Return to God

Return to me with your whole heart—Joel 2:12

One theme that emerged during my recent retreat was home, as in coming home or being at home.

I had brought last year’s journals with me, and one entry reflected a conversation with a friend who had been going through a rough time but was starting to feel like himself again. He said he had started to feel like he was inhabiting his body again and that he was looking out through his own eyes.

It was as if he was coming home to himself.

I resonated.

For so long, I have felt out of sorts. Great loss and grief can do that. So the idea of coming home to myself is appealing. I want to live in my body and to look at the world through my own eyes.

Another coming home is the actual coming home to the place where I was born and grew up, which is what I did five years ago. Living near my family is a blessing for which I thank God every day.God-forgiveness-vulnerabilityA third coming home is returning to God, and in the midst of Lent, I find myself thinking of what it means to come home to God.

Lent invites me to turn away from what separates me from God and turn toward God.

Recently, several people have come to me with questions about prayer or about nonprofit management. After each of these conversations, I am left with a clearer understanding that (1) I have a depth of experience in these two areas, and (2) my experience can be helpful to others.

Sometimes, though, my experience leads me to insights that might be uncomfortable or challenging to those asking for my help.

A young woman came to talk with me about the anger she carries toward the man who raped her. “How can you suggest I forgive him?” she asked with an edge to her voice.

“Your anger does not affect him; it affects you,” I offered. “He doesn’t even know that you are angry; he has moved on.” Not forgiving him does not hurt him in the least; but holding onto her anger keeps her in bondage.God-forgiveness-vulnerabilityI think she both wanted to hear that message and did not want to hear it. Forgiveness can be so difficult, and radical forgiveness—forgiveness for some horrible act—can seem impossible.

I know because I, too, hold onto some anger for past hurts. I want to forgive, even the people who hurt me the worst, who left the deepest scars; it is difficult. I pray for the grace to let go, and I look to Jesus’ example for inspiration. At the moment of his death, he forgave those who put him to death.God-forgiveness-vulnerabilityComing home to God, for me, means being true to my history and experiences. It means speaking of radical forgiveness and believing in it.

I want to return to God with my whole heart—and with my heart made whole.



12 thoughts on “Return to God

  1. Gospel Isosceles

    I wrote about forgiving the man who raped me (twelve years later — it was an excruciating process) but did not receive the support I had hoped to. Of course I was liberated and that’s what matters, but it was still disappointing to experience mostly silence as my liberation was not reflected in most who read it. Those who said “Me too” were largely supported as hurt and/or angry victims. But when they move on into forgiveness and into the freedom you talk about here, discarding their victim complexes, who is there to sing praises?

    1. Madeline Bialecki Post author

      Thank you for writing. Forgiveness is so closely connected to vulnerability–and I think most people fear their vulnerability so much that they cannot imagine true forgiveness. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable can be threatening to people who hold on to control (or their imagined control). I hope you find a community (no matter how small in number) that understands, accepts and celebrates your freedom. I congratulate you on the hard work you have done to forgive, and I rejoice with you.

  2. annemarielom

    Thank you, Madeline. The gift that forgiveness is to ourselves is powerful and precious. You state it well!

  3. Jane Banik

    You have such insight, Madeline. After reading this I realized that I have no one to forgive but myself. Ad I’m a pretty tough task master!

  4. Madeline Bialecki Post author

    I agree, Jane, that forgiving oneself is probably the biggest challenge. I find it difficult to let go and can easily get trapped in a loop of negative self-talk. I once learned a PSTD coping skill–when I am in that negative self-talk loop, I scream “STOP” (either out loud or just in my head) to interrupt the loop. It can be very helpful. Of course, hearing God say I am forgiven–and trusting that voice–is even more powerful.


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