Building Out the Attic

I have been doing some spiritual cleaning over the last couple of years. It hasn’t been a spring-like cleaning as a new season approaches. Rather, I have been doing the deep kind of attic cleaning that comes right before a major move. This cleaning has taken me into places I never thought I would revisit, but I have. I’ve been cleaning out the bins of anger, shame, guilt, pride, idolatry and the biggest bin of all, at least for me, forgiveness. Now, this isn’t to say that I have conquered all of these bins, but I have opened them up, taken inventory of their contents and made provision, or requested assistance, for what to do with those contents. It is not an easy task and not for the faint of heart.

This week, I believe I have finally unpacked the final bin of forgiveness. As I said, this one was hard for me. I have really had to pray over whom I needed to forgive and whether or not I needed to go to that person and let them know of my forgiveness. The acts that needed to be forgiven ranged from petty to monumental. Some I have just handed over to the Lord, but others, the Lord has required me to go to. Talk about humbling. And, for a stubborn soul like me, downright irritating at times.

I have wrestled with God about some of the people He has laid on my heart. I have said stuff to Him like, “Seriously, I have to go to her? But, she was the one who did that to me?” or “But, what if they don’t think they did anything wrong? What is their response going to be? Aren’t I just setting myself up to be hurt again?” I really am thankful that God is so patient with me! In His loving tone, He kept whispering to me the words from 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, “And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to Himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’”
I have sometimes seen forgiveness as a self-serving thing. I feel better if I extend forgiveness and then the ball is in that person’s court. Or, I think it will make that person feel better so it is a win-win situation for us all. But, because of God and this passage, I realize that my forgiveness (whether I am giving or receiving) is not about me at all. It is actually about God and for God. If I can’t be relieved of the burden of forgiveness, I can’t be fully reconciled with God so there is going to be some road blockage between the Father and I. And since all of my spiritual cleaning is really for my Father, I certainly do not want to create any obstacles.

As part of this cleaning, I have extended forgiveness that has not always been met with the expectation or hope that I wanted. Some have ignored the particular problem all together and turned it back to me (boy, let me tell you how hard that was to swallow) and some, like this week, have been glorious.

The forgiveness that I extended this week was a long-time coming. It had lingered for years and was an act against me that some would say is unforgivable. It was the kind of act that rocked my world and changed my life. It was an act that was wrapped around guilt and shame on my part because had I done some things differently, it probably could have been avoided. For a moment in my life, it defined me. I hated that, I hated the person and I hated myself. So this was a big one and this one name was the last one on my forgiveness list. God was telling me that He needed me to take care of it...now. Colossians 3:13 says, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Forgiveness clearly is not an option, it is a command, and God was ordering me to do it.
Up until recently, I had no way of contacting this person (I had a great excuse then, right?), but thanks to modern technology, I now had a way to reach out. Great. After much prayer this past Tuesday morning, I prepared my message. It was very simple and to the point. In my message, I extended forgiveness, shared with that person that I know Jesus has forgiven me and shared that Jesus can forgive them too (I did not know whether that person had a relationship with Christ, but I wanted to stay in keeping with 2 Corinthians 5:18-20). I stared at the message for several minutes before I finally just closed my eyes, said a prayer (something to the effect of, “Lord, I will accept whatever response comes.”) and pressed “Send.” It was in the Lord’s hands at that point.

The response I got mere minutes later was nothing what I thought it was going to be, but everything I had hoped it would be. Not only had I released that ugly ball of hate, anger and sadness, but also the person on the receiving end of the forgiveness was able to release their own ball of whatever it was that they had been holding. From the tone of the message, I could sense that this had eaten away at this person just as much as it had eaten at me all of these years.

God, once again, was victorious!

I am happy to report that my attic is almost empty and instead of filling it back up, I want to build it out so it can never be cluttered again. I want it to be filled with life and not junk. My load has truly been lightened!

Erin Olson

Founder and CEO of Sandalfeet Ministries

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