The Best Book I’ve Read About Forgiveness

I’ve read a few books on the subject of forgiveness. None of them match the one I just finished.


Alongside her exceptional writing, Leslie Fields makes this subject approachable through transparency and relatability. She doesn’t exploit or overstate. She tells her’s and other’s stories while paralleling them with familiar biblical ones. And although she’s addressing her journey to forgive her father, little of the biblical stories share the same context. The common need is becoming forgivers to the degree we have been forgiven.

The application and “what do I do with this” additional work by Dr. Hubbard makes this more than a well-told story. You have tools to do your forgiveness work. Outcomes or successes aren’t guaranteed, but you have what you need.

Here are seven examples of these ladies’ excellent work:

  • You can’t grow up and be full adults until you can forgive your parents.
  • We are all Jonahs who, in our unforgiveness, question whether we can or want to do the work of building the bridge of forgiveness that gives us the grace to see both good and bad in the one who has wronged us.
  • No other religious faith claims that everything you’ve done wrong can be utterly covered and forgiven by another, by God himself.
  • Sharing and crying with another is much more effective in moving us toward healing than all the crying done alone in our rooms. Talk therapy brings healing and has a positive impact on our brain chemistry.
  • Boundaries are not steel doors slammed in a person’s face, but rather, loving and firm ways of saying no, not now, not here. Setting boundaries honors both people involved by not allowing either one to dishonor the other or the relationship through unacceptable words or actions.
  • We can choose to reclaim our past for good-instead of replaying the same story over and over expecting something to change in the unending repetition. We do this by allowing ourselves to grieve, to mourn, to lament, to remember, to release, to revive, to live on, so that all may be well with our souls.
  • We have made forgiveness too private, too small, and too hard. It is not a feeling we have to conjure up; it is an attitude of humility and love that seeks the good of the other, apart from worth or deserving. It is the living out of a daily decision to extend to others what God has extended first to us.

Hanging Up on God

This week I’m reading through Genesis. Familiar stories. Yet, always new things to see-like watching a movie several times and observing or piecing something together you missed before.

This happened when I read chapters 32-33. If you want, pause reading this and read those two chapters. See what you observe.

Here’s the main thing I got this time: Jacob didn’t know what he didn’t know. Hate it when that happens.

He responded two ways: terror and prayer. Not a bad combo. If balanced. Well, probably should lean more to the latter.

When he heard his brother was coming with 400 men, he was terrified. He immediately got his mind working. But he paused to pray. Good move.

That prayer is a mixed bag. Nothing wrong with the prayer. He expresses his emotions, recognizes his family’s history of following God, reminds God of his promises, and pleas for rescuing from what he’s afraid Esau plans to do. The end. Back to work.

I propose he hung up on God. We’ve all done it. Dialed up, checked in, checked out. A one-way conversation. “Hey God! Here’s my situation. Remember what you said? I’m counting on you. Gotta go.”

Suppose Jacob didn’t hang up. Suppose he paused and listened. Suppose he asked questions like, “What should I do? Will you calm my fears? Am I missing anything? Am I thinking straight?”

Is it not possible that given the opportunity God could have saved Jacob a lot of work and emotional stress? And maybe that whole night of wrestling could have been avoided. And think of the fear he placed on his family. Terror does that when you hang up on God.

Application: When you don’t know what you don’t know, ask God a bunch of questions before you do anything. And wait for the answers. Stay on the phone.

(Photo by Dewang Gupta on Unsplash)

A Minister Myth

There’s a leadership philosophy that ministers and other leaders are often encouraged to adopt. I believe it’s a myth. I’ll go a step further to say it’s not biblical; in fact, an argument could be made to the opposite.

This philosophy, which I’ve never heard spoken on in any seminar nor was it taught in any of my seminary classes, goes something like this: Pastors can’t have, shouldn’t pursue, and must avoid friendships in the church. If you’ve never heard that before, read that again. And stop and meditate for a moment about it.

One commentary note I come to is this: No wonder ministers find themselves in unhealthy places. For whatever reason, they ignore the “one anothers” of scripture, miss the example of Jesus, then find themselves isolated in a kingdom of one wondering where everyone else is.

I’ve observed everyone else is enjoying and learning to embrace the benefits of the kingdom. In the kingdom of heaven, the citizens receive both encouragement and challenge to be like Jesus. While on earth, he intimately lived this out with his disciples. And it appears his relationship with three of them was a deeper level-one would probably call them friends.

I can’t imagine the last 23 years of my life had I lived by this philosophy. Do I get exemption because I’m single? May I say for all the single people, “Wake Up!” Your marital status doesn’t automatically determine your friendship need. All kingdom dwellers need other dwellers to encourage and challenge them. We all need friends.

Today, thank God for your cheerleaders, your encouragers, your challengers. Pastors and leaders, if these people are scarce in your life, what are you willing to do about it? Your isolated kingdom lacks. Take a step toward the life of your Redeemer. Pursue friendships. Live in the blessing of Jesus’ hope for all kingdom dwellers (John 17).