I recently attended a ladies retreat. This was not your typical "church-y" ladies retreat. There were some of the normal things found at a religious ladies retreat - chocolate, coffee, bunk beds, chocolate, laughter, and chocolate. Although I enjoyed some peanut m-n-m’s, laughter, and a movie one night, I needed something way deeper and I'm thankful to say that’s exactly what I got!
The first night of the four-day retreat I wrote a prayer request and put it in the special prayer box. My prayer was this: that I would experience forgiveness in such a way that joy and life would be evident on my face with no effort of my own. This seemed a tall task. I have been saying the words “I forgive,” but struggling greatly to experience that forgiveness to my core. 48 hours later I wrote down five statements that radically changed my perspective and brought complete freedom inside . . . and out!
I choose to forgive _____.
Forgiveness is a choice. I don’t always feel like forgiving, just like I don’t always feel like loving my kids, but I choose to because it’s right and I want the results of forgiving and loving others.
I choose to no longer hold _____'s offenses against them.
Were there offenses? Yes! Were those offenses against me? Yes! I must also let go of some that were not against me personally. Again, this comes down to a choice. The offenses occurred, but it is totally up to me how long I hold on to those offenses. By holding offenses against someone else I am actually keeping myself in bondage, not them. Essentially I lose if I keep holding the offenses against the offender.
I release _____ of the debt owed me (and my family).
There is a debt to be paid in a forgiveness situation. If I want the offender to pay that debt, I may be waiting around for a very long time. Sometimes the offender does not even acknowledge their wrong-doing in the matter, so seeking their payment would be like beating my head against a wall. Who’s the one losing sleep at night over the issue? Me or them? Most likely I do and that will continue until I choose to forgive.
_____ is not my enemy. Satan is the enemy and what he intended for evil, God will use for our (all of our, including _____) good and ultimately for God's glory.
This statement is key. Sometimes the person is, or seems to be, acting like the enemy (or at least using the enemy's play book) which makes it difficult to see the bigger picture. There is a spiritual battle going on and there is an enemy working against us. Is there anything Satan would like more than to get Christians fighting with each other, hating each other, and putting their efforts against one another? I don’t think so. It is an easy win for our real enemy when we don’t forgive.
The other part of this statement is that God will use if for our good, even for the good of our human “enemy”. Because of this reality I can pray the final statement.
I pray for _____. May God bless them, meet their every need, strengthen their marriage, draw them to Himself, and show them favor.
When I was asked to pray blessing over the people that have caused deep pain to me and my family my first response was, “no way!” But after walking through and speaking out loud the first four statements I am able to see those who have wronged me as real people. These are people that God loves and God cares about. People that God wants to do things in and through. When I see them with God’s eyes rather than the eyes of my hurt, I am able to pray good things - even favor and blessing - over their lives.
After several months of rehashing a hurtful situation and watching myself head down a path of bitterness, I am on a new path. I am experiencing freedom. A huge burden was lifted when I wrote these five statements, but that was not the end of the journey. I am reading these statements daily, building my forgiveness muscles, and experiencing a joy I have not had in a number of weeks.
The extraordinary life is not always easy, but there is always opportunity to make the right choice - the choice that leads to freedom.
(I’m Traci, the "Be Extraordinary!" blogger. I share insights that challenge and encourage moms to be the best version of themselves. To me, that’s an extraordinary life! Click HERE to receive blog updates and a free newsletter.)