I realize I have used this photo before, but it is a personal favorite. I chose it this time because it is the epitome of someone needing forgiveness. I am pretty sure that my grandson not only covered himself with the glorious green marker but a few other things as well. I can imagine he was having the time of his life until he faced his mother.
It is easy to say I need to forgive the person that hurt me. Harder still to do. Yet without forgiveness, my relationship with them could be devastated if not destroyed if I let an unforgiving heart win. If I am unable to look beyond the incident to the person that hurt me, I will not be able to offer compassion and forgiveness. Over time it will only escalate and bind me in bitterness.
People sin against us, and we are hurt. Yes, I am using the word sin. It is a perfectly good word to describe the many ways we hurt each other. Lying, anger, stealing, coveting, jealousy, betrayal, judgment, arrogance, selfish ambition, abusive speech or actions – and the list goes on. All of these things are sin and if unchecked they lead to the destruction of relationships and can even result in death. How many people have been killed as the result of unchecked anger or worse? How many families are hurting because brothers and sisters are not talking to each other?
While sin destroys, forgiveness opens the door to allow love to heal the breach. That’s why it is so important. And frankly, sometimes I have to remind myself that I forgave someone many times for the same sin. As memories of the hurt pop up and cause my blood to boil again, I have to remind myself that I forgave that individual and I need to continue to forgive them!
Honestly – sometimes it is really hard to do. Sometimes the only thing I can do is hand it over to Jesus – AGAIN! I have to stop my mutterings of discontent and offer prayers and blessings for them instead. The more I pray for the person that hurt me, the more God teaches me to love them.
But the hardest person I find to forgive is myself. I live in my skin, and I know what is going on in my head, what I’ve done or not done and what I’ve said or should have said but didn’t. I am ashamed to confess that I continually struggle with the same sins. It is a daily battle. I wonder sometimes if God gets tired of my seemingly constant failure.
I hate it when I sin. I am not separated from God because of Christ’s work on the cross for me. But the sin sits between us; dark and stinky like an unwashed diaper. It robs me of joy and peace. It delights in generously handing out shame and guilt. My sin separates me from my loved ones – creating invisible walls between us. I thank God that He is always faithful to forgive me when I confess my sin! How lost I would be without His faithful lovingkindness toward me.
Forgiveness in no way makes the sin right. NEVER! What was done was wrong. But to not forgive is wrong too. ANd, as my mother often said, Two Wrongs never make a Right.
When I struggle with forgiveness, and my blood begins to boil, I try to stop and reflect. I don’t always do this, but I am trying to make it a habit. When I catch myself getting bitter or angry about something that makes me angry with someone, I stop and think of my own personal sins. It is a long list. I think of all the people I’ve hurt – intentionally or not. I reflect on the fact that all my sins are forgiven because God looks beyond my sin and sees His precious child. I have been forgiven. How can I not forgive others? How can I not look beyond the sin to the precious brother or sister before me?
They are just like me — In need of forgiveness. And I need to forgive because unforgiveness only binds me in chains, locking me in a dark dank prison cell of bitterness and unhappiness.
My goal is to continue to practice forgiveness. As when I learned to tie my shoe, it takes time and practice to forgive. So when I am hurt by someone else instead of offering anger, I will utter thanksgiving and a prayer for them instead; as many times as it takes! I also need to practice forgiving myself, in the same way – as many times as it takes.
It’s the only way Love can come in and heal the breach.