Front Row Seat To UnforgivEness
I come from a broken (now mended) family. My parents divorced when I was very young. There were some very hurtful things done during that time that created so much pain. They both eventually remarried and moved to different parts of the country, which led to custody battles for the kids. There was so much resentment and bitterness woven into their relationship. For the first 30 or so years of my life, I had a front row seat to what withholding forgiveness looks like. And let me tell you...it's not pretty.
I watched it all and saw the ugly effects. I couldn't miss it as it stole joy from my parents. I noted worry and anger lines growing on their faces. I saw countless fights as they brought old hurts into new situations. I FELT their tension as those feelings carried over into every interaction and conversation they had. Unforgiveness painted my childhood in pain and tension and fear. It was a prison we were all stuck in.
We All Practice It
I wish I could say that after witnessing it, I decided I would never practice that habit. But the truth is, like all humans, I have struggled to forgive in my life. I have held onto hurts and blame. I have tasted their effects and allowed them to control my days. I have struggled with knowing the importance of forgiving - the straight necessity of it - and still feeling like it was impossible. And I think that's because on our own, it really is rather difficult.
What Does God Say?
Throughout the Bible God tells us again and again that we MUST forgive. It's not a "maybe you might think about doing this." It's an absolute command. It's the basis of everything we as Christians believe. It's the entire point of Jesus's coming, living, dying, and rising. But I think it is one of the hardest habits for us to practice. When we are hurt, we want to hurt back, or we want the other person to pay for what they did, or own what they did and apologize. It seems like forgiveness goes against our very nature. And our culture certainly doesn't help as we constantly see and hear whose fault it is and who needs to pay (politics anyone?!). But God designed us for a "real and eternal life, more and better life than [we] ever dreamed of" (John 10:10 The Message). He wants more for us and a HUGE part of that "more" starts with forgiveness.
I wish there was some formula for how to do it. I'd like a step-by-step way to make it happen. I have read some great books with helpful tips on how to do it, but I have found and continue to find that the most powerful tool I can use is inviting God into the hurt. For me, this is something that has to happen again and again. It's not a one-and-done deal. Sometimes, it's a multiple times an hour kind of thing. But as I bring my hurt to Him, ask Him for help, and ask for His perspective, I do find myself finding forgiveness a bit easier. I find that He sends me the perfect resources to help me with each situation and each hurt, whether it's a friend to pray with, a book with practical steps (I spend a lot of time picturing people who have hurt me as babies. It really helps!), someone to let me vent, or clear boundaries I need to set in the relationship. But mostly, what I find is freedom. Forgiveness quite literally breaks the chains that bind you to the hurt. Not only have I experienced that in my own life, but I watched it happen with my parents.
The Miracle of Forgiveness
Later in life, my parents experienced God in a powerful way. As a result of receiving His love, they have been able to forgive. Sometimes it seems unbelievable to me. They can be in the same room together with no tension. They can talk to each other without fighting. They can LAUGH together! They even PRAY FOR EACH OTHER!!! I have truly witnessed the miracle of forgiveness and it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. It took the brokenness and mended it. I think if they had anything to say about it, it would be that they wished they hadn't waited so long to do it.
What About YOU?
Where are you withholding forgiveness?
Where are you finding resentment and bitterness creeping up in your life?
What hurt is keeping you stuck?
I know it's not an easy practice. It takes a lot of prayer, thought, and intention. Sometimes professional help is needed. I have found that first, I have to identify it in my life and recognize its power. And second, I have to really invite God in - again and again and then again! We've created some tools that might help you in your process. Listen to the Song of the Week and remember that even at your worst, you are "forgiven and loved." Ask God to help you offer that in your relationships. Please connect with us on Facebook (or comment below!) and let us know how we can be praying for you as you work through unforgiveness. Use the meditation as a starting place. Know that you are not alone as you do the work of letting go of this habit. God is 100% with you and is actively helping you move to that "more" He has for you and we are praying for you!