I was at a wedding this summer and there were people present whom had done me wrong. Not small wrongs like not being invited to that Fourth of July barbeque. These were the kind of wrongs that some people spend their lifetime trying to get over. It is so tempting to go through the litany of their offenses right now and prove to you just how wronged I was, to see the incredulity in your eyes and watch you leap to my defense. How satisfying that would be! And how wrong on so many levels. It’s hard to admit, the faults in my own thinking when I’ve been wronged. My nature is to demand satisfaction, to want to punish those who deserve to be punished. It seems the right thing. My sense of justice satisfied.
I know the churchy things to say, the right things. I’ve read the scriptures and heard the sermons. Love as you have been loved. Forgive and you will be forgiven. I revel in that forgiveness often, but apparently not often enough. Here I was, in a church no less, facing my tormentors and struggling to forgive. It’s not as if I hadn’t forgiven them before. I know that forgiveness, like love, is a decision, an act of the will. And so I had forgiven many times, in my heart, in prayer and out loud to others. I had declared my forgiveness and prayed for their souls. I had committed to not broadcasting my hurts, knowing that I would hurt others with my maligning words, and that would not be forgiving. I had asked God to help me and sought out good counsel. I read the scriptures on forgiveness and I had done everything I knew to do.
So I sat there as the worship music played and cried out for some sort of deliverance. I needed help. I needed a revelation of the truth. And it came. I don’t suppose it was really anything much different than what I already knew, but I knew it afresh and I knew it deep in my heart where it counts. I knew that God is the essence of true forgiveness. His love is so great that when He looks at me He loves me, despite my many offenses, and He has forgiven me fully. He’s omniscient. He hasn’t forgotten the things I’ve done that have been covered by the blood. He’s forgiven them. Forgiveness and love are at the core of who He is. If I want to be like Him, I have to embrace His character and the qualities He values. It’s beyond trying, it’s becoming. It was a small miracle that day. With peace in my heart I embraced those whom I felt I could never look in the eyes again and reveled in the truth that God had made me new, He had led me in becoming more like Himself. It was a long time coming.
Do you have any keys for experiencing real forgiveness?