The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts..." (JOEL 2:25)
Do you wear your past mistakes like a chain around your neck? Do you use them to prove to yourself and others what a wretch you are?
Let's assume that your spouse confessed everything to you. Full disclosure. There are no more secrets. You picked up the pieces after it all hit the fan and now you are trying to move forward, one step in front of the other. You are working together towards healing. There has been a HEART CHANGE.
How do you learn to trust again? How do you forgive?
Forgiveness was not quick and painless for me. Unfortunately, it seldom is. The deeper the hurt, the more complicated forgiveness feels. After we got through the crisis moment, the anger, the sadness, the grieving, I had to start the process of forgiving. Moving through the real emotions of dealing with the truth is part of the process of forgiving. But it's best not to stay in any one emotion for too long.
I got very stuck on the saying "Forgive and forget." I thought that's what it was all about. I mean Jesus says "He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west" (Psalm 103:12). He does not hold our sins against us as long as we repent and confess them to Him. And we need to make it right with the people we hurt along the way. But forgetting was always a sticking point for me. How could I ever forget?
Maybe "forgetting" doesn't necessarily mean it's erased from memory. Maybe forgetting means not letting it have dominion over you anymore. Not letting it infiltrate your life in a way that keeps you from being able to move forward. Forgiving is more about grace. Because we don't forgive someone only because they deserve it or earn it. Like grace, forgiveness is a gift given irregardless of whether they deserve it. Forgiveness is like a second chance. That your spouse does not wear the scarlet "A" on their chest all the days of their life. It is not fodder for mud slinging, when you are in a heated argument. And more then anything else, no matter what any of us have done it is all sin. Sexual sin is not any better or worse then any other sin we commit. Yes, there are serious consequences to sexual sin. There is major healing to be done. Trust needs to be rebuilt. But like any sin, with repentance comes forgiveness.
It took some time for me to process through what it means to forgive. I didn't want to tell him he was forgiven if I didn't mean it. I forgave my husband. It does not mean it's forgotten. It is still a big part of our lives, but not the sin anymore. It's a big part of our lives because of what God did in our lives through the sin and struggle. Forgiveness changed our focus.
But it's not enough for the betrayed spouse to offer forgiveness. The one who sinned not only needs to accept the forgiveness God offers, and the forgiveness their spouse offers, but they have to come to a place where they can truly forgive themselves. This has been one of the biggest hurdles for my husband. He struggles to forgive himself for what he did. The guilt and shame have lessoned. But regret, that one is the hardest to shake.
Regret is like asking yourself "what if?". What if you made a different choice? What if you had come clean sooner? What if you went to a different school? Or didn't go to that party? Regret is wishing you didn't do what you did and knowing there is NOTHING you can do to change it. It's wishing things were different. Wishing you could take it back. Wishing you hadn't hurt the person you love. You can no more change the past then predict the future. How do you let go of regret? We're still trying to figure that one out.
Just remember, God is weaving a story in your life. If you hadn't done this or that, your story wouldn't be what it is today. God uses the good and the bad in your life to mold you into a better you. The desire to undo the past is like telling God He made a mistake. Where you are today, who you are today, is okay with God. He can work with anyone. Instead of regretting the past, try committing to a better future, making different choices, and living for Him.
1. This Is My Solemn Vow