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September 4, 2007

Why Forgiveness Works

I once heard a boy brag about his father locking his mother in a room until she repented for "not being submissive." He was my teammate on a teen mission trip to Venezuela. At 16, already harboring anger toward men, it was not what I needed to hear.

The church has not always championed women, and growing up, I suffered for it. Christian girls were supposed to be "gentle and quiet." But, I wasn't quiet. I had things to say - important things. How could I be docile when I had ambitions to change the world? This clash caused deep wounds that are still healing today. It also required me to forgive.

My experience is not unique. Many women have been hurt, not only by men in the church, but also by other Christian women. When we suffer an assault on our gender, it pierces us to the core. How we respond to this pain seriously impacts our ability to lead. We must learn forgiveness. Without it our ministries are crippled.

What is forgiveness? Forgiveness does not mean we apologize for being strong, intelligent women. It does not mean we deny our gifts of leadership or teaching. It does mean we demonstrate love toward those who hurt us. Scripture says God is "kind to evil and ungrateful men" (Luke 6:35). Forgiveness is showing kindness where kindness is not expected. That is not easy. When we are wronged, the temptation is to brood, retaliate, or engage in caustic venting. This, in turn, leaves us feeling more demoralized.

Forgiveness is vulnerable. It is scary. It is painful. At the same time, it is somehow invigorating. Forgiveness brings God into dark places, infusing a brilliance that even unbelievers notice. When the Amish of Nickel Mines forgave Charles Roberts, the world gathered around to catch a glimpse of this strange thing. They're forgiving the man who murdered their children? How absurd ? how fascinating! Even if only for a moment, we could sense it - something beyond human was there. Forgiveness makes God tangible in a way our hearts hunger for, like reaching through a window to touch the Unseen.

We love stories of forgiveness. We know there is something otherworldly in its beauty. Yet, as much as we are enthralled, it is so desperately hard when it comes time for us to do the forgiving. We need each other to walk this path. Too often we collude in our anger, dragging each other down in mutual bitterness. Or else, we are apathetic toward the pain of other women, dismissing some as "angry feminists." I was in my 20s before I met another Christian woman who - instead of giving me a "talk" on submission - simply said, I understand. Gayle, in her humility and her own pain, mentored me toward forgiveness.

Forgiveness brings life to what is dying. It transformed the way I relate to men. It enabled me to minister to my Christian brothers instead of alienating them. Forgiveness moved me beyond ugly divisions in the church to seek gender reconciliation. My anger was a wall that prevented me from being who God wanted me to be. It took an encounter with a wise woman for me to scale that barrier. And it is in the context of community that I continue the challenging work of forgiveness.

Sisters, when are we going to repent of the ways we hinder each other? Either by our apathy toward the pain of other women, or by our own bitterness? When are we going to spur each other on to forgive - really forgive - so that God is revealed through us?


You have said it beautifully, Karen! It is truly a supernatural, super-human act to be able to forgive wholly In the power of Jesus, we can forgive and be free of the crippling resentment that would crave to keep us in bondage! Good for you! Thanks for being vulnerable and for articulating such truth! Bravo, my sister!

Forgiveness is more divine than we know and when we get to do it, it makes us truely divine. It is beautiful to know that God has given us the opportunity to learn to forgive and experience the freedom and total transformation it brings. Karen dear, I am glad you found this.
For heaven, no price is too much to pay

Wonderful to read about other women's responses to this issue. One thing I have learned about submission is that it is true submission only when it is freely given. How transforming for both men and women when we learn to ...submit to one another so that Jesus is honoured in every circumstance. I highly recommend the book "Journey Back to Eden" by Glen G. Scorgie as he thoroughly addresses the sweeping theme "Restoring the Creator's Design for Women and Men". Truly freeing and exciting when we learn that Holy Spirit is busy transforming the Church, one believer at a time.

Thank you for sharing your heart. As another "strong" woman I have always had trouble understanding why God would put these desires and plans in my heart and then say "because you are a woman you cannot do that". It has taken many years for me, too, to forgive people who have said or done hurtful things and to understand it is God whom I must follow and please.

For many years I worked on forgiveness, because the Church told me, I would pass my bitterness onto my children, and become like this person I hated and wouldn't forgive. With this motivation I chose to forgive my father who had left a deep wound on my soul. In the beginning I couldn't think of him without bile coming up my throat. But for my children's sake I prayed and persisted, and learned and worked, and in my work with other women who had the same pain, I found one day, when I thought of my father I could wish him only well, and for the first time desire his salvation. Without realizing it I had completed my jouney of forgiveness. I was free.
Thank you Karen for your article that reminded me forgiveness is real and does happen, and to praise God again for that great victory!

please pray for my daughter that she can forgive this young man that murder her baby son he was only 18 months when he died this has been one of our hardest situation that we ever had to deal with as a family i do know that god doesnt put no more on us then we can bear.

The forgiven resentments listed in this blog (people telling you that you can't do ministry) seem like a joke compared to the times other Christians have come close to destroying my life. As a student in my 20s, I have been through more abuse (emotional and physical) than I would care to share. I can honestly say that all of it has been at the hands of the church.

It began with my father, a pastor, who put our family through torture for the sake of the ministry. My parents eventually divorced. The perfect Christian husband I married was abusive, and when I divorced him, I was rejected and brutally isolated from the church I grew up in.

