How to Move from Forgiveness to Reconciliation

March 29, 2012

He said I am sorry, but it’s at least the tenth time! I don’t know what to do. I am told that it’s my Christian duty to forgive, and the Lord knows I’ve tried. But each time I forgive him, he changes for a little while and then returns to the same behavior. I have a gut feeling I am handling things the wrong way. He never really changes, and I just get angrier. What should I do?Image result for forgiveness and reconciliation

Sound familiar? I encounter people all the time who are trying to forgive someone who has repeatedly hurt them. They know it’s their Christian duty to forgive, but they often feel they’re either being deceived or taken advantage of. They also have a disturbing sense that they’re enabling the selfish behavior of the very one they’re trying to forgive. Is this what forgiveness requires?

Is it possible to forgive someone and to withhold reconciliation? We must learn the differences between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is always required by God, but it does not always lead to reconciliation.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Not the Same

Jesus clearly warned that God will not forgive our sins if we do not forgive those who sin against us (Matthew 6:14-15; Mark 11:25). It’s not that we earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving; instead, God expects forgiven people to forgive (Matthew 18:21-35). Yet forgiveness is very different from reconciliation. It’s possible to forgive someone without offering immediate reconciliation.

It’s possible for forgiveness to occur in the context of one’s relationship with God apart from contact with her offender. But reconciliation is focused on restoring broken relationships. And where trust is deeply broken, restoration is a process—-sometimes, a lengthy one.

Differing from forgiveness, reconciliation is often conditioned on the attitude and actions of the offender. While its aim is restoration of a broken relationship, those who commit significant and repeated offenses must be willing to recognize that reconciliation is a process. If they’re genuinely repentant, they will recognize and accept that the harm they’ve caused takes time to heal.

In many cases, even if an offender confessed his wrong to the one he hurt and appealed for forgiveness, the offended person could justifiably say, “I forgive you, but it might take some time for me to regain trust and restore our relationship.” The evidence of genuine forgiveness is personal freedom from a vindictive or vengeful response (Romans 12:17-21), but not always an automatic restoration of relationship.

Even when God forgives our sins, he does not promise to remove all consequences created by our actions. Yes, being forgiven, restored, and trusted is an amazing experience, but it’s important for those who hurt others to understand that their attitude and actions will affect the process of rebuilding trust. Words alone are often not enough to restore trust. When someone has been significantly hurt and feels hesitant about restoration with her offender, it’s both right and wise to look for changes in the offender before allowing reconciliation to begin.

Timing of Reconciliation

The process of reconciliation depends on the attitude of the offender, the depth of the betrayal, and the pattern of offense. When an offended party works toward reconciliation, the first and most important step is the confirmation of genuine repentance on the part of the offender (Luke 17:3). An unrepentant offender will resent your desire to confirm the genuineness of his confession and repentance. The offender may resort to lines of manipulation such as, “I guess you can’t find it in yourself to be forgiving,” or, “Some Christian you are, I thought Christians believed in love and compassion.”

Such language reveals an unrepentant heart. Don’t be manipulated into avoiding the step of confirming the authenticity of your offender’s confession and repentance. It is advisable in difficult cases to seek the help of a wise counselor, one who understands the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Such a counselor can help the injured person establish boundaries and define steps toward reconciliation that are restorative rather than retaliatory.

It is difficult to genuinely restore a broken relationship when the offender is unclear about his confession and repentance. We should strive to be as certain as we can of our offender’s repentance—-especially in cases involving repeated offenses. Even God will not grant forgiveness to one who is insincere about his confession and repentance. The person who is unwilling to forsake his sin will not find forgiveness with God (Proverbs 28:13).

Of course, only God can read hearts; we must evaluate actions. As Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16a). We must not allow superficial appearances of repentance to control our responses. Displays of tears or appearing to be sorry must not become substitutes for clear changes in attitude and behavior.

Seven Signs of Genuine Repentance

There are seven signs that indicate the offender is genuinely repentant:

1. Accepts full responsibility for his or her actions. (Instead of: “Since you think I’ve done something wrong . . . ” or “If have done anything to offend you . . .”)

