With Easter fast approaching I wanted to take a few blogs to share aspects of my journey towards the cross....today I want to focus on my personal journey towards forgiving others.
"You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32
One of the hardest truths I had to 'wrestle' with, when I gave my life to Christ, was the fact that God asks me to FORGIVE my enemies...
"For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." Matthew 6:14, 15
Forgive everything Lord?? EVERYthing? Really...all the hurts, pains....I have to let them off of the hook?
I did not understand...I was angry...."you have NO idea what 'so&so' did to me!"...
Having grown up in a culture that models an implicit understanding that when people; hurt you, make fun of you, take advantage of you, or rip you off in ANY way, it is viewed as prudent to talk about the incident....get angry...withdraw completely from the person....perhaps take steps to 'get even with them'...and ultimately to seek our own revenge...well, when I came to my new life in Christ, I wasn't exactly sure I could live out this new command. I was very doubtful actually. I had some heavy hurts that weighed me down like a thousand bricks...
I didn't realize the burdens I was carrying due to my inward hatred towards my offenders. I didn't realize that many of my internal problems stemmed from hurts in my past that I did NOT want to let go of, or felt I could never get past...maybe some of your issues to forgive are similar to mine:
Here are some of them:
-forgive myself for my many failures
-forgiveness of my parents for theirs (& after becoming a parent myself realizing that ALL parents fail in some way!)
-forgiving my siblings (and again myself!) for the horrible way we treated each other at times
-forgive past friends
-forgive people who: either made fun of, taunted, or poked fun at me... or my family
-forgive some young men for abuse and assault
-forgive some misunderstandings from other people of faith
-forgive people that I felt abandoned me in a time of need
-forgive my spouse, and my children for times of hurt
I understood that forgiveness would not necessarily:
-bring restoration of the relationship, or in some extreme cases that was not to be desired or even helpful for either of us
-would make what they did 'right; for example: in some cases of hurt there still may be authorities that need to deal with the ramifications of an abuse or assault
-or let them off of God's judgment system
As I began to walk this journey out, with the help of some trained and trusted leaders at my church, I realized that forgiveness freed me to MOVE FORWARD in my life. It enabled me to let go of the burdens I had previously been carrying.
Forgiveness may also come in layers....let me explain what I mean by that.
You may forgive someone for something and then forget about it completely. Years later a memory may resurface or be brought to light by a newer incident. You may have to, as I have done, forgive many, many times over from your heart, especially if the incident comes back to your memory. You may even require counselling from trusted, and qualified professionals/leaders, depending on the severity of the incident.
However, all that being said, forgiveness is something that brings us closer to the nature of our Heavenly Father. Forgiveness is what marks us from what the rest of the world is trying to model for us (I.e. the treat others in the manner they treat you mentality). One of the greatest experiences I had as a result of forgiving others, is that forgiveness actually frees us to be able to understand the depths of our Heavenly Father's love for us.
Gordon Dalbey - Letter to the Editor, The Christian Century (November 20-7, 1991)
"The Risen Christ proclaimed not that we 'have to forgive,' but rather, that at last we CAN forgive--and thereby free ourselves from consuming bitterness and the offender from our binding condemnation. This process requires genuine human anger and grief, plus--and here is the awful cost of such freedom--a humble willingness to see the offender as God sees that person, in all his or her terrible brokenness and need for God's saving power. I would never tell another, 'You have to forgive.' But my uncomfortable duty as a Christian is to confess the truth, so lethal to our self-centered human nature: 'Jesus, who suffered your sin unto his own death, calls you likewise to forgive, so that God's purposes may be accomplished in both you and your offender."
Remember, no matter where you are in your journey...you are not alone.