If I hadn’t been looking full-on into the deep brown windows to her soul, I would have missed it…the ever-so-slight roll of her eyes. Her voice gave no indication of the vestiges of pain that had come upon her as a child. I ventured a question.
“Have you forgiven her?”
“Who?” came her quick reply. I smiled. It was a defense mechanism and a stall. And I understood it all too well. I refrained from answering.
When someone you love is in pain, sometimes silence is better than answers.
For a long moment, we sat there, just the two of us in the comfort of quiet. The clock tick-tocked softly behind me and in the fireplace, the gas flames licked the bricks with a steady whooshing sound. The soft morning light streamed through the window beside her, creating a halo effect on her tousled, dark curls.
Disarmed by my silence, she grinned back. “I’m just like her,” she interjected between sips of coffee. “At least, that’s what I’ve been told. You know, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and all that.” No sooner had the words escaped when pain flashed across her face the way lightening pierces a stormy sky. She quickly brushed away a single tear before it trickled half way down her already-moistened cheek. Finally, she formed the words. “I’m not sure if I’ve forgiven her or not. She’s caused so much pain.”
She doesn’t know me well enough to realize the depth of understanding I have when it comes to this topic of forgiveness…or unforgiveness. So much of my life has been marked by situations where I needed to forgive. And be forgiven.
I’ve heard discussions on which is hardest; needing forgiveness or giving it. Both are difficult. In actuality, I think the most painful situation is when forgiveness is both genuinely desired and needed by the offender, but is withheld by the offended.
Forgiveness is the underpinnings of Christianity.
The fact is, God tells us that if we want Him to forgive us, we must forgive those who have wronged us (Matthew 6:14-15). What some don’t understand, is that God doesn’t put a time limit on us. He knows we need time to process and heal from our wounds. Usually, the deeper the wound, the longer it will take for forgiveness to be complete.
Whether or not we forgive comes down to the state of our heart. Do I want to become bitter, or better?
We get to choose who we will resemble ~ the offender, or Christ.
If we truly desire to be free of the weight of unforgiveness, our heavenly Father sees our willingness and continues to give us grace in and through the process. Forgiveness is akin to holy surgery. If the damage has been great enough, we will need multiple surgeries with recovery time in between.
So how do we know if we’ve really forgiven someone? I heard a pastor once say, “If you see that person on the street without the sudden desire to run the opposite direction, you’ve probably forgiven them.”
Here are 3 questions (not necessarily in this order) I ask myself to help determine whether or not I’ve gone through the entire process of forgiveness ~ especially if the offense has caused deep wounding.
*Have I left the outcome of their behavior up to the Lord?
*Can I trust the Lord to work the situation out for my good?
*Do I really want that person to be eternally punished for what they’ve done?
She stands and stretches and I hold out my arms, inviting her to come closer. Locked in a hug, we begin to sway and I whisper a prayer in her ear. One that encouragers her to keep her heart soft towards her Lord. I assure her from God’s word, that if she will guard her heart against unforgiveness, love and life will flow out of it.
Heavenly Father, help us to forgive those who have wronged us, caused us to stumble and/or have deeply wounded us. Give us victory over the enemy by giving us the grace to be able forgive ~ even in the most unforgivable circumstances. We will trust in your promise to work all things together for our good ~ those things that the enemy intended to use to destroy us ~ You will turn around and make a blessing out of them. We refuse to hold onto bitterness and resentment, and release all who have wronged us. We thank You for your unending mercy for those who desire and ask for forgiveness through your Son Jesus. Keep our hearts open and malleable towards You.