2. Welcomes accountability from others.

3. Does not continue in the hurtful behavior or anything associated with it.

4. Does not have a defensive attitude about being in the wrong.

5. Does not dismiss or downplay the hurtful behavior.

6. Does not resent doubts about their sincerity or the need to demonstrate sincerity—-especially in cases involving repeated offenses.

7. Makes restitution where necessary.

“If we can restore to full and intimate fellowship with ourselves a sinning and unrepentant brother,” John R. W. Stott wrote in Confess Your Sins, “we reveal not the depth of our love, but its shallowness, for we are doing what is not for his highest good. Forgiveness which by-passes the need for repentance issues not from love but from sentimentality.”

Ten Guidelines for Those Hesitant to Reconcile

Those who have been seriously (and repeatedly) hurt rightfully feel hesitant about reconciling with their offenders. When your offender is genuinely repentant, however, it’s important to be open to the possibility of restoration (unless there is a clear issue of safety involved). Jesus spoke about reconciliation with a sense of urgency (Matthew 5:23-24). If you are hesitant to reconcile, work through these ten guidelines:

1. Be honest about your motives. Make sure your desire is to do what pleases God and not to get revenge. Settle the matter of forgiveness (as Joseph did) in the context of your relationship with God. Guidelines for reconciliation should not be retaliatory.

2. Be humble in your attitude. Do not let pride ruin everything. Renounce all vengeful attitudes toward your offender. We are not, for example, to demand that a person earn our forgiveness. The issue is not earning forgiveness but working toward true reconciliation. This demands humility. Those who focus on retaliation and revenge have allowed self-serving pride to control them.

3. Be prayerful about the one who hurt you. Jesus taught his disciples to pray for those who mistreat them (Luke 6:28). It is amazing how our attitude toward another person can change when we pray for him. Pray also for strength to follow through with reconciliation (Hebrews 4:16).

4. Be willing to admit ways you might have contributed to the problem. As Ken Sande writes in The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict:

Even if you did not start the dispute, your lack of understanding, careless words, impatience, or failure to respond in a loving manner may have aggravated the situation. When this happens, it is easy to behave as though the other person’s sins more than cancel yours, which leaves you with a self-righteous attitude that can retard forgiveness (i.e. relational forgiveness). The best way to overcome this tendency is to prayerfully examine your role in the conflict and then write down everything you have done or failed to do that may have been a factor.

Such a step, however, is not suggested to promote the idea of equal blame for all situations (Matthew 7:1-6).

5. Be honest with the offender. If you need time to absorb the reality of what was said or done, express this honestly to the one who hurt you. Yet we must not use time as a means of manipulation and punishment.

6. Be objective about your hesitancy. Perhaps you have good reasons for being hesitant to reconcile, but they must be objectively stated. Sometimes, for example, repeated confessions and offenses of the same nature make it understandably hard for trust to be rebuilt. This is an objective concern. Clearly define your reasons for doubting your offender’s sincerity.

7. Be clear about the guidelines for restoration. Establish clear guidelines for restoration. Requirements like restitution can be clearly understood and include such factors as maintaining financial accountability, holding down a job, or seeking treatment for substance abuse.

8. Be alert to Satan’s schemes. In Ephesians 4:27, Paul warns about the possibility of giving Satan an opportunity in our lives. Significantly, this warning is given in the context of unchecked anger. A few verses later, he wrote, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 4:29-5:2). Meditate on these words and put them into practice.

9. Be mindful of God’s control. As the apostle Paul wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). And to the Romans, he wrote, “We know that God works all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

To quote once again from Ken Sande,

When you are having a hard time forgiving someone (i.e. being restored), take time to note how God may be using that offense for good. Is this an unusual opportunity to glorify God?  How can you serve others and help them grow in their faith? What sins and weaknesses of yours are being exposed? What character qualities are you being challenged to exercise? When you perceive that the person who has wronged you is being used as an instrument in God’s hand to help you mature, serve others, and glorify him, it may be easier for you to move ahead with forgiveness (i.e. restoration).

