Wednesday, November 09, 2005

What Price Freedom?

We're in the middle of a series on Freedom right now: "Freedom: think outside the square you live". For those not in NZ - the byline is a shameless rip off from a Housewares chain called "Freedom Furniture". So, we've been doing church "in the living room". In the first week, while Melissa was preaching on Renovation the furniture arrived mid message. This week I preached on Restoration from the couch. Next, its Relocation and what's gonna happen is...

I am often surprised at how God turns up when it comes time to prepare messages. This was a real personal journey as I spent time reflecting on being freed from the past.

It occurs to me that one of the key things we need to be freed from is the isolation that often characterises the way we carry our hurts. Maybe its shame or fear. Perhaps its a sense that no one will understand. For some reason we hold our secrets close. It seems to me that we withdraw from community so often when we're hurt. And yet, our healing/freedom is commonly achieved in community.

Maybe our secrecy is connected to an unwillingness to remember? It hurts to remember hard times. I suppose the opposite is true also: we can nurture our negative memories until they become more than something that happened to us, they become the lense through which we view all experience: past, present and future. Maybe thats why forgiveness is such a critical concept in Christian thought. In part, it frees us from the enduring power of memory to shape and influence us. Its not forgiving and forgetting - its more about memories losing the power to chain us to the past. Its the weight of those chains and the limitations of their length that constrain us in the present. Is that in part where the idea of God forgetting our sins comes from?

I think revenge is one of those subtle evils that lurks in most of us. Revenge is so often justified by reference to those memories of past wrong. There is so much about revenge that feels so right. Is that because revenge is a mirror of the pain of past wrongs? I've never found revenge to be enduring in the satisfaction it brings. Usually, it makes me feel worse! Dirtier in a way. The whole idea of overcoming evil with love is one that fascinates me. What power there is in loving those who persecute us. Maybe thats the ultimate kind of freedom? Where personal circumstances do not distract us from the choice to love?



Anonymous said...

So here's a hypothetical for you:

You've got a situation that needs forgiveness as it has an effect on your interactions with the others involved. 'Removing the isolation' and 'returning to community' means revealing things that happen within church families and will potentially cause nothing but hurt and division.

How do you forgive what's not acknolwedged, not dealt with, and forgiveness just feels like letting people walk all over you while you smile back at them?

Rhett said...

Ahhhhh, so that's what the furniture thing was all about...

Jonesboy said...

Great question "anonymous". Here are some immediate thoughts, but I'd welcome input from others.

First, I should say that "returning to community" does not always mean the "community of origin". My point was that we find healing "in community" but not necessarily with those who have caused serious harm to us. In fact, if as you say that harm is unacknowledged then it is almost certainly beyond the perpetrator to extend authentic community to anybody let alone the victim of harm. So, removing the isolation and living in community may mean telling someone, but that should be a person who is trusted and probably outside any dysfunctional network that might be serving to "protect" the perpetrator (assuming anyone knows).

Second,the consequences of revealing deep sin against people are often fraught. An illustration I used Sunday, was the removal of a bandaid - whether you rip it off fast or slow it still hurts. In the end we choose our problems: living the silent hell of secret abuse or living through the storm of disclosure. Thats a very personal choice to make, but I have seen people who will settle for the former - it has distressed me that they choose to remain there.

Finally, I think you hit it right on the head: forgiveness does sometime feel like letting people walk all over you while you smile back at them! Its not some masochistic exercise in spiritual self-flagellation, but it can take time - sometimes I think forgiveness mirrors the grief cycle in some of its phases. There is a time when forgiveness feels wooden and fake. But I think there is also a time when it offers release. Forgiveness is not literal forgetting - particularly in abusive situations we do well to remember dangerous, toxic people. But, forgiveness can free us from living out of the self-definition that sometimes arises from those negative experiences.

Hope this helps. Happy to discuss this further via email or you can contact me through the church

jean said...

thanx anonymous for asking what you asked....It's stuff that has been playing on my mind too. And Brett, thanx for answering it so well. You have put my mind at some ease.