Think, Evaluate, Talk, Feel, Pray
I felt searing shame that I was unable to forgive completely for over a year. On one hand, I wasn't going to fake forgiveness. It had to be real to me or I didn't want to offer it. On the other hand, I'd read verses like Colossians 3:13, "Be even tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you." I'd feel like a smelly dead rodent in a gutter type failure as I read a passage like this.
I felt like a failure when I thought about forgiving in my own power. Forgiving my wife all the wounds from three years of lies and sex with another man was beyond what I was capable of doing. I was trying to do that on my own. It was too big.
Dallas Willard has generalized the first 3 steps of the 12 steps to this,
- I admit that I am powerless over sin and that my life has become unmanageable.
- I believe that God—through His action and those of His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit—can restore me to sanity.
- I will turn my will and my entire life over to the care of God.
Life had become unmanagable, check. Believing that God could restore me to sanity, sometimes I forgot that, though I had experienced that in my own life when I called out to God as a drunken, broken down twenty-eight year old. Turning my will and life over to God, that was a quotidian battle.
For fourteen months I prayed. I didn't realize how much prayer I was actually doing. 'I'm mad at you God. I don't trust you,' is a form of prayer. 'Cuss word, cuss word, cuss word,' can be a form of prayer too. Romans 8:26, "Meanwhile the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs and aching groans and cuss words."
Ok, forgive me I added that cuss word part. But I see the cuss words as part of my aching groans. Part of my prayer, part of my life psalm of lament.
Fourteen months is a long time to fight this battle. But if I see my marriage as lasting one hundred and fifty years like my friends Wes and Judy Roberts suggest, it's just a blip on the time line.
I prayed. I learned not to pray for the strength to forgive. Sure, my will was certainly a choice in the matter. I prayed for the Lord to forgive through me. I prayed to join in with the forgiveness that God, and almost everyone else (which stirred up anger at first and later more shame) was offering Ann. Forgive through me. I can't do it on my own.
Notice the implicit trust in that statement. Forgive through me. It's acknowledging the power and truth in steps 2 and 3. God--through His action and those of his Son Jesus and Holy Spirit can restore me to sanity. I'll turn my will and life over to Him.
I prayed this in a 'Lord, I believe, help my unbelief' way. Pray it I did. I prayed it until I slid down those stairs in Texas Stadium knowing that God was the best thing ever to happen in my life and more than anything else I wanted to be close to Him. Forgiveness happened at that moment in my heart. I rode the bus back to Springfield, drove home to Smithville on the north side of Kansas City and shared that forgiveness with Ann.