I have recently discovered something unpleasant about myself: I’m not very good at forgiveness. I guess at 30 this shouldn’t be such a novel discovery, but I’m pretty good at turning a blind eye to my own sin when I really want to. And apparently I really didn’t want to see this. After all, I’m pretty good at forgiveness when the person who wounded me apologizes and seeks out reconciliation. It’s the other kind that’s hard; you know, that really wrenching pain that someone causes and is either completely unaware of or doesn’t care one bit about. The kind you’re never going to get an apology or an admission of wrongdoing for, and there will be no reconciliation. That type of forgiveness I’m not so good at.
One reason is that my overblown sense of justice means that I think people ought to pay for their mistakes. And I suppose I see an apology as a humble type of payment. The other is that it’s much more comfortable to hold on to anger. After all, that person deserves my anger, and it provides some sort of twisted safety net. If I let go of it, am I saying that what was done to me was in fact ok? That I can just pretend it never happened, when it quite obviously did and left a number of scars on my heart to prove it? So, no thanks, I’d rather NOT forgive and just be mad and hope that harm befalls the person who hurt me.
Thankfully, God’s not so accepting of my attitude, and He is calling me to forgive. He’s hit me between the eyes with this recently, as He’s led me to two different books that are not actually about forgiveness but feature forgiveness quite prominently in ways I wasn’t expecting, including an eerily parallel example to my own life. I’m happy about that because being angry isn’t all that much fun, and I’d much rather move forward with peace and joy and freedom. Plus, my anger doesn’t hurt anyone but me. But there’s a price to be paid for this forgiveness. As both authors reminded me, forgiveness is costly. If it was free, there would have been no need for the cross. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be so radical a concept, and compared to how the world usually chooses to handle offenses, true forgiveness is nothing if not radical.
Unfortunately, I like to be comfortable and offering forgiveness will decidedly be uncomfortable. Instead of exacting vengeance, I’m the one who will have to bear the cost of the wounds inflicted. I am the one who will have to deal with the most hurt and tender places in my heart, and give those to God. I will have to give up my anger, my desire for an apology, my desire for vengeance, and instead choose to forgive. I have absolutely no idea how to do this, especially when the wounds still hurt. Speaking the words, “I forgive” doesn’t make it true. (Imagine the possibilities if it did, though! “I am currently dating a Ryan Reynolds look-alike who loves Jesus.” Poof—there he is! Anyway, I digress.) I suspect, however, that being able to forgive has something to do with really, truly believing scripture.
I have to believe that I really am as sinful as the Bible says I am, that I am dead without Christ. I have to believe that through Christ, God has forgiven me of all of my horrible sin, the sin that nobody on earth knows about and would be shocked to learn, the sin that takes me to my knees. It is only because I have been forgiven that I will be able to forgive. I have to believe that God is sovereign over every square inch of my life, that He is FOR me in a way that I cannot comprehend, that He wants good things for me, and that what others may have meant for evil, He means for good. And I have to believe that apart from Christ, I can do nothing. Without Christ’s power and His grace, I am unable to forgive. So please, Lord, give this broken girl the grace and the strength to do what she is powerless to do alone.
Practical steps would also be welcome. Directions, complete with diagrams, would be most appreciated.