For those of you who don't know, Mr.Pate and I have had one of those "hurt by the church" experiences. You know, the kind so many people have let keep them from continuing in the faith?
Anyhow, 2 fall seasons ago, mr.pate went into the church he was working at just like any other morning and 20 minutes later he left as a non-employee. We were asked to resign. No we had done nothing wrong, there was no scandal. They simply felt we were not a right fit for where they were headed (which is a very true statement). The asking us to resign thing came as a shock, but wasn't really the hurtful thing in the circumstance. The thing that cut like a knife was that they asked mr.pate to leave that day. Don't come back on Sunday and do not collect $200 dollars, well maybe not the last part.
He had worked there for 2 and 1/2 years. He had poured energy and love into this church. He had worked there when there were 50 people there. Did he get a goodbye party? Did he get a thank-you for all you have done in front of the church? Did he get a chance to see his church family again? No. No. No. We had money thrown at us (which don't get me wrong, the money was a blessing) and were told to say nothing negative about the church or they would take the money back.
Does that sound like a church? Does that sound like how a church should "do business"? No. No.
Fast forward two years to November 2009, the scene is my living room. Here I sit pondering these events that have made up my life. Everytime I hear the word forgiveness I think of this church. I think of the leadership team and the pastor.
See the thing is, for 2 years I have refused to forgive and let go. I say I have, but that is just not true. The anger has subsided. The desire to hurt them has subsided. But the desire to punish them has not.
My pastor has been preaching through Luke. And over the past few weeks he has been preaching on prayer and chapter 11.
"forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us." luke 11: 4
How can I accept the Lord's forgiveness for my sin, but not forgive others? Finally, after 2 years, I feel the Lord softening my heart and my memory over this whole ordeal. I once read in a marriage book, "Forgiveness is giving up the right to punish someone".
It is not making sure they understand how they messed up and how much it sucked. It is not reminding them of it over and over again just so they would be sure to remember how bad they messed up and to fix it. And it is not saying you are over something and then questioning their character anytime they come up in conversation.
But forgiveness is saying kind things or nothing at all about the person, instead of mean things. It is letting them succeed without trying to sabotage it. And it is letting yourself begin to think nice thoughts about them again.
I am not there. I am so far from close to there. But I am finally on the road to letting it go. I am on the road to trusting God's plan for my life, which doesn't include that church anymore. I am on the road to living out Joseph's example:
"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good" Gen 50:20