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Spiritual Training Cycle: Surrender (wk. 9/13)

Have you ever been mad at a barbell? I mean, don’t you think you should be every now and then? Think about it, barbells exist to cause us discomfort. When we load one up for a heavy lift, we open the door for sore muscles and sore feelings. I’ve been mad at a barbell before. Many years ago, I was training with some coaches in another gym. We were working through a strength cycle of back squats and things were starting to get real. As the final sets approached, athletes began to arrive early for the next class and couldn’t resist the opportunity to watch the coaches suffer. When I stepped under the bar for my final set, I took a deep breath and began squatting. About halfway through the third rep, I realized the bar was not going back up. I was stuck in the hole. With limited experience ditching a heavy barbell, I pitched forward thinking the barbell would fly right off my back. Wrong! Instead, it awkwardly traveled down my spine one vertebrae at a time, until it rolled off my hips and headed toward another coach. The coach stopped the barbell while I laid on the ground humiliated and weak. I’ve carried my resentment and bitterness for too long. It’s time to give that barbell some forgiveness.

We conclude our spiritual training cycle this month talking about the spiritual need of forgiveness. Let me give you my definition: forgiveness is choosing how to live with the painful consequences of another’s action. Forgiveness is a choice. It’s an action, not an emotion. Did I “feel” like forgiving the barbell? No! The recurring image of me starring in my own Life Alert commercial is reason enough not to forgive. But that’s not how it’s done. Just like going to the gym is a choice, so is forgiving someone. And there are definitely days when we don’t feel like going to the gym. But we go anyway. Why? Because we know it improves our health.

Forgiveness is choosing how to live with the painful consequences of another's action.

So does forgiveness. If you want some real nourishment for the soul, try these three words – I forgive you. That’s refreshing to hear whether you’re saying it or receiving it. And let’s be honest, we all cause people pain sometimes. We all need forgiveness. My greatest spiritual growth in life has come through forgiveness because that’s what God did for me through His Son Jesus. He forgave me. All my selfishness, all my rebelliousness, all my pride, all forgiven. We understand the value of forgiveness better once we understand the value of God’s forgiveness of us.

I think at the end of this training cycle, many of you are going to feel a little lighter. For some of you, it’s time to put down the weight of anger, resentment, and bitterness. These emotions are keeping you from living your fullest life. And the truth is no matter how much pain someone caused you, choosing to channel it in an unhealthy way won’t resolve it. Forgiveness is freedom. It will never remove the memories of the pain, but it will restore your soul by freeing you from the responsibility of managing them. Others of you are going to feel lighter because it’s time to ask for forgiveness. Your social media habit or work-life imbalance or expert parenting style has been wrecking things around you for a long time. The truth is it’s not them, it's you. When done with sincerity, admitting fault and asking for forgiveness is an incredible act of humility. It may be the key to developing the closest relationships you’ve ever had.

Choosing to forgive the barbell didn’t result in any instant transformation. The memories are still there, the fear to lift heavy still comes to wrestle with me. But it doesn’t have the same impact. Forgiveness is writing a new narrative in my life. I’m not a failure just because I fail. Those people who saw me fall probably don’t remember it, and if they do, it was at least good for a #epicfail on Instagram. But most importantly, I’m free. I’m free from the weight of the past. And I’m free to live this life without anger, bitterness, or resentment. Let’s see where God takes you this month as you tap into the power of forgiveness.

Questions for Reflection:

Which is more difficult for you – To offer forgiveness or receive it? Why

Do the motives of those who offend you play a role in your willingness to forgive them?

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