Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wrestling With Forgiveness

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?


Rachel and Cristopher Gatlin said...

Tammy this is so beautiful, I think forgiveness is a life-long struggle, and your sharing that like love, it is a decision and an act of will was very profound. I mean I have heard that before, but for some reason the way you state it here in this beautifully vulnerable post is really freeing. Thanks for sharing, I am going to use this in my lesson for my youth group this week. I was already planning a message on forgiveness, and this is just SOOO perfect.

Jesus Bless You on Your Journey
Rachel (Brock-from your old home care group)

Bob said...

Hi, Tammy!

I don't know that I have any "keys", because I haven't found forgiveness to be a one-time or a quick-fix experience to go through.

Whenever I face a challenge in my walk (sharing my faith, denying sin, forgiving, seeing others as Jesus sees them, ...) I ask Him to teach me, much like His disciples did when they wanted to know how to pray. "Lord, teach me to forgive; it's hard for me to forgive right now because of the emotions involved."

I know when I've been in the midst of the choice to forgive, when I've let Him wash His love over me, making me aware of my own depravity outside of Him, He gives unspeakable peace and grace.

I've been the recipient of things dishonorable, mean-spirited, and downright sinful. If I'm honest with myself, I realize I've also poured them out on my family members, my friends, difficult clients, and anyone I've labeled as a jerk for one reason or another.

I wish forgiveness was like a one-time baptism, but it seems to be more like footwashing. God doesn't bring up my forgiven offenses ever again, and I need help to forgive like that, learning from the only One who is able to.

God grant us all the grace to forgive, when we come to Him and ask Him to work in us -- in the midst of the choice to forgive -- especially when facing the one who's hurt us repeatedly in the past.

Finally, if Cheryl or I have ever done anything to hurt or dishonor you or your family, please let us know and we'd love to *sincerely* ask you to forgive us.

Thank you for the blog. I look forward to being challenged in loving Him honestly.

Tammy said...

Bob, I love your comment: "I let him wash His love over me". What an amazing image. I'm going to remember that one! I think we do need God to grant us grace. And it seems I shouldn't feel like such a failure when I have to ask for it more than once. (and thanks for asking....but I think you and Cheryl are wonderful...no issues here.)

Tammy said...

Hey Rachel, I am just learning how this blog works and I clicked a button too quickly and couldn't respond to your comment right under it....I'm delighted you can use this for your youth group! I pray right now that the Holy Spirit would move in your youth group and touch their hearts with the truth.