I picked myself up and started attending a new church, where an older lady took it upon herself to try to dig up every disgusting detail about my past and turn the church against me. Amazingly, I forgave her.

But now, after a final knife stab to the back I have left church, and maybe for good. Thinking back, I realize the only times in my life where I have seen a glimpse of God's love and mercy was at the hands of "heathens."

I love God, and in my heart I long to forgive. I'm sure it's the only reason I've lasted in church this long. But what happens when the same scab over the same wound is constantly being sliced open? I know Jesus said seventy times seven... but at what point am I just acting like a masochist? Does this become easier with time?

Like you I have also been through abuse by men starting at a young age. Both Christian and non Christian men: physical, sexual, verbal, emotional.

At the moment I'm learning how to forgive these men. As I've been through counseling this last year I've realized I hate men because of my past history with their abuse. I don't know how to forgive them but I'm asking God for help.

Please don't leave the church. I know there are Christians out there who won't judge you and who will love and accept you as you are.

We don't need to keep being hurt over and over again. But we have to learn not to alienate men because of our hatred of them, which means true forgiveness. And that is what God is still working on in me.

I'm so sorry for your tragic loss. Forgiveness will take time, but first you all need to allow yourself time to grieve. The grief journey may last for 2-3 years, but it is necessary work. Grief is a gift from God to help us heal and create a new normal because life as you knew it with your beautiful grandbaby is gone forever. As you allow yourselves to grieve,healing will come and it will free you to forgive, but grieving is your first task.
Though God will not put on you more than you can bear, other people with their free will can and do. However, God will hold you up with His strong, loving arms and walk beside you through the darkest nights and with Him we can be sure that morning will come.

Por siempre Dios es bueno,
Por siempre Dios es fiel,
Por siempre Dios es con nosotros,
Por siempre!

Forever God is faithful,
Forever God is strong,
Forever God is with us,

I want to second what Patricia said.
"Please don't leave the church. I know there are Christians out there who won't judge you and who will love and accept you as you are.

We don't need to keep being hurt over and over again. But we have to learn not to alienate men because of our hatred of them, which means true forgiveness."

I too was abused by the church and by men outside of the church. But there are good and supportive churches. Go and visit. Be willing to explore different denominations than what you've been used to or grown up with. American Baptists (my denomination), Evangelical Covenant, United Methodists, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church USA, Episcopal, Church of the Brethren, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and churches affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship are just some of the churches where you will find a loving supportive environment for women. So don't give up. I didn't and with the help, support and encouragement of American Baptists I went on a 7 year education and training trek, got my M.Div., got ordained, pastored 2 churches, and am now ministering as a Chaplain.

Don't give up on men either, there's still a lot of good ones out there. I've been married to one for nearly 27 years. But I had to break a pattern of getting involved in unhealthy relationships. Look for a guy who treats you as an equal, respects you, supports and encourages you to be all that God has called you to be, isn't hung up on gender roles, and doesn't feel the need to be in charge all the time. There are great guys out there but watch out that you don't end up getting involved with somebody just like your ex. We tend to get attracted to the same types of men for some reason.

Think of all the man, who have no clue what a woman is. Let we pray for them, that they will discover one day Gods design for women.
A helper for the husband, not a moneyconsuming complaining only for sexual desires fulfilling creature.

For human beings it is impossible to forgive. For God it is possible. In order to truly forgive another, the person must receive Jesus's love and forgiveness. When the person has experienced Jesus's love and forgiveness, than he is able to use the love and forgiveness of Jesus to love and forgive others.
Steps to forgiveness:
1. Confess and repent of sins and, believe and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.
2. Personally make the choice to forgive by removing pride in the heart (of getting even or revenge which belong to Jesus who died for the sinful people).
3. Go to the process of forgiveness (like peeling an onion, layer by layer - bringing all your pains and hurts to the Lord, daily until you have totally forgive and able to love.
"And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1Cor13:13

I have read all the comments and I understand what you all are saying; however, I've prayed and cried while trying to forgive.

I am a PK (preacher's kid) and naturally, I've worked hard all my life to do what's right so I wouldn't "embarrass" my family. Now I'm in my 30's... On my second husband because the 1st one almost beat me to death - I have 2 children, and finally; I'm trying to work on me for ME...

I enjoy my responsibilities within my Dad's church.. The choir, the daycare, planning events/fellowships, and basically whatever else needs to be done in order for my Dad's vision to be fulfilled.

Although, I love what I do and I strongly desire to do more -- I am spiritually drained with "some" of the people within the church.

It feels like they always try to "prove" something when it comes to me. Some of them continuously try to cause division between me and my Dad. For instance, they'll get off the choir - for reasons of their own but they'll tell him that I've done something personally to them.

I've recently gone through a situation where one of the females in the church, tried to set me up by sending emails to me, and saying negative things about me to other members with intentions to defame my character. It hurts so bad to feel like a prisoner in my own church.

I go there 3 times a week and everytime I drive on the parking lot - my heart drops because it's another day of the same old non-sense where I have to "put on a face of peace -- for a group of individuals trying to bring me down".

It's gotten to a point where I'm ready to give up all of my leadership roles and go to another church. The only thing keeping me at that specific church is the love I have for my father and my desire to help fulfill his visions.

I'm spiritually drained! Mentally bruised! And emotionally tormented by "church folks"

Yes forgive but also hold men (and women) accountable for their actions. Even if it means a loss.

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