I’m still working through everything that happened in my life five years ago and if truth be told, I’ve made a lot of progress but there’s one glaring area where I’ve been stuck. When I say stuck I mean that I’ve been in a holding pattern…waiting for a deep and rich understanding of what this last piece entails…waiting for my heart to be in the right place so that I can fully embrace the forgiveness that lies ahead.
I’m writing this on Friday morning, one week before it will be published. This morning after I posted my entry on forgiveness I was overcome with emotion. A friend sent me a link to a song that really touched me and as it played I felt God wrapping his love around me like a big hug on a day when I really needed one. I knew He was going to speak to my heart so I quietly prepared myself for that moment.
As you can tell from my posts, I cry often. I choked up last night in the parking lot at Costco as my son and I thanked a Vietnam war vet for his service. I cry at stories I read online about animals who were suffering and then rescued and adopted. I cry when a friend tells me she is going through something hard. I cry while watching Hallmark Channel movies, especially at Christmastime. I have a magnet that says, “Live to the point of tears” and I take it literally. I’m fortunate to have regular experiences in my life that bring me to that place of deep emotional connection.
One thing I’ve learned to do is identify the source of my tears. In most cases they are a display of gratitude or empathy, but sometimes they symbolize something else. This morning’s tears were unexpected and I wasn’t quite sure at first what they meant but they felt sorrowful; I detected an undertone of sadness.
Toward the end of my marriage, I rarely expressed emotion. I convinced myself it wasn’t a safe place to share my feelings and that they wouldn’t be validated (this was my perception, not necessarily reality). I found a place of even temperament and prided myself in trying to create a steady emotional climate. But all of that was just a cover for what was really going on; I was self-protecting by not allowing myself to feel.
My counselor and I worked hard to get me reconnected with my emotions. Some of you are too young to get this reference but the other day I stumbled across an episode of the Six Million Dollar Man which brought back all kinds of warm childhood feelings. I love the sound effects when Steve Austin is seeing something from a distance or when the Bionic Woman is hearing a conversation from afar. As I was watching I thought, “That’s the kind of attention I want to pay to my emotions; that’s how tuned in I want to be.”
I’m guessing some of you reading this have shut down aspects of your emotional expression due to hurt or trauma. Believe me, I get it. But it’s not healthy and it’s not sustainable. The goal is to get to the place where you can feel again because it’s so beautiful to be able to express yourself in an appropriate and life-giving way.
Here’s the truth, if you can’t or don’t express your feelings, you will experience “stuffed” frustration because feelings aren’t supposed to be held hostage. And then you always have something sitting beneath the surface, ready to ooze out slowly or suddenly explode. Toward the end of my marriage I felt desperate and trapped and I needed an outlet so I sought out counseling. And even then, in the safety of my counselor’s office, I would sit with my fear and have to force myself to identify and express what I was feeling. I literally had to figure out how to tap into my emotions and then articulate my feelings.
Oh how I digress. Back to this morning.
I was sensing sorrow but I didn’t know why. I knew it had something to do with the entry I had just posted so I started my discovery process. What cord was being struck in the area of forgiveness? Why was I feeling sad? When I get stuck like this I give myself time go through this exercise and when I do, I ask God a lot of questions. I seek His wisdom and wait for His reply.
After awhile, it hit me. I started to understand. God showed me that in order to fully forgive my FH (former husband), I would have to allow myself to go back to a time when we deeply loved each other and then sit in that moment and embrace that feeling. My memories took me back to my honeymoon, one of the sweetest times we had together. I also decided to read my daily journal entries from that week and savor the loving moments in my heart. It was hard to do that but I felt it was important.
And then I felt I needed to identify a time when We no longer loved each other in that way. My memories instantly took me back to the day he told me he was pursuing a relationship with my former sister-in-law. (At this point we were divorced but had remained friends through the process.) That was the day I pulled the curtains completely shut on my heart. That was the day I dismissed him as a friend.
In order for us to address the hurt we carry, we have to acknowledge the path from the past to the present. In my case, I had to remember that I was once very much in love with and deeply loved by this person. We have to recognize the good to understand the bad because the pain is embedded between the two.
This is such a hard exercise because it brings us to a moment of truth where we have a decision to make. Do we stay in our pain? The end result of staying is bitterness, so it’s not the best option (even if we feel we deserve it). Or do we make a decision that no matter what it takes, we will do the hard work and ultimately surrender our hurt to God? We can find freedom but we first have to open those curtains that we closed in our hearts. Our hearts must be completely open for forgiveness and restoration to take place.
I write this closing paragraph on the eve of December 4th, the 5-year anniversary of my divorce. It’s taken me 1,826 days (an extra day because 2016 was a leap year) to get to this place where I can acknowledge that I once deeply loved and cherished someone so much that I made the decision to marry him. There was pain (so much pain) in our journey together. Yes, I walked away very hurt and I know he did too. Today I choose to give proper place to the beautiful memories in our relationship and the incredible boys we have as a result of being married. And I also acknowledge the difficult years and the jars of collective tears I’ve cried in my darkest and loneliest hours. I’m making a declaration here in my blog that I am choosing to forgive, to let go of the hurt, to release this person to thrive and succeed and be the best dad and husband he can be. And by doing that, I let go of the pain and open the door to God’s best for my life as I accept His beautiful gift of an extraordinary exchange.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.