The studies in this book examine challenges we face as we try to forgive and reconcile with those who have hurt us. Let’s face it–sometimes it’s easier to be hurt or angry, to hold onto our sense of justice and pride, rather than let go. But both forgiveness and reconciliation are disciplines necessary for the spiritual health of individuals and communities. In practicing them, we see the reality of God’s forgiveness and his offer of reconciliation to us.
This series of posts will follow my inward thoughts as I go through the book chapter by chapter working through the ideas listed above.
I really enjoyed today’s Bible study lesson on Reconciliation. Contrary to what I was expecting, the whole chapter was spent discussing how important it is to reconcile with oneself. The Bible study asked me to locate the negative feelings I have toward myself, and remember that if God says that he loves me unconditionally then I should love myself as well. Reading this chapter honestly felt like someone was giving me a warm hug, because this subject is something I’ve struggled with in the past.
A few years ago, I was wrestling with a few sinful habits that had gone too far. I turned to one of my good friends for support, and they offered copious amounts of advice and encouragement. After 6 months of fighting to pull myself out of this hole, I realized that I had come to a standstill. With my friend’s help, I had done everything that I could to try and nip the bad habit in the bud, but I still didn’t feel totally resolved. It wasn’t until one particular conversation with my friend that I realized that the issue went much deeper than I perceived.
We were sitting outside on a bench late at night, with the stars shining, and a streetlight overhead, watching the cars drive by when my friend said to me, “Maggie, God forgives you. You don’t have to keep holding this burden. He wants to take it from you.” I started crying as I recognized that the reason I hadn’t been able to fully heal was because I didn’t love or forgive myself for my sinful actions. I honestly didn’t feel as though I deserved any love, especially from myself. I thought that I wasn’t worthy of self-love, and my self-disgust was just a consequence of my past actions. But as my friend and I continued our conversation, I started to understand that in order to move past my sinful habits and put them behind me, I needed to completely forgive myself and begin building myself up. After all, I couldn’t just destroy all the bad habits and leave nothing positive or uplifting in their place.
Surprisingly, this whole idea of self-love is not totally self-serving. The focus of the remainder of the chapter in Reconciliation is to put on the commandment that Jesus declares to be the second most important: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31 NLT). Notice how Jesus doesn’t just end with “Love your neighbor,” he says, “as yourself.” This is where the light bulb turned on in my mind.
By deciding to love and forgive ourselves, not only are we building ourselves up positively and creating good habits, but we are also setting up the foundation for loving others. If we are aware of how we best love and serve ourselves, then we can more fully love and serve others.
I really appreciated the callout that the chapter asks its readers to do, and as the conclusion to this blog post I’d like to invite you all to participate in it as well! It says, “This week, write yourself a letter of love and reconciliation. Make a list of the ways in which you do not accept or properly love yourself. Then pray every day for healing in one of those areas until you’ve covered every item on the list.”
But of course, I want to hear about the new ways you are going to love yourself! Please comment on this post with one way that you are going to love and reconcile with yourself this week.