Grace, Healing, Free Will and Forgiveness
More and more I experience life itself and particularly my spiritual life as a work in progress. And I have seen that, when with grace I become more honest in self-awareness, I recognize that I have been trapped in repetitive loops with some of my more destructive behaviors. And it is sometimes necessary to travel backwards in memory to find the root of my compulsions.
This is not an attempt to blame past experiences or people for my behavior patterns. This is becoming free through grace to recognize broken places so that I can bring them to God for healing. Knowing I am loved unconditionally is a prerequisite for facing my brokenness. Facing it is necessary for getting healed. And getting healed is crucial for becoming free to grow and change.
I can admit to destructive frozen areas in myself without falling into despair and self-hate because I can see that I was not free to change before. But once I recognize these, I am responsible for seeking healing grace to change. Freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin.
We are all imperfect and vulnerable children born into an imperfect family in an imperfect world. We all have wounds that we have covered over for protection. We have developed behavior patterns that have helped us survive, but that eventually need to be changed for us to continue growing into the people God created us to be.
We don’t choose to become victims, but we can choose to be healed and become free. If we were deeply wounded by someone, forgiving them will be part of becoming free. There simply is no way around it, however terrible the wound is and however long it takes.
I had a wonderfully warm and loving friend whose father had been an extremely abusive alcoholic. She had two brothers and three sisters. Her brothers grew up to be just like their father. Her sisters were competent practical women who married good men. My friend, Ann, was a loving, sensitive, caring woman. But she was attracted to men like her father even though she hated him and was happy when he died in a fire.
At forty Ann ended up on a respirator in an ICU. She was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and told she would never be able to breathe without the respirator. Ann did not belong to any religion and she asked to be taken off the respirator, but her children couldn’t bring themselves to agree to this. During the night a woman came to Ann in the ICU. Ann had never seen her before and never could find her again. But this woman told Ann that God loved her and had a plan for her life. Somehow, Ann believed her. The next day Ann was able to get off the respirator and went home three days later with no symptoms of lung damage.
Ann found a small church and joined it. The minister and congregation were mostly introverted intellectuals, where Ann was a people person who responded to the world from her feelings. She quickly became the heart of the little church actively building community and motivating the parishioners to do outreach ministries. She also became involved with renewal movements within the denomination and touched even more lives.
I was blessed to be a witness to her continuing spiritual healing and growth, such as recognizing that she had unconsciously resented her older sisters and rejected their love. It was wonderful to watch as she experienced the joy of new loving and close relationships with her sisters. During the next fifteen years of her life she suffered several very serious health problems requiring surgeries and hospitalizations, finally even losing a leg because of circulatory problems. But her loving spirit continued to be an incredible inspiration to many people through all of this. She opened my eyes to my own over sensitivity, that had led me to turn my back on friends who unknowingly hurt me, when she risked telling her friends that they had hurt her so they could work through it to forgiveness and a closer relationship. But, still she struggled with her hatred for her father.
I couldn’t help wondering why God had healed Ann miraculously only to let her go through so many medical traumas. Then one day, she came to me with tears of joy and told me that while cleaning the sanctuary at church, she had finally become free to forgive her father. Not long after that, Ann had a fatal heart attack.
God kept Ann alive miraculously and used her to heal others even while she was still physically and spiritually wounded. And finally when His love had healed her spirit and freed her to forgive the one that had wounded her the most, he took her home.
Grace, healing, free will and forgiveness are inseparable.