GCN Radio - October 13, 2004
Transcribed by Vombatus
To listen to this episode, visit http://www.gaychristian.net/gcnradio
BRIAN: This is Brian…
JUSTIN: …and this is Justin, welcome to another edition of [together] GCN Radio.
BRIAN: It’s good to be here for another GCN Radio. And Justin, how are things going on your end?
JUSTIN: Oh my goodness! Well, things are going alright today, but last night was a different story.
BRIAN: Oh yeah? What was up?
JUSTIN: Yeah, I have high speed Internet here at home, because I do all my GCN work from home, so of course I’m on the Internet 24/7. I’ve got this cable umbilical cord thing going on. The Internet went down last night.
BRIAN: Oh no…
JUSTIN: And I started thinking to myself—
BRIAN: Did you freak out?
JUSTIN: I did! I think I would rather have the power go out and still be able to get online. I’m not sure how I would do that; I mean I have a battery back-up and everything, so… But, yeah, no Internet. I was so upset, I was just sitting here like, ‘you know, I’ll just check my e-mail if I can’t get on the web’, which obviously I couldn’t do. So my sister and I said, you know, we’ll call the cable company and I looked them up in the phonebook and the phone number in the phonebook was wrong! So my sister said, “We should just look it up online and see what their number is…”
BRIAN: Of course, you can’t do that!
JUSTIN: So, it was a sad time.
BRIAN: Awww. What we need to do is have a fundraiser to buy a backup generator to power your cable modem, and it’ll be kind of loud and sound like a lawn mower but you’ll at least have Internet access…
JUSTIN: Oh, well how are you doing?
BRIAN: I am good. In fact, I walked out of my house this morning and it was kind of a gray day with a little bit of sunshine peaking through. It was about 59 or 60 degrees; it was a beautiful fall day and of course the leaves were all around me. Raking requires work, so there’s no way I’m going to do that. But I walked out and was getting ready to go down the steps into the path and I just stopped and I thought, “God, thank you for this day, this is a great day.” I really did! I stopped to thank God for this day, because the smell of the fall air is just something that always gets to me. It just reminds me of the beauty of nature. So I just took two seconds to say, “Thank you, God, for this day.”
JUSTIN: Aww, well see, here I am complaining and you’re being inspirational!
BRIAN: But within an hour I was grouchy and growly; I was at work editing. So you know, it was a short-lived God moment, but it was still a God moment. Well, we have a really great guest today, I’m so excited that we were able to get Pastor Lee Thompson from the Gathering Place Worship Center in Austin, Texas with us today, referred by one of our GCN members. And we’re glad to have you, Pastor Lee, thanks for joining us!
LEE: Hello, I’m glad to be here, Brian. And thank you, also, Justin.
BRIAN: We’re going to talk a little bit today about the topic of forgiveness, but before we get into that I was going to see if you could tell me a little bit about your ministry and your church. I believe that this is a gay-affirming church. And you, by the way, are our first pastor, and for that matter, our first woman pastor on GCN, and our first gay-affirming—well, we had Mel White, who’s a gay-affirming pastor, but you’re our first gay-affirming woman pastor. So, give us a little history or background on your ministry and your church.
LEE: Well, I’ve heard it said, “Keep Austin Weird”, so I decided that being a woman is not too far out there for an Austin ministry. Our church, although gay-affirming, we really move toward trying to build bridges with all areas of the community. The heart of our ministry really is in the area of restoration and healing, with a real focus on authenticity and being real. I can say that I’ve experienced many churches growing up that were very traditional and moved by a lot of the rules and regulations and things that tend to keep people tied down and I just really have a heart to see people break free from the culture of Christianity as it has been used to conform, rather than to transform, the lives of other people. That’s really the thrust of our ministry. My partner and I have been together—her name is Yolande, she’s also a pastor here, she’s my co-pastor, Yolande Yeager—we’ve been together and married for thirteen years October 22nd.
LEE: Thank you.
BRIAN: Well it sounds very much like your ministry is very much in line with our topic today. You were talking about restoration and helping people come back to Christ after maybe a previous bad experience, and I wanted to ask first off: So many of us as gay people are wounded. We go about our lives with wounds that are open from some of our past experiences and I know that God calls us very, very clearly to forgive. But when we’re so wounded, and some of us have very tragic stories, how do you even begin to forgive?
