The Story Behind "Seventy Times"
Last night I recorded a video of me reciting this poem. It’s a good poem, okay it’s a great poem and I’m really proud of it. The video is okay too, nothing too special. But after recording it I was reluctant to share it. Why? I don’t know. That’s what I’m pondering. It’s not in my personality at all to want to be the focus or center of anyone’s attention, but it doesn’t really bother me if I’m sharing something I really believe in so I don’t think that’s it. I think I decided it was because I felt like I was sharing something really personal to me, and I don’t tend to do that except with a few people I’m close to.
When I post something like that on the interwebs it only takes a few people reposting it before a couple hundred people have viewed it. Comments start rolling in about how amazing it is and how wise I am and all these other (very encouraging, very affirming, very needed) remarks. But I worry sometimes that it gets written off just as something cool Rebecca did. And that’s awesome, I like doing cool things, I like being told I’m cool hah. But there’s more behind it, there’s months and months of struggle and contemplation and work behind it. As I was thinking through all of this I realized that just in hearing the poem, most people aren’t going to get the back story, so I thought I’d share the back story and the process a poem (or anything) goes through with me before it’s written.
Over the summer of 2012 I had been sorting through a lot. A lot happened earlier that year that was very hurtful and I was trying to work through it, understand it, heal, and move forward. God really started nailing in this concept of forgiveness. I know, I should have the concept of forgiveness by now, but sometimes you know things and then you know things. There was this pain in my chest. A very real, physical pain. And it just sat there. I didn’t want it to, I wasn’t trying to dwell on it, but it was there. Everytime I saw certain people or someone mentioned a situation that triggered a memory…whatever it may be, that pain swelled up and I’d go through a mixture of emotions. Hurt- there was legitimate hurt there, Anger-I wanted the people that hurt me to hurt in the same way, Doubt-Why, if i had done my best to do right, was I allowed to be hurt, Resentment-After all I’d given up and done, I didn’t deserve this, Pride and Accusation-Where was God and why wasn’t He fixing this, Fear-I can never trust anyone again, Despair-This pain will always be here, Condemnation- It was somehow all my fault.
I imagine several of you can identify with at least one of these, maybe all. At the same time during the summer I commited to reading through the Psalms, one a day till I got through them all. One of the greatest things I learned through this was seeing God as a refuge. David continually calls out to God and claims God as His refuge, the place he went when he was hurt and troubled. So that’s what I did. I went to God with my pain, fear, anger, doubt, and everything else. It wasn’t an overnight transformation, quite the opposite, it has taken months. But He kept directing me back to this concept- I don’t forgive because they deserve it, I don’t forgive because I’m a strong person who has a good moral compass, I don’t forgive because it makes me feel good. I forgive because I have been forgiven. I forgive because Christ is in me and He is strength. I have no excuse.
Please hear me when I say that the first day you choose to forgive someone isn’t the same day that the pain is gone. It may leave over time, it may never fully leave. But the important thing is to look to Christ everytime that pain wells up inside you, because He knows how it feels. The forgiveness Christ extended to us cost Him his life and an amount of physical, emotional and spiritual pain that we will never understand. We’re not alone in the fight for forgiveness. Not only is there comfort and peace found in His presence, but He gives us the power to be strong when we’re not, He gives us the ability to forgive.
August 29th, 2012, my heart was full of both joy and pain, and my mind was exhausted from the struggle, so I did what I do in those times and I started writing. Seventy Times is the result of that night and it’s one of those things that you know came from Him working through me because I couldn’t put stuff like that together on my own.
So when I share this poem (and others like it) there’s more behind it then ‘this is a cool concept the world should hear about’. It’s personal. When I write about my heart burning for justice, it’s because I struggle with a very prideful heart. When I share about forgiveness being hard and how I’m not strong enough to do it, it’s not to gain your sympathy- it’s because I’m human, and I know you’re human, and I know we all struggle. When you hear me reciting lines about holding tight to simple truths, it’s because there have been times when I felt like my whole world was crumbling apart and all it was all I could do to grasp on that truth and wait for it to blow over. And most importantly, when I write about finding strength in Christ, about being able to press on and do the right thing because my chains are gone- it’s because I want you to know that freedom as well. I want you to find that strength, that peace, that healing.