10. Be realistic about the process. Change often requires time and hard work. Periodic failure by an offender does not always indicate an unrepentant heart. Behavior patterns often run in deep channels. They can place a powerful grip on a person’s life. A key indicator of change is the attitude of the offender. While you may proceed with some caution, be careful about demanding guarantees from a person who has truly expressed repentance. If they stumble, the process of loving confrontation, confession, and forgiveness may need to be repeated. Setbacks and disappointments are often part of the process of change. Don’t give up too easily on the process of reconciliation. Be open to the goal of a fully restored relationship.

 

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VOICES of the FALLEN

Recently, I ran across a documentary aired on HBO in 2006 about Ted Haggard. He was the founder and pastor of a mega-church in Colorado Springs, Colorado and the president of the National Association of Evangelicals when he failed in a very public way. As a result of his adultery and illegal drug use he was justly removed from his pastoral leadership. The documentary disturbed me on a very personal level, not because he did not deserve to be removed from his church, but because of the treatment he received from the church as a result of his actions.

His church demanded and he agreed to be banished from the state of Colorado until such a time as they decided he could return. As a result, he, his wife, and his children lost their home, their network of family and friends, schools, and familiar places. Former friends abandoned and rejected him. He was exiled to Arizona and ostracized from any spiritual support. He received hate mail and was vilified by the media and on social networking sites. Although not in words, by their actions the church told him and his family to, “Go to hell!” I understand that the Ted Haggard’s and those of us who publicly betray the trust of the church are not sympathetic figures, but God has called His Church and the followers of Jesus Christ to a higher standard.

A few weeks back, I shared my story of failure in a blog I entitled, “Failing the Fallen.” In the spirit of that writing, I want to share some of the stories that I have gathered of other church leaders who have failed and how they were treated as a result. From my own experience and that of others it appears that the church has a systemic problem that shouts for change. Here are their stories about the treatment they received at the hands of the church.

“We were abandoned,” said one couple. “Exiled!” The denominational supervisors apparently didn’t want to hear from them until a two-year sentence was over. They said they were on their own to find their way back to God, fix their marriage, support themselves and their family, and any other of the myriad of problems that can arise as a result of such actions. The man said he felt like he and his family were being punished for embarrassing the denomination. His wife said simply, “We were shunned.”

Another man wrote, “The leadership of the church in which I grew up decided it was wholly appropriate to not only read a list of my sins from the pulpit to shame me, but also demanded that I write an explicit letter (18 pages) to my prayer and financial supporters outlining those sins.”

Leaders who fail, almost without exception, say what this man reports. “Almost everyone I knew in the ministry walked away from me – especially when I rejected a few initial efforts at restoration. Within a short window of time, friends stopped calling. Mentors stopped reaching out. Texts stopped coming. Emails stopped arriving.”

This issue is not exclusive to men. One woman confessed, “I brought it on myself and I can’t justify it and apologize enough for my actions. I feel so alone. So lost for fellowship. I am glad God is there and Jesus is always interceding on my behalf. This is not a fun adventure that came as a result of my own actions. It appears that those I was once close to are without mercy or understanding.”

Another woman wrote, “It seems true forgiveness is only found in the LORD.”

I have been in contact with a friend who failed. He has been very transparent and honest. He writes, “I am confronted and reminded often of my brokenness and especially the brokenness of the past. Nobody knows my failures more than me. I have lived with them daily. I am reminded almost to the point of distraction some days. Although I have found God to be full of mercy, love, compassion, and grace it has not been so with all human beings. For the last two and a half years I have fought the battle to rise above the condemnation and judgement of others. I have not doubted God, but I have struggled.

“There are days when I miss the people I genuinely thought were my friends. There have been painful, disconcerting times that feel more hate then love. Avoidance. Shunning. The longed-for phone call that never comes. The text with accusing and non-forgiving words. The public encounter with people who once professed to care, but now turn away without speaking. I am afraid they have taken my failures personal. Especially, because I was ‘one of them.’ Shunning, being hateful, boycotting, gossiping, and rejection is the result.

