This is a tough one. Just the word forgiveness makes me squirm. It makes me think that I’m letting people off, for some reason. Like I’m saying, what you did is OK. It took me a long time to learn that is not what it’s about. I remembered a sermon from years ago that taught me that.
Does anyone else save their hand out notes from church? Or is it just me? Ha Ha!! I decided to find that particular sermon note, (which is the note pictured above). And I’m glad I did! It’s such a good reminder! And at the same time, it showed me how much more I need to grow.
Our own human nature, and the way our minds have basically been programmed, is to think that forgiveness means that the person who committed the offense gets away with it. We say to ourselves, ‘I’ll never forgive them! I’ll never forget what they’ve done!’ And then we walk through life carrying that heavy load of anger, bitterness, and hatred for that person. Letting it weigh us down day after day after day. Wondering why we are suffering from health issues, triggers which throw us into frenzies, and not understanding why we have closed our hearts to people who truly love us and want the best for us. Who, then, are we really hurting with this unforgiveness?
That particular sermon that I previously spoke of had some points that hit my heart to the core. Pastor Rick Warren preached…
Forgiveness isn’t conditional. Forgiveness isn’t minimizing the seriousness of the offense. Forgiveness isn’t resuming a relationship without changes. Forgiveness isn’t forgetting what happened.
Did you read that? Forgiveness isn’t forgetting what happened. It doesn’t minimize the seriousness of the offense.
Psalm 130:3-4 MSG says… If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings, who would stand a chance? As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit, and, that’s why you’re worshiped.
Look at that! Forgiveness is God’s habit!
Seriously, guys, I’ve had some people in my life who have done horrible things to me. And here God wants me to make it my habit to forgive? And how many times?
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’ Matthew 18:21-22 NIV
OK, how hard is that?? I can’t even bring myself to say in my head that I forgive certain people. Now you want me to say it over and over?
Then I hear it again… ‘Do you trust me?’
So, going back to when I said I’ve been hurt by a lot of people in my life. I mean, it was hard to start forgiving. But I did, I took that first step. And you know what? It took a weight off my shoulders. It felt good. And I wasn’t letting anyone off. I was taking that bitter weight off!
The past 6 months have carried a lot of hard things in my life, my family’s life and I’m quite sure many of your lives. A close friend passed away from cancer at the end of February. I got cranial shingles a couple weeks after that. Then the pandemic hit. (Will I still be able to work?) Then I found out I had to deal with skin cancer and all the fun stuff that came with it. We had a death in our family. And then another death brought me to writing this blog.
My youngest son’s father passed away just a couple of weeks ago. A call from the county coroner at 5:40 AM on 8/25/20 brought this news. But, you see, here’s the thing, we haven’t communicated with him since my son was around 7 or 8 years old for many reasons. (My son is 16 now). However, the first thing that was put on my heart was forgiveness. It was almost like my son’s father was standing there in that room asking for it. And God knew I needed to forgive this man. And so I said it. I said it out loud, in a room by myself. Because God asked me to. Because God does it too. Because He knows it heals.
It doesn’t mean that anyone got away with anything. It just means I’m letting it go. I’m removing it’s grip on me. And I hope that for the things I may have done to anyone else, that they learn to forgive me. Not to let me off the hook, but so they can heal and move forward. Because God knows I am not perfect, and I have done plenty in my life that may have hurt other people.
I hope my kids learn this as well. To forgive means to heal. And forgiving is what God does constantly for us.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Matthew 6:14
Forgiveness may be a word that makes you cringe as well, but let me tell you, it’s way better than letting bitterness fester a black hole into your heart. Just try it. I promise, it’s worth it.