Forgiving from a distance ...

The last person I saw as I left  the Point Loma Nazarene University campus after graduation was an old boyfriend that I had had a difficult time avoiding for the last three years. It was uncomfortable to say the least. His car was parked right next to mine and his family was there. So was mine.

I muttered goodbye in answer to him and got into my car, and quickly left. It was very awkward.

I had just graduated from a Christian university and I professed to follow Christ. Why did it look like I had not forgiven this person? You would have to know the history before you judge me on that. All I'll tell you is that after I broke up with this person, he essentially stalked me for the next year or so. It seemed like everywhere I went he was there. He wouldn't leave me alone so I avoided places that I needed to go, like the cafeteria, in order to get away from him. My mom didn't like the fact that I was only eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in my dorm room so she called the school and complained. I was then summoned to the school counselor who told me to not talk to my ex-boyfriend. The counselor said that the ex- had been told not to talk to me. That didn't work very well, at least in his case.

To give you an idea as to how bad the situation was, a couple of years later I found out that he had been whining and lying about our relationship to most of the guys in his dorm. I had quite the reputation and didn't know it. I didn't know why people avoided me until one of my male friends told me about this. Apparently, my ex-boyfriend had talked to him about me because he thought we were dating. He did this to several guys who associated with me. Only two of them told me about it.

At the time, no one told me that I could have gotten a restraining order. Most people told me that I needed to forgive him so that everything would be all right. Actually, I think some of them wanted me to forgive him because they were tired of his whining.  But, at that time I was terrified. I thought that by forgiving him I would have to get back together with him.

The entire situation was weird and creepy. By summer, my emotions were frazzled; I couldn't pray; I thought God hated me. It took weeks to start to recover. Good thing I had loving Christian parents and a good church body at the time. I never would have made it without them. Plus, my ex-boyfriend had called my house and had written letters to my parents. My dad - who is really tall, large fellow, and really good at communicating in no uncertain terms - told this guy to leave me alone and not come any where near my house. Fortunately, that did work.

By the time I went back to school in the fall, I was feeling pretty good. I didn't know that the ex-boyfriend had been "stalking" my parents at that time so my confidence was up and I felt like God had never stopped loving me. I was also convinced that I did not have to get back together with this guy. I didn't owe him anything. I could "forgive" him from a distance.

I don't think any of us really understood true forgiveness at the time. For some reason, people who had not really thought through Jesus' words about forgiveness were teaching us that we had to forgive everyone all the time in every situation so that we could be clear before God and go to heaven when we died. It was like the act of forgiving meant we had to accept being badly treated. I wish that the book "Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds" by Chris Brauns had been at my disposal during that time. It would have helped a lot and perhaps I would have avoided years of guilt and despair over the situation I described.

Since my college days, there have been plenty of opportunities to forgive people who had hurt me deeply. I don't think you can go through life without someone doing something that just knocks the stuffing out of you. That's why I would like to take you through this book chapter by chapter and maybe together we can come up with some solutions that are biblically relevant to the situations we are in. So, on Thursday I would like to start with chapter one and cover a chapter a week. I have provided a link if you would like to buy the book (or borrow it from your local library). Because of copyright reasons, I'm not going to give you much of the text. This study will be based on my perceptions in reaction to Brauns' thoughts.

I hope you join me. Give this a chance before you judge this study because I have inferred that you don't have to forgive everyone all the time in every situation. Jesus was pretty clear on his teaching about forgiveness in that we must practice forgiveness. Dr. Brauns' book will help us understand how to deal with very difficult situations.

See you soon.