“All of that mercy, compassion, and grace we sing and preach about drains out for the fallen man or woman. The church is very good at welcoming ‘outsiders’ in, but angry, stigmatizing, and labeling when an ‘insider’ fails.”

Another of my friends said we who fail should, “Embrace the (Christian) community as a safe place to grow. Within holy community, we have a freedom to fall and get back up again. We shouldn’t leave when we fail!” But that does not appear to be the experience of so many. Instead of a forgiving “embrace,” we find rejection. Instead of “safety,” hostility. Instead of a “place to grow,” a toxic and unhealthy environment. Instead of “freedom to fall and get back up again,” condemnation and ostracization.

It concerns me when Christians profess to believe in forgiveness and reconciliation and fail to do either. If a leader – be s/he a deacon, elder, pastor, superintendent, or bishop – falls in a dramatic or public way, embarrasses the church, and betrays its trust the reaction is often critical, condemning, unforgiving, and unwelcoming. Although that person has repented over and over, asked forgiveness, and tried to make restitution where possible, the wound lives on because the church doesn’t know how to respond to people who broke, failed, and fell down in their spiritual walk.

My parent’s former pastor wrote me and said, “This subject (of leadership failure) has long been close to my heart. I served for many years on boards of ministerial standing/development and always felt we did not function well when it came to restoration. Some boards tried harder than others, but there was little success on any of the district boards with which I served.”

There has got to be a better way. Every one of the above can testify about the ones who were faithful, loving, caring, forgiving, and encouraging and we earnestly thank God for them. But, too often, the structure and organization of the church promotes more failure. My friend cries out, “Is there no place of shelter for the fallen?”

VOICES of the FALLEN

Image result for i've fallen and i cant get upRecently, I ran across a documentary aired on HBO in 2006 about Ted Haggard. He was the founder and pastor of a mega-church in Colorado Springs, Colorado and the president of the National Association of Evangelicals when he failed in a very public way. As a result of his adultery and illegal drug use he was justly removed from his pastoral leadership. The documentary disturbed me on a very personal level, not because he did not deserve to be removed from his church, but because of the treatment he received from the church as a result of his actions.

His church demanded and he agreed to be banished from the state of Colorado until such a time as they decided he could return. As a result, he, his wife, and his children lost their home, their network of family and friends, schools, and familiar places. Former friends abandoned and rejected him. He was exiled to Arizona and ostracized from any spiritual support. He received hate mail and was vilified by the media and on social networking sites. Although not in words, by their actions the church told him and his family to, “Go to hell!” I understand that the Ted Haggard’s and those of us who publicly betray the trust of the church are not sympathetic figures, but God has called His Church and the followers of Jesus Christ to a higher standard.

A few weeks back, I shared my story of failure in a blog I entitled, “Failing the Fallen.” In the spirit of that writing, I want to share some of the stories that I have gathered of other church leaders who have failed and how they were treated as a result. From my own experience and that of others it appears that the church has a systemic problem that shouts for change. Here are their stories about the treatment they received at the hands of the church.

“We were abandoned,” said one couple. “Exiled!” The denominational supervisors apparently didn’t want to hear from them until a two-year sentence was over. They said they were on their own to find their way back to God, fix their marriage, support themselves and their family, and any other of the myriad of problems that can arise as a result of such actions. The man said he felt like he and his family were being punished for embarrassing the denomination. His wife said simply, “We were shunned.”

Another man wrote, “The leadership of the church in which I grew up decided it was wholly appropriate to not only read a list of my sins from the pulpit to shame me, but also demanded that I write an explicit letter (18 pages) to my prayer and financial supporters outlining those sins.”

Leaders who fail, almost without exception, say what this man reports. “Almost everyone I knew in the ministry walked away from me – especially when I rejected a few initial efforts at restoration. Within a short window of time, friends stopped calling. Mentors stopped reaching out. Texts stopped coming. Emails stopped arriving.”

This issue is not exclusive to men. One woman confessed, “I brought it on myself and I can’t justify it and apologize enough for my actions. I feel so alone. So lost for fellowship. I am glad God is there and Jesus is always interceding on my behalf. This is not a fun adventure that came as a result of my own actions. It appears that those I was once close to are without mercy or understanding.”

