On Forgiveness

Psalm 130:4 But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. My husband Clark and I recently celebrated our 22nd anniversary! We are grateful to have a marriage that is a partnership, full of love, friendship and shared experiences. But when I was thinking about writing this post and about forgiveness, an ugly memory rose to the surface. It was early in our marriage, and we were both young and immature. Like most marital spats, neither of us can remember how this particular argument started, but it turned nasty quickly. We were both angry, and impassioned by our pride and the flares and flashes of emotion, we wanted to pack it up, cut our losses and just walk away (when you’re young, doesn’t it seem so easy and simple to walk away rather than tend to the mess?). As I lay there stewing in the dark, making every effort not to cross the invisible battle line we’d drawn in the bed, I knew I needed to forgive Clark even if my heart wasn’t quite there yet. When I feel wronged I put on the nametag “Steven the Martyr” and back away, often hurling out revenge with my resentful silence. But instead of locking out the other party, I’m encasing myself in a prison, shutting out even God who so desperately wants to give me freedom from my injuries and soothe my ruffled and inflamed heart. Many times the injuries aren’t just small nicks across the plains of our emotions. They can be wounds that twist and wind around our very core, caused by the trauma of sexual abuse, the betrayal of a spouse or friend, even an actual crime. These events are hard. I would never dare gloss over them and simply say, “forgive those who wronged you.” It’s a true statement, but finding your way to the freedom from pain that God is holding out to you isn’t as easy as that platitude. It’s a process to unpack our most shameful hurts and trust a Lord who knows. The wonderful thing about our Father is that He doesn’t simply offer sympathy and a pitying smile. He KNOWS. He can empathize with every slight and injustice. He experienced betrayal, loss, physical abuse… He is there in your suffering, because He already endured it on your behalf. And even more beautifully, He has already forgiven YOU for the pain you’ve inflicted on others and the sins you have committed against Him. Forgiveness requires sacrificial fellowship. It implores you to carry around a pack of wipes and a bottle of Clorox to clean up the messes that are made daily, by others wreaking havoc on your fragile heart. With God, however, the messes aren’t our responsibility. A spirit that is inclined to forgive and give up the bitterness we want to clutch is all we need. In fact, we don’t need to carry anything. He’s already carried it. Healing doesn’t happen immediately, but it’s happening even as you read this. The scabs can soften, the cuts can close and the scars can fade. The freedom is yours.