(If I've unwittingly encouraged you to hum 'Let It Go' like some frozen Disney princess, I apologise now for the ear worm that it will inevitably become!)
A day can start out so well. A day like today, for example. As I write, through my window I can see a blue sky with only the thinnest veil of white cloud. My cats are enjoying the unexpected warmth of this autumn sunshine as they bookend the windowsill. It seems they know these warmer days are numbered and they're determined to make the most of them because, as we all know, this time of year brings with it unpredictable weather. A sunny morning can turn to torrential storms by lunchtime, and short sleeves are covered by cosy sweaters and raincoats.
Autumn is beautiful. It's my favourite time of the year, and I look forward to it from around April onwards. Truly. I'm not a hot weather girl. In previous posts, I may have alluded to the over-zealous sweat reflex (honestly, it's not graceful or elegant) I seem to have inherited from my father, and I have to say I'm not altogether thrilled about it. Anything above 16°C and I feel I may pass out. I used to think it was due to the amount of hair I carry... on my melon head! Thankfully I didn't inherit Dad's hairy chest.
Do you remember the satirical Spitting Image depiction of Roy Hattersley? Well-known for his habit of splashing unsuspecting passersby as he talked, I've often worried that I sweat as liberally as he spat.
In any case, this time of year is a much more pleasant experience for me and for anyone within a five metre proximity of where I'm standing. Those falling temperatures usher in a change in rhythm––you can sense it in the air. All around us, the natural world is getting ready to shift, not to sleep, but to move its focus. As those golden-fire leaves shed, trees and plants are doing something amazing.
Quite simply, trees would die if they didn't shed their leaves. Letting go of those which have decayed or been nibbled at by bugs over the summer months allows them to survive the winter and beyond. Retaining the dead leaves would prevent new ones growing in their place, and the trees would have no way of processing food for themselves. Autumn and the winter that follows are not seasons when the trees are dormant. No no. Roots are still growing and taking in water and nutrients––this is most definitely a time of preparation, not sleepiness.
In order for the new, healthy growth to come through, trees let go of the old, dead leaves, the things that they no longer have need of and which would hamper them if they held on to them. It's fair to say we've all likely hung on to the old, dead leaves in our lives at some point or another; those times when we've been hurt or offended, and we hang on to the wounding allowing bitterness and resentment to callus it over. Like the trees, if we cling to those dead leaves and prevent them from falling away, there's no way we can ever feel wholeness and peace.
I’ve seen what resentment and quarrels can do. I’ve experienced the cost of hatred and the far-flung consequences of rage and venom. Much of my own story is caught up in woundings through what people have done to me and in resentment through my own reluctance to release forgiveness.
When I was thinking about this whole area of hurts and forgiveness and the need to just let things go, I realised that perhaps forgiveness isn't just another hard thing that we have to do. What if it's simply that we need to take the step of forgiveness to get to the peace that we so desperately desire?
12 years ago, I found myself, unexpectedly, separated from my husband and raising our child alone. Indeed this year will mark the 11th anniversary of my divorce. In many ways I am still grieving from the loss I experienced, and the pain that inevitably came from that time of betrayal and remorse still lingers. In those early days, when the betrayal was first uncovered, the hurting gave flight to a torrent of stinging words and emotions. Next came the retreating, the hiding, to nurse the hurts and defend against any further blows. It has taken a very long time to begin to work through the injuries I received, as well as those I undoubtedly inflicted. More than anything, I would love to be able to tell you that my ex-husband and I have worked through things together and reached a stable grounding to work from, but sadly those hurts have run too deeply for us to face them cooperatively.
I have been guarded and defensive in my encounters with my son's father since our separation, but slowly God has opened me up to the truth that forgiveness just isn't an option––it's an imperative.
We can be ambassadors for forgiveness! With God, it is absolutely possible to work for wholeness and for freedom from the damage caused by bitterness. I want to know this kind of freedom! Don't you?
Whilst we can’t control what people do to us, we can control how we react to these situations.
Even this week, I've felt totally assaulted by repeated attacks and undeserved accusations from a number of sources, and I'll admit that my reaction was to resort to the old ways, to bite back and then hide. I begged God to give me a different perspective, His perspective, and His wisdom. I've learned that if I don't hand over to God all the messiness and angst straightaway, I get caught in a reeling cycle of attack and self-loathing.
'I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.' Martin Luther
We have so many choices in life, and whilst what happens to us isn't always up to us, we do get to choose what we do with it. We can choose who to be in Christ. We can choose who to forgive and what to let go
I don't have this all worked out by any means. Daily I'm learning that there's a whole load of rot still to deal with and let go of, and so the biggest challenge to me is to choose to see people as Jesus sees them. This is absolutely critical (although super difficult) when we're under attack. What we need to remember is that, as we read in Ephesians 6:12, we don't fight against flesh and blood, but against the evil powers that would have us punching out each other's lights rather than working it out in compassion, grace and love. Even if it's one-sided. When we choose to see people as God does it completely changes the game. I mean, it's tremendously difficult to loathe someone whom Jesus sees as precious.
'I wonder if Jesus is asking us to stop trying to get from others what they can’t or won’t give us, and hand that debt, that hurt, that need over to Him to take care of in ways only He can.' Lysa Terkeurst
In the letting go of resentment and bitterness, there is freedom. For us. Even if the other person doesn't know about it. Even if they won't acknowledge the forgiveness. Even if they refuse to move on whilst we do. Even the trees know that if we don't let go of the old, dead baggage we won't be able to flourish with new life.
I don't want to be hampered by my past seasons. Do you? I want to move forward with new growth, with Jesus' perspective, because He's the only one who is completely holy. Besides, He's way more experienced at dealing with these things than I am.
I want a new perspective. A new way of living and loving.
How about you?