Another woman wrote, “It seems true forgiveness is only found in the LORD.”

I have been in contact with a friend who failed. He has been very transparent and honest. He writes, “I am confronted and reminded often of my brokenness and especially the brokenness of the past. Nobody knows my failures more than me. I have lived with them daily. I am reminded almost to the point of distraction some days. Although I have found God to be full of mercy, love, compassion, and grace it has not been so with all human beings. For the last two and a half years I have fought the battle to rise above the condemnation and judgement of others. I have not doubted God, but I have struggled.

“There are days when I miss the people I genuinely thought were my friends. There have been painful, disconcerting times that feel more like hate then love. Avoidance. Shunning. The longed-for phone call that never comes. The text with accusing and non-forgiving words. The public encounter with people who once professed to care, but now turn away without speaking. I am afraid they have taken my failures personal. Especially, because I was ‘one of them.’ Shunning, being hateful, boycotting, gossiping, and rejection is the result.

“All of that mercy, compassion, and grace we sing and preach about drains out for the fallen man or woman. The church is very good at welcoming ‘outsiders’ in, but angry, stigmatizing, and labeling when an ‘insider’ fails.”

Another of my friends said we who fail should, “Embrace the (Christian) community as a safe place to grow. Within holy community, we have a freedom to fall and get back up again. We shouldn’t leave when we fail!” But that does not appear to be the experience of so many. Instead of a forgiving “embrace,” we find rejection. Instead of “safety,” hostility. Instead of a “place to grow,” a toxic and unhealthy environment. Instead of “freedom to fall and get back up again,” condemnation and ostracization.

It concerns me when Christians profess to believe in forgiveness and reconciliation and fail to do either. If a leader – be s/he a deacon, elder, pastor, superintendent, or bishop – falls in a dramatic or public way, embarrasses the church, and betrays its trust the reaction is often critical, condemning, unforgiving, and unwelcoming. Although that person has repented over and over, asked forgiveness, and tried to make restitution where possible, the wound lives on because the church doesn’t know how to respond to people who broke, failed, and fell down in their spiritual walk.

My parent’s former pastor wrote me and said, “This subject (of leadership failure) has long been close to my heart. I served for many years on boards of ministerial standing/development and always felt we did not function well when it came to restoration. Some boards tried harder than others, but there was little success on any of the district boards with which I served.”

There has got to be a better way. Every one of the above can testify about the ones who were faithful, loving, caring, forgiving, and encouraging and we earnestly thank God for them. But, too often, the structure and organization of the church promotes more failure. My friend cries out, “Is there no place of shelter for the fallen?”

Letters from Jail #7 Part 2 of 2

letters from jail 6Suffering from severe depression, experiencing extreme paranoia, and during a dissociative episode I committed some crimes. Although I don’t remember much of what I did, I took and take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence served in the Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. They are offered to you as written with only minor editing. It is my prayer that through them you may find hope and help from my experience.

Dear ________                                                                                                  Began June 19, 2013

Well, I hit the news again. You may remember I told you A_____ stuck a camera in my face. I guess it’s been released to the media. It shows me chasing them off with a shotgun in my hands. You could probably see it on the internet.

I’m disappointed. It keeps my story alive and makes it less likely they’ll release me sooner. I guess I need to start thinking 360 days instead of 180.

Do you think they included the clips of A_____ laughing at me, taunting me, and mocking me? Did they talk about the Status Quo order being violated? Did they report the fact that the police escorted them off the property two days before? What about my depressed state and being relieved of my churches that morning? What of the lies published on Facebook in an attempt to ruin my reputation?

What I did was wrong, but there were mitigating factors. I wish the whole truth could be told and not just the parts that make me look madly insane. I pled guilty because I couldn’t prove my case, not because I thought I was guilty of everything they said. Lord, I forgive. Help me to forgive.

My brother cleaned out my stuff. He said they didn’t leave me much. If that is true they have taken a lot of my inheritance. I told my brother they can give an account of themselves before God. Lord, I forgive. Help me to forgive.

