I remember being so bitter and angry in a particular season of my life, that it seemed God needed to give me an eye opening vision to wake me up from my pity party. In this particular vision, I was wearing a blindfold and as someone took it off of me, I was standing there with a machine gun in my hands ready to execute a lineup of people that "owed me" an apology. Each of them had a debt owing to me that they would never be able to pay. Even if they broadcast an apology on CNN, it still wouldn't suffice for the apparent vengeance I had built up in my heart towards them. I was shocked at the level of anger, malice and un-forgiveness forming into deep bitterness that had taken hold in my life. This bitterness held on like deep roots infiltrating every chamber of my heart, causing it to harden towards the goodness of God. I didn't like the person I was in that vision (and in reality at times) and I realized I had to take responsibility for the state I was in.
That vision showed me something very clearly - the state of my heart.
"As the face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person." Proverbs 27:19 NLT
My heart was reflecting anger, bitterness and un-forgivness.
In my previous article "Responsibility = Your Ability to Respond", I wrote about how our heart is likened to soil. God desires to throw the seeds of The Kingdom onto a soft, tender and pliable heart that will receive and cultivate all that He has for us with joy.
In this particular season of my personal life, it was apparent that joy was not coming out of my life in abundance, unfortunately it was a whole lot of bitterness and it was effecting everything. Things like my marriage and how I responded to or treated my husband. It effected my children and my ability to have fun with them or even the level of tolerance for the chaos that comes with multiple children in confined NY living spaces. It effected my friendships and my ability to trust. Not to mention, it effected how I was leading in life.
So what did I do?
1.) I got on my knees and repented
Repent: Expressing sincere regret or remorse for ones wrongdoing or sin.
When the veil was lifted, I was genuinely shocked that I had partnered with anger and unforgivness (I had literally made friends with them) to such an extreme extent. I felt the weight of my choices (totally my responsibility) and then apologized to God for choosing to live in such a way. It was sincere and I intentionally broke of my "friendship" with anger and unforgiveness.
Sometimes we need to take a moment and visualize our lives playing out before us if we stay the way we are. That will shock some of us right out of our rut and onto our knees.
2.) I had to choose (key word) to forgive
Forgiveness is an act of your will. You can choose to do it, or choose not to. You can choose to stay in the prison you've created for yourself with un-forgivness, or you can choose to unlock your prison by forgiving whether you feel it or not.(Read Matthew 18:21-35)
Did I want to forgive? Yes and no. Yes because I knew the fruit would be freedom and a tender heart. No because I didn't necessarily feel like it. I felt like writing mean letters and giving people a piece of my mind, but that wasn't wisdom in that particular season (or ever).
Here is a simple way to pray a forgiveness prayer:
"Father God, as an act of my will I choose to forgive (insert name(s)) for hurting me. I forgive them for (Insert debts they owe you here). I release them to you for you to deal with them as you see fit. I realize that their issues are their issues, they are not for me to fix and not for me to carry. Father please forgive me for holding onto unforgivness. You say that if we repent and turn from our ways you are faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us of all righteousness. Heal my heart and heal my mind in Jesus name. Amen." - Adapted from Bethel Sozo forgiveness prayer
3.) Purposefully cultivate the fruit of the Spirit
There is a difference between having the Holy Spirit and being led by the Holy Spirit. In marriage, wearing a wedding ring states to the world that I am married. I HAVE a wedding ring. But to have a fruitful marriage takes intentionality.
Intentionality: The fact of being deliberate or purposeful.
Just like you have to be intentional to have a flouring marriage, you have to be intentional to be led by the Holy Spirit. You have to practice listening, is it just your thoughts, or is it the Holy Spirit? One way to test if it's the Holy Spirit is to see if it lines up with the word of God or not? This means being in the word everyday so you get to know the sound or "accent" of your Fathers voice. Also, pay attention to conviction, (that's the Holy Spirit too) and obey immediately. Delayed responses to conviction can produce disobedience in our lives. Yikes!
Galatians 5:16-25 NLT
16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.
19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
We can't blame anyone for the state of our hearts. Not our past, not our upbringing, not our pain, because we all have the tools to be set free, it's our responsibility to respond to all God has made available to us.
Sometimes I just let the movie play out in my mind... I breathe my last breath and am standing before God. Will I have excuses for why I was bitter and unforgiving? Will I blame others for why I couldn't move forward or live in my dreams? If I see myself living with excuse, I get on my knees and start all over again at step one.
God gave you one heart, and one life to live (not the soap opera), so what will you do with it all?
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Proverbs 4:23 NIV