Forgiveness can be the most painful part of an offense. When someone has truly wounded you very, very deeply, the idea that you must pass over their sin and love them anyway is repulsive and sickening, especially when they are unrepentant.
Can you imagine a sweet girl like me carrying a grudge? Can you imagine me burning with anger for years? It doesn’t happen often but that doesn’t speak to my character, unfortunately, only to my attention span. Honestly, for me to remember to be resentful is a lot of work, and once someone makes me laugh….well their sins just slip away. Long lasting hurt and bitterness isn’t something I often deal with, but I have.
Almost two years ago I felt utterly betrayed, misused, and abused.Though the offense might not have been directed at me specifically, it was against a dear loved one and that made it worse. Anger, hurt, bitterness, and tears were all at once blown to enormous proportions. I could barely swim through all the pain to “do the day.”
Some of the anger was righteous anger; what was done was truly awful. But beyond that, I was angry and bitter at what it meant to me. I cried every day for weeks. I had dreams where everyone had forgiven this person but me, and I still shunned them.
My spirit fluctuated between two attitudes: 1 What they did doesn’t deserve to be forgiven, I can’t ever do that, and 2 I must be noble and forgive them anyway.
The path was long. It started with prayer. I knew from the start that I could never forgive them without God’s help. I prayed prayers like, “God help me to want to learn to forgive them. God, please help me to really pray for their good…. And make them eternally miserable for what they did!” Sometimes I was able to sincerely pray for their salvation. Then I would write in my journal, “I’m finally free from this bitterness!”
That usually lasted until I happened to see them again, even just for a second. All the anger and hurt would come back. I would go home and cry again.
After awhile I wrote this blog post with my first plea for prayer from others. I was pretty bad at expressing my feelings then, and they were very mixed, but my life really did feel like a grimy cement tunnel with no escape.
I have a journal on the computer where I journal everything in my spiritual life as an allegory. I called the offender “Traitor” and called my bitterness, “this rope around my foot.” I couldn’t go anywhere while it was there. Sometimes I thought it was gone, but then it would trip me again.
It took time. It took time for me to finally come around to their point of view. Every sin looks different to the sinner than the audience. The initial sting took time to wear off and I could see beyond the broad grin on their face to the emptiness that someone without Christ must carry. It took a lot of time for me to finally meet their eye for a split second and nod. It took a lot of time for me to finally give a little smile.
It took prayer, time, and compassion. Like I said, any person without Christ has a void. While grins were easy to fake—I wore fake ones every day—tears were hard to see. I could finally pray for their salvation and the fixing of their life only when I realized that without Christ, I would be worse. With Christ I have been provided everything I need for life and godliness. But without Him I would be like chaff, driven by the wind and tossed by the waves.
I don’t know when the rope around my foot was finally cut. But when they actually spoke a greeting and I wasn’t repulsed, I realized that I didn’t hate them anymore. When I heard about family struggles and didn’t feel scorn, I knew. When I saw them spend hours on the internet and had compassion, I knew that they were forgiven. But I felt like it was only me who had been freed through it all.
It is freedom not to carry around anger. Regret still lingers, but it doesn’t tie me down. I might think about the whole deal sometimes with a sigh, but it doesn’t plague my days and nights. I still don’t know what God was doing through the whole thing. I have no clue why He didn’t prevent it, but that will take time, perhaps a lifetime.
For now I pray that the Lord might save this person for His glory, and that the testimony of our family might not be lost with time.
After all, God is always good, and His grace is sufficient.