Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Sugar Face - forgiveness" from L.L. Barkat

Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places, by L.L. Barkat

Forgiveness seems elusive. We can say we forgive someone and really mean it, but in our hearts we may not have. And if we haven't in our hearts, then Jesus says we haven't done so at all.

L.L. shares her struggles in forgiving both her father and her grandmother. She found herself holding grudges against each of them, and as we read the story, we can understand why. How she came to really forgive them involved both seeing something of her father's own grief over mistreatment in his life by his father, and a revelation as it were, from God about her continued anger over her grandmother's deriding words.

While L.L. was stewing with contempt over her grandmother's past steadied, principled in her own eyes criticisms of her, these questions "rolled into [her] mind: 'What if the people whose love you cherish held you to the standard to which you hold her? What if your loved ones only saw your faults, of which you have many? What is your unforgiveness but an idol set on a pedestal - the idol of you set in perfection against others?" (p. 119) L.L. had never imagined herself as having a problem with idolatry. But the thought that she was looking at her grandmother with an exaggerated and untrue image of who she herself was, made the charge of idolatry ring true. She really was no better herself than the "sugar face" she and her children had seen of the sculpture of a man, eventually to melt away in the humidity of the day. It was finite and limited, not marble like she first thought- and we all are, as well.

I wonder about my own heart towards others, at times. People who are out and out sinners, I can readily identify with, because in my heart I know I can fit in that category. "There, but for the grace of God, go I." But people who look down on others I struggle with, because I am angered over the hurt they inflict on them, some of that directed at me. I find myself in my heart at times striking back against them, and often holding a grudge against them, or wanting to avoid their company.

But with L.L. I have to wonder if I'm actually viewing them with some exalted image of myself in view. An attitude of: "I thank God I'm not like them!" In fact, I can be the judge over them! Rather than seeing God as the only one who can judge. And seeing them "in Jesus" so that we're all taken up in him in our need for forgiveness and reconciliation to God and to each other. Do we extend the forgiveness through Christ we've received, even to our enemies, or those who have deeply hurt us? As we by grace are enabled to do that, they will begin to see not us, not the idol of ourselves we've concocted, but the Lord in all his beauty and glory, in his grace and truth. And as we all see the Lord, we will then begin to recognize and can acknowledge our own utter sinfulness, and God's grace in Jesus for each of us.

Again another chapter which hits home for me, and helps us look at forgiveness in a new, fresh way.

How can a true view of ourselves help us forgive others? How can a true view of God in Jesus help us forgive others? Is forgiveness just a one time act, or might we ordinarily have to do it over and over again? What did Jesus say on that? Or what thoughts would you like to share on this?

1. Stepping Stones - conversion
2. Christmas Coal - shame
3. Tossed Treasures - messiness
4. Heron Road - suffering
5. Sword in the Stone - resistance
6. Howe's Cave - baptism
7. Palisade Cliffs - doubt
8. Holding Pfaltzgraff - inclusion
9. Indiana Jones - fear
10. Old Stone Church - love
11. Goldworthy's Wall - sacrifice
12. Clefts of the Rock - responsibility
13. Olive Press - gratitude
14. Forest Star - humility
15. Seedstone - healing

Next week: "Lava Rock - witness"

10 comments:

Rachel Mc said...

I think forgiveness is an act that you do over and over again and it can change subtly or a lot as time goes on. I hope as I mature, get a firmer faith grip, etc, my forgiveness is less "conditional" and less centered on "you hurt me first" etc. I don't know, I think forgiveness is something I will struggle with the rest of my life and for now, I just need to stay away from people who have hurt me the most, I wonder if that is ok or if I am to find a way to let them back into my life even though the relationships have changed...I wonder a lot about this.

NaNcY said...

another wonderful chapter

i love the name "sugar face"

it makes the lesson in this chapter much easier to swallow.

kind of like the way that forgiveness
can make our life much sweeter.

NaNcY said...

i honestly think that this book needs to be read more than once. one just does not get it all on the first go around.

NaNcY said...

do you think that forgiveness, as a process started, keeps the heart from becoming hard with bitterness and hurt, and in it God can work with our heart. where as if we do not take a step toward forgiveness, maybe our heart becomes hard, and can not be worked with, but, maybe can only be unused or broken.

i like the part of recognising the imperfection in self and others, like humility before God, as an open door into forgiveness.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Rachel,
No easy answers on that, surely, and it varies from person to person and according to circumstances, I think.

Of course we have to express our forgiveness based on the reality of God's forgiveness extended to all in Christ.

But I think what you say in the beginning of your comment is so true. It takes time to really work through these issues well, especially with regard to people who have hurt us deeply, and on top of that, may have not repented of the wrong they did.

I really like much the work of Miroslav Volf on this issue. He writes from a firsthand, experiential knowledge of working through this and his books are most helpful:Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace, and The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World are all helpful though the first and last ones are challenging at times to understand with a lot of scholarly work of others he interacts with. Though both books are extraordinary. The middle book, "Free of Charge" while challenging is written as if he would be sharing with a church and it helps one be grounded in the truth in Scripture in Jesus on this issue. I would recommend you to take the time and read that one some time. And give the others a look; you may just want to borrow them, rather than buy them.

But I think your point is very well taken. Yes we forgive but that looks different over time as we mature in Christ.

One thing I like about what Volf does, and he does many other things well in the books, but it's the effort to look at other things from the offender's viewpoint, even when we think they're wrong and we are the victims. Also I like Volf's point that it's never that we're white and their black, but there is wrong on both sides, and often will be on the part of the victim, as a reaction to the wrong done. Many good things there.

We have to keep working on it in our lives before God from the word and in Jesus. Not easy and takes time.

Thanks for sharing that.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Nancy,
Yes, you definitely get more and more out of the book as you go through it again and again.

I agree. If we don't seek to forgive and go through the process we then short circuit what God wants to do. And in the nature of the case before us of forgiving others, our hearts do become hard towards them, not what God wants.

But it's a process and with some of the wrongs and hurts done, it will take time and the work of the
Spirit towards reconciliation through Jesus.

preacherman said...

Wonderful thoughts yet again brother. I hope and pray all is going well with you. You are always in my prayers. Remember God has great things in store for your life. Dreams that you have never imagined. I think when we forgive those who wrong us we experience the peace the surpasses all understanding!
God bless and have a wonderful week.

lorenzothellama said...

To forgive can be almost impossible and only takes place when some changed mindset takes place.

Forgiving in a clinical technical manner is achievable but sometimes it is impossible to forget. If you can't forget, have you really forgiven?

Ted M. Gossard said...

Kinney,
Am praying for you, also, brother. You're a great encourager. Hope you and yours are well, also. That you are on the mend.

Amen! Thanks.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Lorenzo,
Sometimes it's not wise to forget as in the case of an abused woman. Also when the other never repents, you can forgive them in your hearts even, or be in the process of so forgiving, while certainly extending forgiveness to them verbally in Jesus' name. And we need to pray to God for them and for a forgiving heart towards them.

But they still need to be held accountable. Reconciliation involves confrontation of both the truth of what they've done, as well as the forgiveness to be found in the salvation of Jesus. The goal is reconciliation with them, or towards that, though that may not be achievable in this life, either. But as those in Jesus and followers of him, we are called to do no less towards everyone, including our enemies.

But Lorenzo, it's a tough one you bring up. Hard, but we must work through such things in Jesus, if we're to be obedient to God's will. This is a major aspect of the reason God came here in Jesus, becoming one of us, and dying for us. So we might be reconciled to God and to each other.

Thanks for reading and commenting.