|Photo source: Path to God|
I'll be honest with you, I was so hurt by this friend that, while I didn't wish the worst upon him, I surely didn't wish the best for him. I never cared to read his name or see his face ever again. But I still knew forgiveness was something I had to deal with. In Matthew 18, Peter asked Jesus about forgiveness: "Should I forgive my offender 7 times?" Jesus replied, "No, I say 70 times 7." In other words, as often as you're offended and as often as it takes.
So, I knew this was my responsibility. When I reflect on the magnitude and gravity of my sins against Almighty God, coupled with the enormity of God's grace extended to me (as undeserving as I have been), then how can I but extend that grace to those who have offended me? Their faults against me are minuscule in comparison to my faults against Yahweh.
As the providence of God would have it, I would run into this friend just a few short weeks ago. I wouldn't see him just for a moment, but for two full days. After another year had passed since my last run-in with him, I saw him and immediately all those emotions once again flooded my mind and heart.
That's when I started praying, "God, I thought I forgave him. Why does this keep coming back to me? Please, give me the grace to release him from this offense."
Today, I do believe God has answered my prayer. Maybe this encounter with my friend is exactly what I needed. Maybe my emotions needed to be confronted with a full-frontal assault of their own, so to speak. We had a very brief and superficial conversation -- nothing deep. I wasn't some super-holy guy, saying, "Hey, brother, in Jesus' name I forgive you." I wish I was an exemplar, but I wasn't. I simply complimented something he had recently done and how he had gone about recent life ventures. And I meant what I said. That was all; nothing extraordinary. But the pain is no longer there. The hurt doesn't well up when I think of his name. While I wouldn't call him up to go hang out at the movies, I certainly wish him the best in his family, career, and personal affairs.
|Photo source: Meditations from Zion|
So, here are a few brief lessons I learned through this emotionally trying situation:
1) FORGIVENESS may not come instantaneously, but often requires painstaking, exhausting prayer and effort;
2) FORGIVENESS is not only a matter of releasing the OTHER person from offense, but about releasing ONESELF from the emotional and mental bondage. After all, there will be times when the offender doesn't even realize s/he has caused any offense:
3) FORGIVENESS isn't only for those who ask for it, but must be extended to them in grace even when not asked-for;
4) FORGIVENESS does not mean we have mysteriously resigned ourselves to doormat status, but simply recognizes extended grace and healthy boundaries can co-exist without contradiction;
5) FORGIVENESS does not necessarily solve the initial problem of offense. Additional effort may be required to restore the relationship to a conversational one where the repair can continue...but it cannot begin without forgiveness.