Ever notice how prideful you are? Yeah, me neither. At least, not until the Lord shows it to me. But now it’s time for me to swallow mine and reveal an area I’ve struggled lately (and still am, so don’t think I have it figured out).
I used to think I knew everything about forgiveness. My grandmother harbored unforgiveness and resentment her entire life. It became a stronghold built on a root of bitterness, and it consumed her and destroyed her relationships with everyone around her. As a child and young adult, I witnessed this devastation first-hand and suffered the abuse she dished out regularly as a result. Hers was a miserable life. So when I trained on an amazing prayer team some 15 years ago and learned in depth about this basic yet profound spiritual concept of forgiveness and the freedom it offers to those who embrace it, I knew I'd found one of those brilliant gems of Scripture.
I've come to realize that forgiveness is essential if I want to maintain relationships—not just with other people, but also with the Lord. After all, Jesus told us to forgive. In fact, He had some really tough things to say about not forgiving others. Here are some examples: Matthew 6:6-15, Matthew 18:21-35, and Mark 11. It's sobering, really, when you read those passages.
Anyway, this concept became a basic truth in my life. Forgiveness was freedom. Forgiveness was a long-forgone conclusion in my spiritual walk with Christ...or so I thought.
But the Lord decided recently to give me a glimpse of my deceitful heart. Maybe it was my own fault for praying Psalms 139:23-24 so many times, but suddenly I found out that I, the self-appointed forgiveness guru, could be hurt and offended and used and taken advantage of and verbally abused past my forgiveness point.
Did you catch that? Yeah, I know. I’m such a hypocrite. I talk about how great forgiveness is, how foolish it is to hold onto hurts, and yet here I am. And for months I couldn’t figure out why this was such a struggle for me. I’d forgiven before countless times. But this time was different. What was it about this hurt? Just now as I’m typing I realize it. I was attacked in an area I’d never been insulted before—my abilities as a wife and mother. This was new territory for me…sacred, if you will.
You see, if you walk in forgiveness a while, you start to get immune to some of the things that previously hurt you. That's when it's easy to let your guard down, if you will. Then when a new hurt comes, targeted at the thing that’s now most important to you (and if you’re foolish like me, you let other things become more important than God), and suddenly you’re not walking in forgiveness anymore. You open your eyes after the initial sting and realize you’re not even standing. You're wallowing in the mire, trying to get up and get your bearings while dealing with the arrow in your side…or the knife in your back.
I used to say forgiveness is hard. I got to the point where I said that flippantly, without meaning it anymore. I had lost sight of what forgiveness costs the person extending it. Now I can say, with tears in my eyes, that forgiveness is excruciating and there’s no way around it. Forgiving will always cost you something, but any intersection of the divine and the flesh will burn, and that’s really what forgiveness is—a place where we cross paths with what God did for us on the cross and for just a moment experience an inkling of what it cost Him.