joseph & his bullies

my childhood bully called me recently wanting to reconnect. just curious to see where i had ended up in life & what i was doing. like nothing had ever happened between us. she hadn't called to acknowledge all of the pain & trauma she had caused. she hadn't called to beg my forgiveness. in fact, i think she called not even being aware of the damage she had caused.

a flood of awful memories came back as i listened to the message on my machine. it took me back to places i thought i had long forgotten & left behind. it's amazing the amount of emotion that can be packed away for so long.

she called all day that day. seven times to be exact. and i didn't pick up any of the calls. i just let it ring as my anger & anxiety fumed & mounted.

i was reading to the kids that night. the story of joseph. about how his brothers shredded his cloak & threw him away, then sold him into a life of slavery. and then how they were forced to come crawling back to him once he was in a position of power. and i liked it. no, i LOVED it. i loved that those terrible bullies had to come crawling back to beg for forgiveness. and how joseph was in such a position of power he could have squashed them. but he didn't. he chose mercy. he chose forgiveness because he chose to see them as flawed people not just as his bullies. he chose to see them as brothers.

and so i started thinking on mercy. i started thinking about what would have motivated or caused her to do such things. and i thought about how hurting people hurt people. but i just kept saying over & over again "but i can't just forgive her without confronting her with what she did. i can't forgive her because then she got away with it." and steve, that wise husband of mine, said "but she hasn't gotten away with anything. look at her lonely little life. she hasn't gotten away with a thing." and i thought about where she was now in life. still the same hurting person. and i was sad. i wasn't at all glad she had ended up lonely & alone, even if it was the consequence of her own actions. revenge & vindication suddenly did not taste so sweet.

i knew i didn't have any obligation to call her back. i knew i really didn't have to if i didn't want to. but i felt compelled to show mercy to her. if there was some way i could help her out of the hurt she'd been swallowed up by, it'd make those tortuous years worth something. and so, after much debate, i called her back.

and it wasn't so great. i certainly didn't have that 'valiant victoriously above it all' feeling after. she hadn't changed one bit. she really had just called to stir up trouble. it was really hard to keep my 'forgive & extend mercy' resolve. hard not to explode into a wildfire rage. but sometimes when you're feeling vulnerable, when you're feeling hurt, the easiest thing to do is to spring to anger because it feels so active. feels as though you are achieving something, like teaching someone a lesson or protecting yourself when in actuality you're hurting yourself.

forgiveness isn't just a choice, it's a muscle.  a muscle that you have to chose to use each day, or each time you think of the person who wronged you. and the more you exercise that forgiving muscle, the easier it gets & stronger you are. the more the weight is lifted. but it's gradual. not immediate. i have always thought about forgiveness as being more of a singular event. where i chose to forgive & then it's over. but really, and maybe this is because i am a little more prone to grudges than most other people, it's a commitment. it's a journey.

i know how horrible it feels to have resentment & anger that you have no way of getting rid of. i know how crippling & debilitating a life dedicated to contempt & revenge is, a life dedicated to holding onto the past. it's the thing that kills the soul. it's a dangerous affliction, that is merciless towards it's victims. and so i have chosen to dedicate myself to making the long decision for forgiveness. for mercy. doesn't mean i won't have to battle my emotions from time to time. doesn't mean i won't one day need to confront this person or set appropriate boundaries. forgiveness doesn't make what someone has done alright. but it does set me free & make me muscle-y meek which is the best part about joseph's story. he showed restraint when he could have given his brothers what they rightfully deserved. he showed wisdom & sobriety while they were franticly sick with grief over what they had done. and he showed genuine care & concern for them, living freely & prospering from a full heart of forgiveness. and joseph's testimony became that which was meant to harm him was used by the hand of the Lord to prosper him & his land.

"then joseph said to his brothers, "come close to me." when they had done so, he said, "i am your brother joseph, the one you sold into egypt! and now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save the lives that God sent me ahead of you. for two years, now there has been a famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing or reaping. but God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance." {genesis 45: 4-7}

i know i'm not quite as far along the path of forgiveness as joseph yet but i know God wastes nothing & i see that now. i see how He's gently crafted & strategically used my past experiences to prosper me & make me who i am today.  He a good God, that crafty God of ours, who wastes nothing. not even bullies.

No comments:

Post a Comment