Neither my brother nor I have heard from A_____.

I may be a very poor man deeply in debt by the time I get out. “If I were a rich man . . .” Limited prospects. I’ll be “living on love, buying on time . . .” (Hey, Fiddler on the Roof and a country song in the same paragraph. How wrong is that?)

Mom started working me in VBS when I was 15. I was only 14 when I started working at Junior Bible Camp. Mom always had me in two VBS’s until I was a teenager – North Anderson and Alexandria, and/or a church on 31st St. that I walked to. VBS is a good program. When I pastored in Lawrenceburg and in Kokomo, we always had real big ones.

The San Antonio Spurs will rebuild. They are a good franchise.

We went to the library last night. I picked up an old classic, A Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life by Hannah Whiteall Smith, and a western. I don’t know which one to read first.

I talked in my sleep today. My rack mate was so troubled by what I was saying and doing that he got up and stood on the other side of the cell. Lol! I told him I was a harmless man. He said that coming from “Shotgun Shuck” (my new nickname) and a guy who took on two police officers. I had to laugh. How can you argue with wisdom like that? Oh, how I want to be a peaceable man, known for piety, not violence. I figure the bad news throughout the week disturbed my sleep. I need to pray more.

I don’t put a lot of stock in dream analysis, but I have found it helpful at times. Often dreams reveal our unresolved conflicts. I think that is what happened to me.

You spoke of forgiveness. I guess you and I both are having our crisis of forgiveness. I’m struggling with my story being on the news, but I think it’s political – this being a local election year – and the fact that I’m a minister. If I had not been a minister this would be a non-story. I don’t know that there’s anything to forgive here, but I am embarrassed that it is still in the news.

But to take all of my stuff – my inheritance, my gifts, my collections, my non-marital assets. How much do you have to hate a person to want him in jail, no contact for three years, bankrupt him, and take what little he has left? Yes, I’m struggling to forgive.

I desire them no harm. I want them to have what they need. I was willing to be generous. Why, if they profess to be Christian, do they not only wish me ill, but also are actively attempting to bring ill into my life. I’m struggling. Lord, help me.

Did she ever truly love me or was I just a means to an unknown and ill-conceived end? Wow, I can’t feel sorry for myself. Let it go, Jay, release the grudge. God fights our battles. The most important thing is not the accumulation of goods here, but the storing of precious things over there.

Thank you for listening. Why kick a man when he’s already down? Lord, I forgive. Help me to forgive.

Tell me, do you ever get over the sense of betrayal and abandonment? How much time do you spend sitting by the phone expecting an apology? When do they quit inflicting pain?

I guess it’s what I tell my clients – you don’t experience emotional pain over things you don’t care about. When can I stop caring? Do you ever?

I sang in church today. I doubt they hear many classically trained vocalists. “Give Them All to Jesus” seemed appropriate for all of us in jail.

Thank you for Psalm 37. I’ve been reading it daily. It brings peace, comfort, and resolve.

On a lighter note: “A man with a headache does not want to get rid of his head, but it hurts him to keep it.”

Movie quote: “Yesterday was the tomorrow we thought we couldn’t get through today.”

Sincerely,

Jay

The LORD be with you.

Letters from Jail # 7 part 1 of 2

Suffering from severe depression, experiencing extreme paranoia, and during a dissociative episode I committed some crimes. Although I don’t remember much of what I did, I took and take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence served in the Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. They are offered to you as written with only minor editing. It is my prayer that through them you may find hope and help from my experience.

Dear ________                                                                                                  Began June 19, 2013

I trust you are doing well, your family is well, and all is well.

Perhaps I misled you about my sleep. In jail you can sleep, watch TV, play cards, visit, read, and write. Several of the guys try to sleep 12 hours daily. I can’t lay on these racks that long. My bones are too old. I generally sleep from 9:00 PM to 3:00 AM and take a nap from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM.

Yes, I have fallen asleep praying many times. I woke up one time praying for the gas station attendant at the station at the bottom of the hill. Lol! I guess we’re in good company with Peter, James, and John.

