Forgiving is difficult. Plain and simple.
It can throw us for a loop when we have to forgive. I wonder if it’s because we are conditioned from childhood to think forgiveness is such a simple routine.
Remember back…you are playing out in the yard with a friend. Out of nowhere your friend hauls off and shoves you to the ground. You hit the ground so hard you feel your eyes jiggle. You run to your mother crying your head off. Both mothers drag you together so you are facing one another. Your friend is told to say he is sorry. He says it with a twisted and angry face. You are then nudged in the back by your mother, signaling you to say, “I forgive you.” But you know your friend isn’t really sorry, and you really don’t feel very forgiving. How many times more did we go through that dance throughout our childhoods and even into adulthood? Countless times.
Once I was married, I found it very hard at times to work through forgiving.
Strangely, the hardest part was being in the place of needing forgiveness. It’s too easy sometimes to dismiss the hurt we have inflicted on others, especially our spouses. Saying, “I was wrong, please forgive me,” is a very good thing to practice. But when the person who just forgave you is still doubled over in pain, what do you do? How do you work through THAT? How do we love each other while forgiving and also being forgiven?
I found that even though we said the right words, we still struggled to find reconciliation. Closure after a fight was difficult to accomplish. Cold shoulders, and hurt feelings were common in our marriage. I knew this; I was forgiven much so I needed to forgive. But how were we supposed to keep bitterness at bay when so much hurt needed to be dealt with? Mean words, horrible actions, selfishness…all arrows that are deeply embedded. If I were to reach over and grab one of those arrows from Scott’s heart and try to remove it, he would surely scream out in pain, even though I was truly sorry and was trying to make it all better. I struggled to find the right way to react to my husband’s suffering.
Finally our Pastor made sense of this to me. Once he shed some light on the path of forgiveness, I was able to make my way through with a better understanding. It helped me so much, I felt compelled to share it, in case it could help you too. I told Pastor Nate that I had been trying to apologize to Scott, but he wouldn’t forgive me. He was digging his heels in, and not giving me the reaction I wanted. Was that not so wrong of him? How selfish was he anyway? I had forgiven him many times, and I deserved the same treatment!
Pastor Nate’s answer surprised me. I didn’t see it coming but as soon as his words landed in my ears I knew it was truth. He said, “Michelle, forgiveness is hard to give. What you are asking him to do, is to take the hurt you have inflicted upon him and absorb it. To feel it, and take it onto himself. It’s very painful.” He reminded me to look at the ultimate place of forgiveness, the Cross. When Jesus forgave us, He suffered greatly. He bled. He cried. He was tortured as He forgave. Our Pastor said calmly, “It’s a process. Give Scott room to go through the process of forgiveness.” He assured me it would come in God’s timing.
I thought back to times when I was asked to forgive my husband.
The pain, the anguish, the confusion all came rushing back. I knew that forgiveness rarely came quickly on the heels of the words, “I am sorry,” but it DID always come. It came because I knew what it felt like to be forgiven. I knew I had no right to be bitter and demand Scott suffer in his wrongdoing, because God never kept me in that state. As this realization set in, I felt more peace. I was able to step back and give Scott space to walk through the process. I knew and trusted that God was at work in my husband’s life and would eventually nudge him. He would have to look in the mirror and see his own forgiveness. And instead of being glad over this, I prayed for him. Because I knew how hard that was.
I strive to be diligent about saying, “I was wrong, please forgive me.” More than that, I don’t take lightly the pain I have caused and try to appreciate how difficult it can be to forgive. It’s not my place to force anyone to forgive me. It is my place to pray and trust and thank God daily for His work in me .
After practicing this a few times, I saw forgiveness did come. And it was more precious than ever, because I knew it was real. It was God’s faithfulness; anchoring us to His promises and the joy of His steadfast love.
So the next time you feel that reconciliation is a million miles away:
1. Trust the process.
3. God is at work.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
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