Forgiveness

"In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God's part."
[Matthew 6:14 &15] 

I've been thinking about forgiveness lately. There are some people I need to forgive. There are some offenses I need to let go of. There are some wounds that will never fully heal until I stop clinging to my right to be angry.

I learned something freeing in Mending the Soul. Forgiveness doesn't mean I open myself back up to further abuse or manipulation; it isn't an open door to an unhealthy person or situation. Forgiveness means I can move forward again. I stop dwelling on the sorrow someone else inflicted on me. I can give weight to the very real injustice and, at the same time, tear down the wall that is keeping me stuck.

Forgiveness is, after all, just entering into what God is already doing. I certainly did not earn my forgiveness. I didn't purchase it or work hard to uncover it. I just received it. Which means I can forgive someone else, even if they didn't earn it. And then I can move forward, boundaries in place. I don't have to carry that banner of pain or resentment any further than the next step. I can let it fall, let it crumble, because the banner of forgiveness will carry me to sweeter places.

My mom's dad was an alcoholic. My grandparents divorced when my mom was a girl and he drank himself into a gutter before my parents were even together. He hurt my mom. All addicts hurt the people they love. But my mom did something brave, something we just won't get unless we have experienced forgiveness. She sat with him in the hospital. She read to him, she talked to him, she prayed for him. She held vigil at the side of a dying man, a man who had not earned her forgiveness. She didn't lie to him, she didn't soothe his ego. She just sat faithfully with him. And, before he died, he offered all of his brokenness to Jesus. She sat with him as he crossed from his disfigured life into a whole life. She helped him die, but she really helped him live. She didn't have to do that; no one would have asked it of her. But my mom chose the kind of strength that defies what we think we should, or shouldn't, have to bear. Her form of forgiveness healed her dad, but it healed part of her too.

We can't all sit at the deathbed of the person who wounded us. We can't all see the completion of our powerful forgiveness. But we can live that kind of grace - the kind that calls for something beyond ourselves. We can choose to set ourselves free by setting someone else free. We can forgive.

We often mistake forgiveness for forgetting, which would be foolish. We don't forget - we learn. We see that some people are not safe for close relationship and so we build a fence with a gate. If we tried to forget, we'd really be building a wall. Our resentment and fear would build up against that wall until we suffocated. We'd drown ourselves.

Today, friends, let's forgive. Let's choose to let go of the tight-fisted defenses we've been building in our heads. Let's give our bruises time to heal. Let's learn how to construct the kind of boundaries that protect us, without imprisoning us. Let's get healthy in our relationships and in our hearts. And let's start by entering into what God is already doing.

Forgiveness is not an invitation to further wound. Forgiveness is taking back the power someone else had over you and willingly laying it at the feet of Jesus. Forgiveness is a step towards healing. So let's move forward.

*February 2013