Yes, I watched the Spurs’ games with you. I used to watch boxing on Tuesday nights. My kids asked me why. I told them it was because my dad, their grandpa, was watching at that hour, too. It was my way of being with him, although many miles separated us. He loved basketball and boxing. (He used to play semi-pro basketball and was a track star in school. He played against “Jumpin” Johnny Wilson who was on the 1946 state champ Anderson Indians and was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball that year. He played both pro ball and for the Harlem Globe Trotters for a while. He was the coach at Anderson College for years.)

Forgiveness: I find myself replaying past wrongs committed by me or against me. Then I have to pray for forgiveness or to forgive. Forgiveness is, I think, both an act and a process. We forgive and keep forgiving. As often as I think of being wronged I choose to forgive.

In my replays of being wronged I always have a powerful retort and persuasive argument. The person always melts before my superior logic. Then, when I wake up, I have to forgive a new and pray for forgiveness for being so full of myself. Lol!

Bible study was okay last night. Our group went off on several rabbit trails, which, as a leader would have frustrated me to no end, but, as a student I thoroughly enjoyed the detours. What does that say about me? I need to conquer that sense of self-importance. Lol!

I started my anger management class today. It’s going to be a good class. The teacher said he would connect depression and anger, so I hope to learn some things. It’s eight weeks and fulfills my court ordered requirement.

Oh, the chaplain told me that they will review my case in six months as to whether I work or not. What that tells me is they want me to serve a minimum of nine months. If I don’t get probation before, February will be my earliest out date.

Hey, that’s neat that your granddaughter and her “pops” shared a TV show. It was special when my granddaughter and I would sit down and watch Pawn Stars and Law and Order together. I miss her and her brothers.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I must let my children and grandchildren return to me. I may lose any opportunity to have a place in their lives if I call them before they are ready. My arms are open wide; I will never turn them away.

The Smoky Mountains have been our go-to place for most of our vacations, but then they were closer than the ocean from Indiana than from where you live. Dad tried to take us on one long and one short vacation a year. I traveled for two years in college and five years as a representative at the college where I taught. I tried to take a special vacation every five years with my family. Money was in short supply for more than that. We camped often. I went to Mexico in 1976.

Grieving is messy. Sometimes you go through all five stages in a single day. What is the source of your sadness? Cause? Sometimes you may need to embrace the sadness and resolve the cause, if possible. Finding the source of your pain often defines what causes the sadness. Is it loss? Fear? Loneliness? Anxiety?

Friends are special. Get into trouble and you soon find out who is an acquaintance and who is a friend.

My anger management homework was revealing. It is interesting to see yourself and your beliefs exposed in such a way. According to the author my views of anger are wrong. Me wrong? Go figure.

(To be continued . . .)

Letters from Jail #5* Part 3 of 3

Image result for jail

The following are excerpts from letters I wrote while serving a 360-day sentence in Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. Normally, I edit and arrange the material for readability, but this month I offer it to you in chronological order with little editing.

My purpose for these excerpts is to: first recognize the grace of God under very different circumstances, open a window into my thoughts and struggles that may relate to yours, and hope that you may be moved to empathize for the jailed and mentally ill.

June 15, 2013

I was greatly saddened today. Tears have come to my eyes several times. My mood is melancholy. I think it is the loneliness that stalks me. When I left for college in January of 1978 at 17, I never got homesick. I’ve always been independent and my attachments to people and places are not that strong. But, after about three months, I fell into my parents’ arms crying. They were playing, “Will the Circle be Unbroken” – the first time I had heard the song. I thought of my brothers and made my way to my parents. We prayed together and I cried.

The guys in the cell have suddenly taken an interest in my writing. They want to know how I portray them. Most are here for drug charges. Their lives revolve around getting drunk or high. Some appear to be genuinely nice people who are enslaved by their addiction. Jail is routine for them.

It’s Father’s Day. The chaplain had to leave so we couldn’t have church. I really look forward to going. It’s a visible witness to the cell. Many of them read their Bibles, read devotionals, pray over their meals, but they don’t pray or go to church. I wonder how many church goers don’t do the amount these men do? Of course, they cuss, relish telling about their crimes, and lust over every female that comes on the screen.

