There is a saying–though full of some serious cheese-factor–that carries more weight than people realize. Surely you’ve heard, “Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.” I’m here to tell you that this statement could not be more true.
I wrote a letter yesterday. It’s a letter that carries a weighty opportunity underneath that stamp. You see, there’s a man in this world who used to love me, but now despises me. I used to sit at his table and eat donuts and drink Pepsi (obviously those were a huge treat to this girl back in the day–actually they still are), and he would make me laugh, and I loved him. Then, my dad died and this man who loved my dad so much, held me responsible. I saw him once since then, and the look on his face when he saw me about ripped my heart to shreds. He reminds me so much of my dad and that’s enough to shock my heart, but seeing the look in his eyes was too much. I was impressed yesterday deep in my spirit to ask him to forgive me in a letter. Though I could not and would not change my past decisions, we all walk different paths and wear different shoes, and somehow, my trail of footprints hurt him. I also need him to know that I forgive him. In his quiet moments, I’m sure he feels guilt and I don’t want him to carry that. I extend the gift of forgiveness to him and have no expectations from here.
He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven. Thomas Fuller
Once upon a time, a boy and a girl fell in love. They were the cutest couple you ever did see, and loved each other too much for the time of life they were in because they couldn’t seem to leave room for Jesus in between them and they fell. I’ve told our story before so I won’t repeat it, but I skimmed over the heavy part. The part where God asked us to make right what we had done wrong. I was seventeen and pregnant and just a couple months from graduating. Definitely could have kept our little secret until we graduated, and carried on. But God doesn’t work well with secrets. So, we stepped forward onto the path called repentance and asked for forgiveness from our church and school as a way to take what the enemy had intended to use to wipe us out and move forward into the plans God had for us. Can I just tell you how humbling it felt to stand before hundreds and admit our sin? Can I also tell you how beyond beautiful it felt to be embraced in love and shown by human hugs and hearts what forgiveness feels like? It changed us and set us on a new path. A path where we desperately wanted to remain.
Forgiveness is the answer to the child’s dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again. Daj Hammarskjold
Yesterday, our family came together to talk through a situation that had quickly gotten out of control and caused some damage. All who had been involved were invited to work through some wounds. I was so proud of my family as each one faced raw emotion and risked more pain to be real in order to bring about healing.
I can’t tell you how many times in life I’ve been sitting in someone’s living room dealing with a situation head on rather than letting it be slipped under a rug. Christian and I learned that no matter how much we don’t want to have to face something, if it’s left to rot and fester, it surely will. And the talk and words and stink that follow are far harder to deal with than just looking the ugly in the face to begin with.
I’ve also learned that with the big stuff in life, those things that have hurt so very deeply as to alter the very fabric of who we are, forgiveness is a day to day process. Though I can know to forgive, it is sometimes much harder to be ready to let go. When faced with this personally, I learned that I forgive and then maybe even the next day when the ugliness rears its head, I forgive again and again and again. This way, I refuse to let any bitterness take root. For the big ones, it is often ongoing.
Forgiveness is like faith. You have to keep reviving it. Mason Cooley
Lastly, how do I know when I’ve forgiven someone? When is it truly over in my heart? For me, I know it’s been handled when I wish the best for the person who hurt me. When I really want for them to be blessed as I have been blessed.
Because, really, who am I to withhold forgiveness when I have been so graciously and lovingly forgiven?
Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32