Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

May 26, 2010

I Imprisoned Myself

Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

(Required reading, or required remembering, for this blog:  The Church Tested — Part One,;   The Church Tested — Part Two,  The Church Tested — Part Three,

After our firing from the church, we collected our items from the church yard, made arrangements for our furniture to be placed in storage, gave away our beloved family German Shepherd dog, and departed the city under the careful, watchful eye of those who were rejoicing that we were leaving.

It seemed I was galvanized against any feelings of anger or resentment.  I guess I was so busy making arrangements that I did not look introspectively.  We went home to parents who would provide a place for us within their homes.  We began to assess our lives.  As a husband and father, I felt so responsible.  I had no feeling of guilt.  I knew in my heart I had done nothing wrong.  The reality was, however, that I must find a job.

I knew that no church would consider me immediately, and so I sought secular employment.  I was open for any kind of work.  Income was the number one priority.  We had two small children, furniture storage bills, no medical coverage, and needed all the other necessities of life.  It was most difficult.  No one, and I understand, desires to employ and train a minister who they know would go back to pastor a church when he had the opportunity.  As employment became the major hurdle, I began to know my feelings.

I was angry!  I began to mentally say about those who had placed us in this predicament that I needed to get even.  There was a desire for revenge in my heart.  Resentment became my temperament.  Bitterness began to blossom in my spirit.  I could name several men I knew were responsible for our present dilemma.  I blamed them for destroying my ministry, my reputation, and displacing my family.  Yet, as a pastor I should have known where to turn for strength and counsel, but I evaded allowing God’s Spirit to correct and lead me.

In retrospect, I know that perhaps several people did not employ me because they sensed a spirit of anger and hostility.  I began to realize that my attitude needed an adjustment.  I just seemed to be too set on revenge to do what I knew needed to be done.  I wrestled with my inner feelings.  I could get no peace.  Then that particular night came!  Unable to have a peaceful sleep, I got out of the bed, and in the crowded home, I went into the bathroom and got down on my knees.  In that time of prayer, I visualized each of those men I had almost come to hate.  I began to pour my heart out to God.  I prayed first for God to forgive me my attitude.  I asked forgiveness for the delay in doing what I knew He had taught me.  I knew this was what I should have done immediately when I was fired.  But because I delayed, I had imprisoned myself by a lack of forgiveness.  I created my emotional prison; those men did not.

I prayed for each man by name.  I forgave them that night.  I even prayed that God would bless and prosper them.  That was the moment of freedom and release that I needed.  Life changed dramatically.  I returned to the bed with a peace I had not had in weeks.  I was truly free from the prison I had created for myself.

And what began to happen after that?  Within days, unbelievable invitations came.  Opportunities with the Billy Graham Association, Director of a Christian School, contacts from pastor search committees, even the Virginia and Maryland State Conventions.  And encouragements came from the Foreign Mission Board.  God had so gone to work in our behalf immediately after that night.  It was easy to see what God was waiting on in order to provide for us.  He needed to see a change in me.  God needed for this change to occur in me if He was to use me.  Forgiveness on my part was a requirement for God’s promised blessings.

There is a time for forgiveness.  It should be offered immediately.  And if you have read my book, Forgiveness, you know that  I shared Scripture that our forgiveness of others is not dependent on their repentance.  I knew that, but I procrastinated.  I delayed.  I was not following the teachings of Christ.  For one who has been there —  and knows the consequences — and the emotional prison, follow Christ and not your feelings!

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  (Matthew 6:14,15)  “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  (Colossians 3:13)  “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another; forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  (Ephesians 4:31,32)



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