I forgive you.
These words came out of my mouth suddenly. Unexpectedly. Unintended. In the midst of crying and pain, I said these three simple words. Simple but powerful words. The churning and clenching in my stomach stopped. The shaking subsided. Calmness overcame me. I said them again. Louder. Clearer. Steadier.
I meant it.
Years ago, I held on to things. Emotions, especially. Anger. Hurt. At times, making myself the victim. I cradled grudges close to my chest. A sort of armor. Proud to bear them. Never understanding the weight I was carrying. I would bring up past transgressions in arguments with my spouse, friends, and family. Consistently reminding them what they did to me. Their behavior has hurt me long ago and still does. I would use my words to cut them down to feel superior. Look at the mistake you made.
Oh silly, silly me.
I would like to blame it on immaturity and selfishness. But really it is because I didn’t understand. I didn’t really know. You see, I am a sinner, no better or cleaner than anyone else. I hurt them just as badly as I was hurt. Because, I held on. I collected each and every one of these infractions. Arsenal to use again. Yet, I have someone who forgives me every single time. He loves me and He forgives me. Completely.
I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. -Isaiah 43:25
The moment I knew my marriage was over, I made a decision. I did not want to live in bitterness and hate. I was not going to. However, I didn’t know how I was going to do this. So I started to pray. Praying led me to a bible study. Which led me to fellow Jesus loving friends. Which lead me to church. Which led me to the Bible. And the Bible opened my heart and eyes to a way of life I never knew about. Love, compassion, forgiveness, strength, sacrifice, mercy, hope, identity, purpose.
Nevertheless, I did not know if I could forgive. How can I forgive someone I loved so much yet hurt and betrayed me so deeply? How can I ever be okay with what happened? I didn’t know if I even want to forgive. Because, I believed that forgiveness was about him. About that other person. About forgiving and forgetting. About forgiveness meaning what happened was okay.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. -Ephesians 4:31-32
When those three words were said, I knew they were true. And I knew God was in my heart speaking to me. The weight I had been carrying (along with so much else) was lifted. Forgiveness is not just about the other person, but myself as well. Forgiveness is about my relationship with God and His son Jesus. Forgiveness is my salvation into eternal life. Forgiveness is my way of moving forward in my faith. Forgiveness is moving forward. Forgiveness is releasing the anger and bitterness. Forgiveness is freeing. Forgiveness is loving in spite of what is.
Forgiveness has so many wonderful benefits and emotions tied to it. I can’t describe the relief I felt or inner strength I felt when I extended it. However, forgiveness is not easy or a one time thing. I pray everyday to continually forgive. Over and over again. Just as God forgives me. It is not an act. It is an attitude.
Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No!” Jesus replied, “seventy times seven!”-Matthew 18:21-22
Forgiveness is not forgive and forget. I will never forget what happened. I am not condoning the behavior or actions. Forgiveness is me putting it all into God’s hands. Relieving me from making the decision of a person’s eternal fate. I was carrying the weight of someone else’s sins and consequences. Mine are heavy enough. I forgave even when they didn’t ask for it. Or even care to have it. Why? Because I don’t want to live in the past. Chained to what happened. I turn to God. And He released me. Freeing ME. He is the only one. He is the One.
Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner. -unknown
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. -Matthew 6:14
Friends, I can honestly tell you I was nothing before God. He has changed me. My heart. My attitude. My actions. For I am loved more than I will ever know by someone who died to know me. Jesus died a horrible, painful death because HE loves me. Even when I sin. Even when I make mistakes. Even when I question Him. Even when I don’t believe. Even when I curse Him.
And because of this love, I can forgive. I forgive for me. I forgive for my sons. I forgive because Christ forgives me.
You can too. Turn to Him. Trust in Him. Love Him. When you start with Him, every time, you will be set free. Over and over again.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. -Psalm 143:8
I have a long way to go. Forgiveness is not immediate. There is that lingering feeling of holding on to the transgressions. Yet, with faithful prayer and guidance from my Lord, I can work to have it on my heart. Then on my mind. Then on my lips.