When I stop by to post at Healthy Moms, it’s usually because I’m excited about a recipe that I’ve just spent days in my kitchen perfecting. If you haven’t cooked any of my recipes yet, I highly recommend this one….and this one.
But today I’m here for another purpose, to share something I’ve been perfecting (and I’m not nearly finished) over the last four years. I asked Cascia if I could share a little of my story with you, and she’s agreed that it might be just the thing for a healthy soul recipe post. So that’s what I’ll be serving up today. And, as a warning, this post is about soul food and exercise. You might want to hold on to your comfort zones. Or, better yet, you might not want to get too comfortable.
My name is Sarah Valente, aka Kingdom Mama, and in addition to blogging about my kitchen and my kids, I also blog about my real life as the usually happy wife of a recovering sex addict. That’s me. I’m the woman who forgave a repentant serial cheater and lived to blog about it. You can read all about our marriage here, so I’ll save the details for the more curious (hopefully not morbidly so, but it doesn’t matter much to me) among you.
My picture of the perfect marriage was just as naive and Hollywood as the next girl’s; I never dreamed this would be my story. If I had a dollar for every time I said or thought, “If you ever cheat on me, it’ll be over,” I could buy a small island in the South Pacific. But as I’ve let die the fantasy (and my pride) and allowed God to move in my reality, it’s become impossible for me to remain quiet about the work God has done, and is continuing to do, in my heart, mind and marriage. And I know our journey is for a bigger purpose than for our healing alone. As I’ve begun to share our lives with the [blog]world, the question that has threatened to overflow my inbox is not, “How do you handle five, five and under?” or “How do you live, and eat well, on $2,000 a month?” No, the question that I need a prewritten response to is, “How did you forgive Papa Bear?” And as I read your e-mails, I wonder how many marriages would still end in divorce if true forgiveness was sought first. Not nearly as many, I’m sure. Because forgiveness moves the abused from pain to peace and frees the abuser from the guilty cage that holds him in that role. The farther God walks me down the path of forgiveness, the simpler the recipe becomes. I’m living now in the peace of forgiveness because I’ve chosen to eat good fruit, and a lot of it, every single day. And if I can do it, it’s absolutely guaranteed that so can you.
Through my correspondence with blog readers, I’ve concluded that forgiveness is threatened, most often, by both emotion driven thinking and pride. Today I’d like to address the problem of emotions (self-torture), though, because that was the bigger roadblock in the path of forgiveness for me.
This Proverb has served as my mantra. First of all, the warning to offended brethren is meaningful to me. I knew, from day one of the process, that I did not want to be unyielding. I knew I would never find forgiveness if my heart was hard and fortified. After all, hardness of heart is why God granted divorce in the first place. I also knew that if someone was going to be punished for my husband’s actions, I was going to be darn sure that it wasn’t me! My stomach would not be filled with bitter fruit; I would not curse my life with my own tongue.
That’s simple enough, right?
[So quickly, whatever you do, do not think about pink elephants in funny hats!]
It seems that knowing what not to do is half, or even less than half, of the puzzle. I knew it wasn’t healthy for me to carry on angry, what-I-should-have-said, secret conversations. I knew not to let my mind wander to thoughts and tormenting images of betrayal. I knew not to do those things. So you can guess what I spent most of my time actually doing….fighting against, but still doing….thinking…self-torturing.
Unforgiveness builds walls, and while those walls might keep the fortified heart safe, they also prevent it from fully beating. A forgiving heart is wide open to life….and is thus allowed to live. Forgiveness is not optional for the Christian….
But the beautiful thing is that we are not asked to forgive simply for the benefit of others. For forgiveness benefits no one as much as the person doing the forgiving. And we’re not always in the position of being asked to forgive something big; little grievances reek havoc like little foxes. But sometimes…sometimes we are.
The unmerciful servant was owed one hundred days wages. That’s a pretty big debt to forgive. And so the first thing we must do is cast down the temptation to believe that our wound is of the unforgivable variety. There is no way I can stress how important this first step is.
Heap humility, and stir fervently.
The next thing a forgiving person must do is to identify the voice of the enemy….and to learn to shut it down. This sounds simple, and really, it is. But as soon as one begins to recognize the things he should not be thinking, the destructive thoughts will invade in droves.
Strain and drain. Wash every ingredient thoroughly.
When a destructive thought is rebuked, rejected, strained and drained, it must then be replaced with something holy and pure.
Add thankfulness, and whisk until smooth.
The forgiver’s mind must be exercised continually, repeating these three steps second by second, minute by minute, day by day, month by month. And the more faithfully these things are practiced, the less often they will be needed. The result of this faithfulness is peace that is found by those who know the will of God for their lives.
I am often asked for a how-to on marriage saving, but I just don’t believe there is any such thing. Because marriage (as does any relationship) involves two people, it cannot be saved alone. But the peace of forgiveness is needed, essential to life and necessary for joy, regardless of whether the wounded relationship will be saved; and forgiveness, I believe, should always be the focus.