If I were to have a subtitle, it would be “Faith to Forgive.”
I forgive you.
That was the entire email.
Let’s rewind. There was an individual that I loved SO deeply, but he hurt me and walked out of my life. I reached out to tell him how I felt with hope to at least receive an apology, but I got nothing. Six months later I sent him an email telling him that I hated him. (Before you judge me, judge your Algebra I Part B teacher.) I was so hurt that someone who supposedly couldn’t live without me was doing just that, but not before reeking havoc in my life on his way out of the door. There were feelings that I couldn’t forget, actions that crushed my spirit, and an ocean of tears that I cried. Broken promises, disappointments, and lies (lies, lies, lies, lies, lies) led to that hatred. I hated him so much because I once loved him so much. I then began a journey to try to forgive him. Partially my quest to forgive was fueled by my approaching birthday; I didn’t want to carry that into my 29th chapter of life. It was my hope to rid my life of that negativity so I could be in the right standing for the many miracles that were going to magically manifest simply because I turned 29 years old. Uh, okay…still waiting on the magical manifestation. After seemingly endless prayers that almost became chants, positive thoughts and affirmations, a few blogs about forgiveness (or the lack there of), countless sermons spoken into my life, and even a bit of denial of my true feelings, I still twinged at the sight, sound, or thought of his mere existence. Now that I stand almost to the half-way point between 29 and 30, it finally happened. I forgave him.
This month my pastor has been having “Leadership Sunday School,” – a teaching and training moment especially for those in roles of leadership and service in our church. For whatever reason, last Sunday morning was bananas for me, and I could not get out of the house to save my life. By the time I finally made it to church and got settled, I had missed ALL of the lesson! BUT…(turn to your neighbor and say, “But!”) I heard the last interjection that my pastor made after he had dismissed us from the class.
Sometimes you need faith to forgive.
For some reason, those words struck something deep within my soul.
As mentioned, I prayed until it I was literally chanting prayers in my sleep, I rehearsed positive affirmations, and I wrote out my feelings in the hopes that forgiveness for him would just come. After all, that formula worked well for the others in my life who I needed to forgive, so much so that I hold neither grudges nor feelings towards them. (Remember in my blog Just Let It Go… I said, “I’m don’t hold grudges, I hold emotions.”) So why wasn’t the formula working this time? Then I heard my pastor make that statement, and it was like I had an “aha” moment. It just clicked.
“If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Show us how to increase our faith.”
The Lord answered, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and thrown into the sea,’ and it would obey you!
Luke 17:3-6 [New Living Translation]
“Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks for forgiveness, you must forgive.” It is NO WONDER why the apostles asked the Lord to show them how to increase their faith. First of all, I personally don’t think I have the patience, kindness, or tact to allow someone to offend me SEVEN TIMES A DAY, even IF they apologized. After a while, that apology would be null and void. In my mind, they obviously knew what they were doing. Seven times though??? Anyway, according to the scripture, I am supposed to rebuke (or correct) them, and if they repent, I am supposed to forgive. *Help me, Lord.*
So here are a few actual factuals: Said individual NEVER apologized for what he did. Heck, he didn’t even acknowledge that he did anything at all – right or wrong. Maybe just maybe that’s why this forgiveness piece has been one of the hardest challenges of my natural-born life. Just as I wanted to write that off as my excuse, I was reminded of another scripture.
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
Matthew 18:21-22 [New Living Translation]
70 x 7? SEVENTY TIMES SEVEN? Bruh, that’s 490 times! Who can do that????
Answer: one who has faith to forgive.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
My formula for forgiveness failed me. I was praying , reading scriptures, saying all of the right things, and I even believed that He would help me. It wasn’t that I was trying to forgive without the help of God, I was trying to forgive without faith…I DIDN’T KNOW I NEEDED IT! I thought faith was for believing God for healing, an open door, and to not hit the floor when my big tail sits down in one of those rickety lawn chairs. Who knew that faith was for necessary for forgiveness?
Here’s the perspective that I’ve developed since this “aha” moment: According to Chris, you need faith to forgive because you honestly have NO CLUE what lies on the other side of that forgiveness. While offended, you grow a certain expectation. You know that you’ll get that twinge of pain, and you become used to it. You know that if given the chance to see the individual again, you may just see red and GO OFF. You become accustomed to the space in your heart that grows cold. Unforgiveness creates a weight that rests heavily on your shoulders and in your heart, and just like our body fat, we adjust to the extra weight and how it affects us. Truly forgiving means having that weight lifted, that cold place warmed, and accepting an end to those painful twinges. Having to adjust to that new normal, even though it is a better normal, is just as hard; it’s like walking blindly. You literally have to make the decision and the move with no knowledge of what the next step will consist of…hence needing faith.
Maybe you have been on this journey to forgiveness and healing right beside me. If you read some of my previous blogs, you’ll see that this isn’t a road that I just began traveling. It is my prayer that the transparency that I have shared with you all will be a source of help and motivation. Don’t be like me carrying a bit of hate everyday, not because I wanted to but because I was trying to get rid of it my way. I used to hear the older people say, “This is a faith walk,” and I now understand it. It’s sometimes hard to know what lies on the other side of “I’m sorry,” “You hurt me,” or even “I forgive you.” We don’t know if the individual hearing those words will accept, apologize, or even acknowledge. I’ll be honest, you may be putting yourself out there just for them to dismiss you, but FORGIVENESS ISN’T FOR THEM. FORGIVENESS IS FOR YOU! Allow yourself to be free — Yes, it is YOU who has the power to choose to be free! But here’s the thing, this forgiveness process maybe different from any of the others in your past. Don’t just try to use your formulas. We walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), not by formula. God doesn’t have to honor your way of doing things, but He does honor your faith.
And may I add, since I made the decision to change my prayer about this matter, apply my faith, and choose to forgive, I HAVE FELT SO MUCH LIGHTER! I finally feel settled! What was done was done. What was said was said. The time invested was invested. I can’t change ANY of that, but I surely can control how long I waste time mourning that tragedy. Let’s heal together. Let’s move forward. Let’s forgive…for real…this time with faith!
It is my prayer that this is the last post about on forgiveness…or the lack there of.
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. …So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”
John 8:32 & 36 [New Living Translation]
I hope this helps.