July: Creative Contemplation
The goal of contemplative practices is to develop deep intimacy with God, but sitting still and silently meditating isn't the only way to do that. Our unique gifts, talents, heritages, and cultures all contribute to how we uniquely draw near to God. So, to celebrate this (and hopefully inspire you to contemplate more creatively), each month we'll post a different piece of art along with some reflecting questions.
Some months this will be a song, a poem, a painting, a video, or a sculpture. Some months the piece will resonate deeply with you, some months it may upset you, and some months it may confuse you. Lean into whatever feelings the piece stirs up and allow it to draw you nearer to God's heart and expose your own.
Big thanks to Kiersten Banks for providing us with her story and song this month!
stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.
I wrote this song a couple of years ago. I was going through a time (obviously) of learning how to forgive. I was struggling with a specific person that had hurt me, and I felt so much anger, and bitterness. I would pray over and over, “I choose to forgive, I choose to forgive,” still feeling nothing but the pain. I knew that forgiveness is not an option, but a command. To be forgiven, we have to forgive, period.
Sometimes, I process through music when I can’t find the words. This song was a moment of that. I had been reading the Scriptures, journaling, praying, and was finding no release. I just started playing my keyboard, two chords back and forth, and started singing this prayer:
“Help me forgive, Father, help me let go
Bitterness it is like a rope that ties me down and it holds me back,
and I want to run free”
My stoned up heart started to slowly, but surely, crack open to the Light. I sang that over and over. I suddenly felt permission to not be able to will myself into forgiveness, and the freedom to ask for help. I felt the freedom to be weak, and honest with the Lord, and say, “I don’t know how to forgive. Help me.”
“I have no authority apart from what You give to me
You’re the King, and you are the Judge
and Your heart is for me”
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
- Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)
This Scripture always scared the heck out of me. But in this moment, I realized the tone of His voice behind the text. He does not withhold forgiveness from us when we ask. To ask for something makes you vulnerable, and needy. The truth is we have no authority in our own strength. He is the King, and the one who brings justice. When we try to bring justice, it turns into nothing but ugly bitterness. And until the moment I sang this, I was scared to trust Him as King and Judge. What if I am never justified? What if my side is never heard or understood?
At the end of the day, He is the King, and has seen it all. Every wrong, and every right. I can trust Him as Judge. I can let go of making my case, and trust that His heart is for me. And this sets me free to truly forgive, to truly let go, and in turn to truly receive the forgiveness that I so desperately need.
“Your blood says all debts are paid
I owe no man and no man owes me anything
We’ve all been covered by the gift of love
We’re all daughters, and we’re all sons”
In this space with Jesus, I could clearly begin to see that for me to withhold forgiveness from anyone is to say that what Jesus did is not enough. It is like me looking at Jesus and saying, “I’m sorry, your suffering, your promise-keeping, and your faithfulness has passed over this one.” Although this is a hard pill to swallow, it is the truth. His blood says all debts are paid.
This is where our freedom is found. We owe no one, but in the same hand, no one owes us. We are all covered; every race, every gender, every political party, every sinner, every thief, every abuser, every addict, every sexual orientation, everyone. While this does NOT erase hurt, and pain, and consequence, it does open up a seat for every single son and daughter at the table. No one is exempt from the radical love and forgiveness of God. There has been space made for us all to stand under the banner of His love.
I have returned to this song over and over and over again, and I know that I will for the rest of my life. We are human. We hurt, and we are hurt. Forgiveness is always necessary, daily. But it is not a chore; it is a gift. A gift that says, “Kiersten, I know your love isn’t big enough to cover it all, but Mine is. So, let it go, one more time. It’s so much better this way.”
As you listen to this (very) rough edit, enter into that same vulnerable moment with the Lord that I did. My prayer is that this song will give you the courage to forgive, to believe His heart for you, and to see yourself covered under the banner of his great big high, wide, deep, love. And to look beside you, and see your brothers and sisters under that same banner.
Quiet your body. Steady your breath and rest.
Listen closely to the words of this song. What do you hear? What do you feel?
Are you harboring unforgiveness? What do you need to come before the throne with and repent?
As the piano softly plays, ask the Spirit what lies you are believing? Any fears that are holding you back from forgiveness?
Listen to Kiersten's voice as she sings of forgiveness and God's love for us. What emotions are you experiencing?
If a song was made for you and what Jesus is whispering to you right now, how would it be like this one and how would it be different?
What is stirring in your heart that makes you relate to this story and song?