The Pain and Ecstasy of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a messy, messy business. It is the hardest piece of Christianity for me, yet the most essential. I struggle with forgiving friends, family, self.  If you ever have the privilege of truly falling in love with someone, the rest of your life will be an exercise in forgiveness.

What about forgiving the murderers and dictators of the world?

That is much easier.

I never interact with those people.  Maybe if Kim Jong-un forgot my birthday for the fifth time, or if Stalin had been my brother, daily berating and humiliating me, then I might have unforgiveness in my heart towards them.  These people have done unforgivable things…but not to me.  So while I can objectively put these far off figures in the “evil dictator” category, I’m not struggling day to day with bitterness towards them. God have mercy on those who have been terrorized by such evil.

Love and forgiveness is so much easier in the theoretical far off application.  It is the nitty-gritty daily grind that is hard. As Mother Teresa once said,

“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”

When I was younger I use to look at hard and bitter adults with bewilderment.  Why were they so angry? Why so impatient?  I had little compassion for adults who were unkind.

Then life happened.

Life can be cruel. People can be cruel.

After years of hurt, betrayal, and thankless sacrifice, life can take its toll on the softest of hearts.

But Christianity at its core is about love and forgiveness.  With his dying breath Christ said of his killers, his taunters, his friends who abandoned him, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  Oh that breaks my heart.  I can’t imagine watching the horrific torture of my child and then just before they die, hearing them say “Mommy, don’t hate them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”  Oh God, what tragic pain You endured watching Your Son die.

For Christ’s sacrifice I want to forgive.  For my relationship with God I want to forgive.  For my own happiness I want to forgive.  Then I remember the sting of a cruel memory and my resolve weakens.  This Easter season I am embracing the fullness of Christ’s sacrifice and embracing forgiveness – for myself, for my friends, for my family, for all.

Will it be easy? Doubt it.

Will it hurt? Probably.

But what if, what IF I could live bursting with love and forgiveness and not remember my scared childhood or another heartbreak with bitterness? What if God could soften my heart again to that vulnerable, tender heart I had as a child?

It will not be a passive choice, but an ongoing commitment to choose love, choose to forgive.

A few years ago I discovered Divine Mercy Sunday, the Sunday that follows Easter.  While we can find mercy every day, I believe in the value of seasons, celebrations and dedicated days.  If there is no value in them, then there is no point in celebrating them. I appreciate that there is a day and hour dedicated to the mercy of Christ. For a year straight I prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet at the 3 o’clock hour.  It taught me a great deal about not taking the sacrifice of Christ lightly.  It helped build my faith in the power of God’s forgiveness.

In the days and weeks ahead, I am committed to speaking out forgiveness with the same dedication as I spent seeking it for myself.

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” – C.S. Lewis.

Okay God.  Remind me of that tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Don’t leave me alone until I get it.

The Pain and Ecstasy of Forgiveness

One thought on “The Pain and Ecstasy of Forgiveness

  1. I think we all get in this boat. If I have forgiven them or not, my first step to it is always prayer. I had to pray three years one time in my life to forgive someone. It is never a long prayer, after all there is no forgiveness inside of me. I can always pray for someone if I am hurt or not.

    What I do is always ask God to change their hearts, to change my heart, and to bless them. That is about it. Through the years I always end up forgiving them.

    I think we try too hard when it comes to this, instead of letting the Holy Spirit lead us to the place we need to be. In my experience it always begins with a simple prayer. God Bless, SR

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