it’s a word that feels like a gut-punch to me. and if i’m honest (which i always am)
i would probably rather go to the dentist than work through the act of forgiveness. and did i mention…how much i hate the dentist ?! nuffsaid.
understanding forgiveness has left me confused and reeling in it’s tangle of meaning and mystery. my heart has grappled hard with “how to forgive” because i know it’s weighty either way. there’s a cost to granting forgiveness but there’s a curse that’s even costlier to our souls in the denying of forgiveness.
not a clean winner of the two options. (again, let’s keep it honest here)
as author Anne Lamott says..
“Left to my own devices I’m a forgiveness denier- I’ll start to think that there are hurts so deep that nothing can heal them. Time alone won’t necessarily do the trick. Our best thinking isn’t enough, or we would all be fine, instead of in our current condition. A lack of forgiveness is like leprosy of the insides, and left untreated, it can take out tissue, equilibrium, soul and sense of self.” -Small Victories
ouch. those words stung as i read them a few years back. they still poke at my pride.
i’m guilty as charged- with a bad case of being a forgiveness denier.
for most of my life i just never understood how-amidst my hurt and indignation- to let someone off the hook. it’s one thing to offer pardon to a friend who runs over your bicycle, but what if it’s a hit-and-run to your heart ? and what if there’s no resolve or amends ? what’s to be done with slander, betrayal , misunderstandings or judgements against us…especially from those we trusted most fully.
those are tricky waters to navigate in the name of “christian love” and have left me gulping in water as i flounder in the wake.
Jesus meet me here.
Jesus meet us all here. it just feels too hard to offer grace and kindness when our hearts feel beaten up and betrayed.
i still remember sitting in the counselor’s chair years ago with a tear-stained face, asking him to walk me through it and pray over my deep wounds and hurt. i was tired of the fight and ready to forgive but that didn’t make it easier. the process takes some serious soul-work, but here is what i learned…
first, Jesus fully sees us-even when no one else does. He gets it, and He weeps over the pain in our personal stories with us. and there is so much permission to feel the sense of loss and hurt deeply.
but then, He asks us to let it go-and give it over to Him. to take the offenders off our hook and visualize putting them on God’s. this let’s Him be the judge and not us. it’s a generous act that’s impossible for us to muster in our flesh.
because if we only forgive based on our own benevolence and capacity, we can’t help feeling depleted.
empty , jaded and slightly pissed off.
this is the version of forgiveness we’ve been taught to offer…to simply overlook and quickly move on. it never worked for me and i very much doubt it brings much healing or wholeness to anyone. i’ve met far too many people still carrying around wounds from a lifetime of wrongs against them. you know people too. they wear their resignation and entitlement like a badge of honor, never relinquishing their right to stay mad. but in reality their pain holds them prisoner. yikes. i could see where i was headed.
i knew my hurt had kept me stuck and gripped and pinned down. just like the leprosy Anne Lamott describes, it had already begun eating away days and years and was sending down some seriously ugly roots of self-righteousness. my only hope was to open my fists and let my list of offenses and offenders…go.
to my surprise letting go wasn’t as painful as i had feared. it felt more like letting go of the string of a kite caught up by the wind. and the wind was grace- vast and deep and effortless- and not from anything i could give. i felt liberated . because the grace came down over me too and rescued me right back. this unlocks the mystery of forgiveness because that’s what grace does.
it let’s us all off the hook.
it offers us what we don’t deserve and then equips us to offer others what they don’t deserve.
Jesus thank you for not giving me what i deserve, but grace instead.
make me brave where i am weak and prone to tightening the fist and remind me to call down grace readily and offer forgiveness generously and(okay,okay) …go to the dentist regularly.