moving forward in reverse

Some people live in the past.
Stuck in old dreams. Old loves. Old regrets.
Reliving past glories and triumphs. Taking satisfaction in achievements long forgotten by everyone but them.

Some people run from the past.
Blinded by the pain. Confused by the questions.
Looking for new loves. New purpose. Something to make them feel alive.
Or at least to fill life till, still running, they drop dead in their tracks.

I could be those people. Perhaps I am.
I think that's how I ended up in this lightspot. Unable to make complete sense of the past. Unable to grab onto anything tangible in the future. God's way of getting me to pay attention to Now. To God. To me.

I had a flash of insight last week in the lightspot. And I'm not sure I like it.
In fact, I'm sure I don't.

After the stress of moving to another country and starting over in a new kind of life; after submitting the manuscript of my first book to my editor (that's another blog), I have space and time to sit and pray and to wonder, "What's next?" Instead of some beautiful plan revealed to me (which is what I hoped would happen), I see something else: Me. The ugly me. The bitter me. And a flash of clarity that the only way forward is in reverse.

Sometimes, looking back on the past decade, instead of feeling gratitude for a job I loved (which I did), joy in the wonderful relationships I had (and there were many), and satisfaction with what was accomplished (both the visible and the invisible), I become a seething mass of painful memories, volatile emotions and vengeful inclinations. I've been surprised at the level of pain I've experienced in those recollections. Not because I was unaware when it happened. But because I thought I’d forgiven.

So I've been looking backwards. Not just at what others did. But at how I responded. In the light I have, I see that I did forgive. And forgive. And forgive. Not because I’m just that good. But because I had to. (I've learned the hard way what unforgiveness can do.) Forgiveness has proven to be critical for my own health and my own capacity to do the things I love to do with any measure of integrity. It’s been necessary for relationships that matter to me, including my relationship with God. It’s been the only way to move towards the destiny I believe I was created for. So I’ve worked hard at it, persisting, with God’s help, even when I thought at times it was impossible. (And, humanly speaking, at times it was.)

But this time, it’s different. Harder. Because I see that there’s another kind of forgiveness needed. One I've never learned to give. So I have to go back and forgive a few folks not just for what they’ve done, but for what they are.

When I forgive doing I can somehow hope that they will stop doing it. That they will change their behavior. If not with me, then with others. But when I see that I have to forgive being…well, that’s a different story. A story I don't know how to write. A story that feels as if it will not have a happy ending. But how do I know? It's not a story I've told before.

After a lifetime of experience in forgiving, I realize that I don’t know how to forgive like this. This demands a different kind of self-reflection and learning, another type of prayer and faith. Vindication, transformation and repentance are not necessary outcomes. Ever. And I begin to get that bitter taste in my mouth again... Until a flash of light startles me and there I am - in the light, with God, seeing that this is the kind of forgiveness He's given me. And that bitter taste in my mouth begins to fade...

So. Moving forward in reverse. It’s 1 more new challenge – a never before attempted feat – in this new life of mine. In this lightspot I see my future options: I can look back and let go, walking into the future as I, by God’s grace, forgive not just behavior but being, without expecting those forgiven to be sorry or to be different. Or I can stay where I am and continue to mentally and emotionally wrestle with my past in some sad and twisted effort to fix it.

That's not really a choice. I may be bitter. But I'm not a fool.

My friend, Dr. Gayle Reed, has a professional practice that includes forgiveness workshops, individual forgiveness recovery consultation, and classes at the University of WI extension. Gayle’s forgiveness workbooks are also available for those entering into the forgiveness process related to either personal or professional relationships.

Whether you’re on a cross-cultural journey or
the journey of following Jesus,
1 of the inevitables is that
on the road to where you’re going,
you will have to face yourself.

If you don’t have the guts for that, better to stay home.