When Forgiveness Comes To Us
Sometimes the pain we've experienced is so deep that it feels like we'll never be able to let it go.
Whether it's something done to us or we've suffered from a self-inflicted wound, our souls carry the hurts we've received from betrayals, wrongs, shame, and terrible words long after the blows landed.
And these wounds can keep us from forgiving those who have wronged us and, more importantly, from forgiving ourselves.
Forgiveness, true forgiveness, comes to us slowly, and sometimes it only comes to us when we've grown weary of the fight. And it is a fight to hold off the spirit of forgiveness, make no mistake.
Every single one of us has a story about how we gave up struggling and decided to forgive someone who wronged us. At that moment, the relief that washed over us was real and true.
We might second-guess things later, but that initial reaction is always the truest.
We might not even remember why the release of bitterness and hurt suddenly left us, and we decided to forgive. Still, it happened. The person we forgave may not have even been in the room when we did it. In fact, they may never know.
Or the forgiveness we offered was to ourselves, and we suddenly realized that we'd done it, finally releasing our self-loathing, sadness, or inner rage. Maybe we looked in the mirror, seeing ourselves for the first time again, and felt nothing but love and peace.
In his novel, The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini puts it like this:
I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.
Sometimes forgiveness can seem impossible, but this quote reminds us that it often happens quietly and without fanfare. Like pain packing up and leaving in the middle of the night, forgiveness can come when we least expect it.
So even amid hurt and anger, hold on to the hope that forgiveness is possible. It may take time, but with patience and perseverance, we can find peace and healing in letting go of resentment and choosing to forgive.
And whether you need to forgive someone and let them go, or forgive yourself, when you are ready, you will find, as we read in Scripture: "...grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)
Because forgiveness is one of the most impossible acts for us, Jesus offered an example of how radical it can sometimes look when done as God would have us do.
As he hung on the Cross, Jesus looked out over his friends who had betrayed him, the soldiers who mocked and beat him, the religious leaders who had condemned him, and the people who had shouted for his death.
And he said, "Father, forgive them because they don't know what they're doing."
Let forgiveness come to you, no matter how slowly it must. Give space in your heart for it to take hold when you are finally ready to give up the struggle to guard your heart and let it open up fully to the love of God.
Forgive as you have been forgiven. Forgive yourself first, and then find the courage and the hope to forgive those who wronged you. Turn the wrongs and those who committed them over to God, and let yourself live again.
May it be so. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.