Monday, 29 December 2014
The Paradox of Freedom - Part 1
Many years ago I found myself, completely against my will, dealing with the loss of my marriage. I'd spent 7 years married to a man who lied and deceived seemingly without conscience, who was a master of emotional manipulation, and who acted as if the world revolved around him alone. While his regular outbursts of anger only occasionally resulted in physical abuse, it almost always ended with him breaking things - usually my things!
We'd been living in London and I had taken our baby son on a holiday back to Australia so the family could meet him. While I was there, my husband contacted me and told me he'd applied for a job back home and asked me to stay until he had an answer. After several weeks of being put off like this, I rang the company he said he'd applied to - and discovered the whole thing was a lie. When I confronted him with it, he got angry with me... again...
Now as you can probably imagine, having been treated like dirt for so long, and then abandoned with a year old son to care for, I was pretty distressed about life! I fought to save our marriage, but he just didn't want to know. Eventually, his mistress became pregnant, and I had to face the fact that my marriage was dead.
I set about trying to find my way out of the pain of betrayal and rejection I'd experienced, desperately trying to pursue God's plan for us. I knew I had to forgive my husband, but it was so hard! Some days it felt impossible.
In the midst of my struggle, I picked up a book about recovering from divorce. In it I read the most profound thing I'd ever heard: that I actually had a choice whether or not to forgive my husband!
That may sound really stupid to you, but I'd grown up with a christianity that amounted to a set of rules, a standard that 'must' be reached. If you were a christian, you had to forgive. Being a christian was synonymous with 'doing the right thing'. And doing 'the wrong thing' meant facing the shame and censure of family and church.
But here was this book, written by christians, declaring that I had a choice! I was free to forgive or not - it was entirely up to me! The book did explain that there were certain realities that went with whatever I chose, but nonetheless, I did have a choice.
This was a totally new and revolutionary idea to me! I wasn't being coerced into anything - I was being set free.
And the paradox was that once I realised I had the freedom not to forgive, I found that I wanted to forgive him. Not because it was 'the right thing to do', but because I wanted to be free of the anger and pain that was crippling me.
I'll be honest - it still took time and effort on my part, and there were still days when I wanted him to be hurt as badly as he'd hurt me, but I was doing this for the sake of freedom not because someone was telling me I 'had to'.
I had a choice and I was free!