It’s Father’s Day. I miss my children and grandchildren. The two oldest had a decent father, the grandchildren had a decent grandfather, but A_____ missed out. Most of the time I was too sick to be much of a father. During the other times, there was always conflict. I tried harder to instill a spiritual foundation in him and took a strong interest in his spiritual development. That has paid off.

A_____’s actions in cutting me off and not making any effort to contact me disturbs me. He needs to respond in a Christian way. I still believe he will.

The Wounded Healer concluded oddly, I thought, but I liked the emphasis on one aspect. The experiences of the leader and the more s/he immerses himself in the painful condition of humanity, the more qualified she is to lead others to the Kingdom of God. This is one of my desert experiences. Perhaps someday, somehow, I will get to use it to lead another out of their desert experience.

Father’s Day can be difficult for some. Feelings of loneliness, sadness, and heaviness may accompany the day. As a pastor, I was always aware that the holidays were not always so bright for everyone.

I watched the NASCAR race today and the cell is getting ready to watch the NBA finals.

I find myself saying, “I used to be…” I used to be a foster care therapist. I used to be a mental health counselor. I used to be a substance abuse counselor. I used to be a minister. A long time ago I’m so glad I discovered who I really am – a person made in the image and likeness of God, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. I do wonder what I’m going to “do,” though.

I’m doing well.

Sincerely,

Jay

May the LORD be with you.

*Because of the length of this letter, I have divided it into three posts. Monday, November 27, 2017, Wednesday November 29, 2017 and Friday December 1, 2017. Thank you for reading.

Letters from Jail #5 Part 1 of 3

The following are excerpts from letters I wrote while serving a 360-day sentence in Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. Normally, I edit and arrange the material for readability, but this month I offer it to you in chronological order with little editing.

My purpose for these excerpts is to: first recognize the grace of God under very different circumstances, open a window into my thoughts and struggles that may relate to yours, and hope that you may be moved to empathize for the jailed and mentally ill.

Related image

June 13, 2013

I didn’t get back to the cell until late, therefore I didn’t write as much today.

Thank you for your prayers. I’ve learned that prayer is more than a session at morning and night, although that is important. Prayer is a relationship with the Heavenly Father all day long. There was a statement I read today that I liked, “Prayer is not a pious decoration of life, but the breath of human existence.” It lifts my spirit to know that others are praying for me.

Last night I talked to the chaplain about not getting to work. (For every day you work, you get a day off your sentence.) He said he would speak on my behalf. But, I’m content whatever the outcome. My brother told me it was the nature of my offense. (During a dissociative episode, I attacked two police officers.) He called the jail on my behalf, too. It’s in God’s hands.

Thank you for praying that this may be a time of healing and rest for me. It is peaceful except for the constant noise of the T.V., but rest comes easily. As for my healing – well? The battle between forgiveness and bitterness remains won as long as I don’t dwell on the offense or create alternative scenarios in my mind. The “old timers” used to talk about putting things on the altar and leaving them there. I find my hurts want to crawl off and I have to put them back on the altar. The more attentive I am to my sacrifice the quicker it is consumed by His holy flames.

Healing for some areas continues to elude me. I seek healing for the things that contribute to my depression. Sometimes I wonder if I should not embrace it. The Apostle Paul had his thorn that was at once his greatest weakness and his most glorious strength. I find depression is that for me. But, somehow there has to be a way to control the deeper and darker moments. (See II Corinthians 12:7-10.)

Healing of conscience is also an area in which I struggle. Often, I replay past sins and failures hoping for a different outcome. Then, when I realize that, in spite of my best efforts, it ends the same, I question my standing with God. However, I would rather be too conscientious than hardened to my deeds and my human condition.

Sincerely,

Jay

May the LORD be with you. 

*Because of the length of this letter, I have divided it into three posts. Monday November 27, 2017, Wednesday November 29, 2017 and Friday December 2, 2017. Thank you for reading.