LEE: Yeah, you know it is a very painful process and I can’t deny that and there’s not a magic wand in scripture that can just be waved in order to make forgiveness come about in anyone, but I do believe that through a relationship with Christ, an on-going, living relationship, and expressing yourself and your pain honestly and openly with God and sometimes with another person, and having the freedom to be transparent, a safe place to be able to communicate that pain is one of the first steps. Forgiveness is a process; it’s not something that can just automatically happen. For most, the first step in forgiveness really comes down to acknowledging that it is a burden on your life and it is something that’s keeping you chained to the past and preventing you from going forward. When we can acknowledge that, that that exists, then we can begin to start taking an honest look and revisiting the pain of the past, perhaps, and evaluating the dynamics that were at work around the painful event… looking at the circumstances again. Sometimes when we look back, ten years later or five years later, the circumstances look different from our perspective because we’ve grown, we’ve changed from where we were when the pain was inflicted. So we’re able to look back with different eyes and maybe even, in some way, objectively evaluate where that person was coming from in their own pain. Maybe there was a state of emotional unhealthiness in their life. Unresolved emotional issues or pain… their own history is a part of this picture.
BRIAN: In the person who inflicted the pain on the individual… gotcha.
LEE: Yes. Sometimes we forget that, that it’s a two-way street there. We’re not the only ones, many times, that are victims of pain. Usually the ones that inflict that pain are victims themselves.
JUSTIN: You know, that brings up a question. When we talk about forgiveness, a lot of times, we think about situations when someone comes to us and says, “I know that I did something wrong, I know that I wronged you and can you ever forgive me?” And we’re in the situation where we can say, “Yes, I forgive you” but there’s a sense of satisfaction in that this person at least is acknowledging that they did something wrong. But often for us, who are gay or lesbian, we’re in situations where we’re wronged by people who don’t ever ask for our forgiveness; they don’t ever admit that they did anything wrong. People in the church, maybe, or people in our families who rejected us or hurt us, and yet we’re called to forgive. Is there a prerequisite for our forgiveness that they need to come to us and ask for forgiveness? Is there a way for us to forgive if they haven’t done that?
LEE: Yes, I believe there is. Scripture actually commands us to forgive in order that we can be forgiven by God. That’s not necessarily one of those ‘wrath of God’ commands that are just thrown on us because God decides to be mean to us. It’s basically because He knows that by us holding on to the unforgiveness issues, we are growing bitter, we are growing angry and our lives are being affected by it. We aren’t able to be kind and compassionate to those around us who do love us in our present life. And so in that respect we are required to forgive that other person and it is a choice. Just like love is a choice, we can choose—even though we may not feel forgiveness. I think one of the myths about forgiveness is that many people believe that forgiving someone means that you’re justifying what they did to you or it means that you’re saying that it wasn’t that bad and that you’re letting them off the hook, so to speak. But really what it is is saying, “I choose to break free from this thing that is keeping me bound to my past. I choose to go forward, and so I choose not to hold your sin or your offense against you because it is a weight to me.” And the other part of that is when we choose to release, even if we don’t feel it, at the moment that we choose by faith to just say I forgive that person, God is then able to give us the love and the grace we need to day by day heal emotionally and really, truly be able to look back and say, “Wow, that issue really doesn’t affect me like it used to.” But it does begin with that initial step of recognizing, Hey, this isn’t doing you a favor for me to forgive you, this is breaking me free from a situation. And for the health of my relationship with God, so that I am then free for Him to work in my life in a way that He could not otherwise work.
BRIAN: Well. Tom from Ohio posted on our GCN message boards something that really relates to this. I think you pretty much answered this, but he asks, “The Lord’s Prayer says forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Does this really mean that God will only forgive us if we likewise forgive others?” That kind of takes a little different spin on it, but does God forgive us even when it’s difficult to forgive other people?
LEE: Yes, I think that there’s a story in the Bible, I believe in Luke, where the servant was forgiven several million dollars and turned around and saw that someone else owed him what amounted to something like twenty dollars and yet he couldn’t forgive that person his debt. So, when the master came along and said, “Hey, I’ve forgiven you millions of dollars and you’re going to hold twenty dollars against this one person?” I think the idea there is that we have to look at the enormity of our own weaknesses and our own sin in our own life, our own gray areas that God himself has forgiven in order for us to walk freely in a relationship with him. And when we compare that to the amount of forgiveness that we extend, we can look at that and say, “Wow, who am I to hold this debt against another individual when I have been forgiven so much more.”
