part of what is seen in public, I suspect that at least part of this is going to be required for me to get the deep healing that must take place if I am to really move on from this wilderness I have been circling in for about forty years.

Now isn't that uncanny. I never thought of that before. I have spent very close to forty years stuck in this trap of internal, unresolved rage about things I have never even understood myself. Just like the children of Israel in the wilderness I have been learning and practicing and processing all sorts of things about truth and principles and experiences with God, but I still feel like I have not crossed over into a better land yet.

And maybe that is the best news about this that I have detected yet. Maybe God is about to show me a much better land flowing with good things that I have only hoped to imagine before. Maybe as I die to self and pass through a flooded obstacle, a river full of danger, hopelessness and fear, that through the miracle of God's providence and His resurrection power I may come out the other side to begin a life of miracles and conquests in which I can watch God knock down invincible walls of resistance and allow Him to drive out all the enemies in a land that He has promised for me.

I am choosing to trust Him in this. I really don't know how to progress from here. I do sense that I must make daily choices that will align me with His impressions about forgiveness to the best of my ability. He will have to provide the motivations, the feelings, the awareness of my enormous incurred debt with Him and the compassion that I need toward those who have incurred debt with me. He is the only source for all of these things that I so desperately need. So, like Jehoshaphat who was faced with overwhelming odds and very real threats to his very existence, I say with him – I don't know what to do but my eyes are on You.