The thing about forgiveness is that it’s a choice. And quite honestly a selfish one. If I forgive someone, it doesn’t absolve them of what they did wrong…only God can do that. But choosing to forgive frees me from the anger and resentment that will grow in my heart.
Peter asked Jesus if 7 times was enough times to forgive. I guess implying that the 8th offense did not need to be forgiven. But in Matthew 18:22, Jesus answered “No…70 x 7”. (The piece pictured above has 490 nails on it.) Jesus offers us a more gracious way to live. His capacity to forgive is actually limitless. I speak from personal experience.
Below is a piece that I wrote almost a year ago. It has sat on my computer until now because I wasn’t ready to share it. But I think it goes hand in hand with this piece of art…actually it takes it one step further.
-Being hurt by a friend, by someone you care about, by someone you have walked through a little bit of life with, is the worst. It’s easy to dismiss a hurt by an acquaintance and even easier to disregard a slight by a stranger. Depending on your family dynamics, those hurts can be easy to bounce back from as well. In my family, we know that no one is going anywhere, no matter how mad we might get. So, apologies will eventually happen and life will go on. For me, the pain of being hurt by a friend is different. Those relationships are a little more fragile and require more maintenance.
It’s almost harder when there is not an argument or specific incident to point to that caused the rift.
Recently, I felt a relationship shift and I didn’t notice it at first. But after multiple encounters with a friend that left me feeling like I didn’t matter, or I was incompetent, or I had malintent, my feelings went from confused to hurt to angry.
As per usual for me, my knee-jerk reaction was to confront. I composed several pointed emails to this person, laying out my case with all the best words I could come up with. I made my arguments as well as any defense attorney in the many John Grisham novels I have read. And every time, just as I was about to hit the infamous send button, something inside me said…”nope, wait.” So I waited, and I cried.
Days turned into weeks and I continued to wallow in my pain. I’m pretty good at that.
And then it hit me, I’ve been here before. It has been quite a few years, but I know this pain. The last time that I found myself feeling like this, my pastor encouraged me to look at Matthew 5:44.
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
But they’re not an enemy. I don’t wish this person ill will. And there are Christians all over the world who are actually being persecuted. I’m just hurt and mad. How do I pray for this guy? What does that look like? But my pastor urged me to begin praying for this person that hurt me. So I did. I prayed that God would bless him. I prayed that God would bless his family. I prayed that God would continue to grow this man in his faith and bless all of his endeavors.
Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t easy to do at first. Actually, it was a huge exercise of discipline for me in the beginning. But slowly, over time, God softened my heart and healed my pain. I had forgiven this person long before he realized that he had hurt me so profoundly. And when the meeting finally happened to air our differences, I came to it from a place of peace. God heard my prayers and I got a sincere apology from this friend. That never would have happened if I confronted him before I gave the Holy Spirit a chance to work on both of our hearts.
And even if that wasn’t the outcome, it would have been ok. God moved my heart from a place anger and hurt to a place of empathy and compassion.
I write this from the middle of a painful place…again. My feelings are still raw and my heart is bruised. And while I am still licking my own wounds, I am fully aware that there have been times when I was on the other end of this situation. I was the offender. Maybe I was careless with my words and someone else’s heart. Maybe I’m there now and I don’t know it.
I know this, it’s time to pray.