JUSTIN: Absolutely. We had another question from John from Northampton who asks, “Does forgiveness always include forgetting?” I just want to add on to that, I know of folks who are in situations where an individual has wronged them repeatedly. Maybe it is someone who is being abusive or someone who is just taking advantage of you and they’re doing it over and over and over. Can you forgive someone without putting yourself in a place to be hurt again and without having to forget the wrongs that they’ve done to you?
LEE: Absolutely! In scripture the only place that forgetting is equated with forgiving is when God himself forgives. It says when He forgives you, He throws your sins into the sea of forgetfulness. But nowhere does it say that we as humans can throw it into the sea of forgetfulness, you see? And I believe that’s because God wants us to have the ability to remember some lessons along the way that we have learned, and some of those lessons are that we have, perhaps, aligned ourselves with the wrong people, we have associated with people that don’t speak goodness into our lives, or steer us off the right track, or maybe don’t speak faith into our vision. God tells us all through the Word about being careful about who we align ourselves with and divine alliances and yoking with individuals. So I believe that it is possible to forgive someone and yes, you remember some things, but there is always a value in what you remember. I think what we’re talking about when we ask about forgiving and continuing to associate with a person who hurts us over and over and over, we’re really talking about reconciliation there. And I think what we have to understand is that in scripture, the word ‘reconciliation’ doesn’t mean that we automatically have to come back together with that person because we have forgiven them. That word ‘reconciliation’, in its Greek, actually means ‘mutual change’. If you can clearly see that the other person has not changed, has not really learned their and is not really any different than the were, and there’s still a potential of them being a wrong influence or hurting you in any way, then there can’t be reconciliation there. Reconciling happens when there is a mutual understanding of the wrong that was done and a change that has happened on both parts.
JUSTIN: But even without that, you can still forgive them on your end and just not allow them to continue to have that negative impact on your life for the future.
LEE: Yes, exactly.
BRIAN: We’re starting to run close on time as we come to the end of another show, but I wanted to ask as kind of a final question whether we have forgiven someone or are still in the process of doing so, how do we let go of that anger that might still remain?
LEE: Um-hmm. You know, that’s a good question. I think one of the clearest ways in seen in the life of David and even Job. The way that they dealt with unresolved anger in their own lives was they simply cried out. They admitted their distress and their despair. They didn’t keep it pent up, they didn’t keep it suppressed. Because when we suppress anger, then it turns into depression and it can literally eat us alive. But when we’re able to bring that anger out in a healthy way, one on one with God—I myself have duked it out with God in prayer times before, and it’s perfectly scriptural. God wants us to bear our hearts with him. He wants to know that we trust him so much that we can open up in the hard times as well as the good. I think that’s one of the big keys. And the second is finding a safe person, a safe place. It could be a counselor, a therapist of some kind, your pastor, or a friend to get alone with and just be honest and confess this anger and discuss it, and I think that that’s a major, major part of the healing process.
BRIAN: That’s great. Well, we could talk for another hour on this subject. It’s intriguing and something that affects every one of us, but unfortunately we do need to wrap up. I want to say thank you so much, Pastor Lee Thompson, for your insight and being with us today on GCN Radio.
LEE: You’re too welcome, it’s been my pleasure, Brian.
BRIAN: Wow. Glad to have a great discussion today…
JUSTIN: I love this kind of stuff, Brian, because these are things that really matter to us as Christians and these are things that I think—talk about being real, this is being real. This is stuff that we deal with that gets to the practical element. It’s much more than just the platitudes of “Oh we need to be forgiving.”
BRIAN: It’s the nitty-gritty, the real life stuff that we deal with.
JUSTIN: It is!
BRIAN: And we’ll deal with lots more real life stuff as we move through this season of GCN Radio. We appreciate everyone’s topics and everyone’s feedback. We do read every message that we get at firstname.lastname@example.org, so that’s our e-mail address and you can listen to us online anytime, all of the current and past episodes at http://www.gaychristian.net/gcnradio. So for this time, I’m Brian…
JUSTIN: …and I’m Justin, thanks for listening.