Monday, July 18, 2011

The Mess of Forgiveness

It's been a week since I last posted. It's been a week of highs and lows, a little like an emotional roller coaster.

This week someone I love very much finally arrived at the happiest day of her life, and it was a joy to be there to witness it and be a part. It was the high point of the week, and the thread of it was something to look forward to all week long.

But my body is constantly working against me it seems. My ankle is still sore and weak. I'm sure I haven't helped matters by wearing flip flops and walking bare foot without it being wrapped, but it's summer and well, I'm a tad bit stubborn at times. In addition the pinched nerve in my back that I have been managing (or failing to manage) for the last two months has been relentless, and now I am struggling with pain in the right side of my neck as well and my left knee is sore from walking awkwardly on my bad ankle. Last night I felt a shooting pain through my lower back that felt like something was going to slip or go out, but so far, it's just a twinge here and there. But I am getting really worn down from all the aches and pains.

Pain does that to you, it wears you down. Not just physically, but emotionally too. And for almost as long as I have been nursing the physical pains, I have been nursing some emotional ones as well.

I was told recently, in essence, that I am (1) not teachable, and (2) not reachable. If not "not reachable," then I have certainly been told I am not worth the effort. The people who have spoken that to me, one in actual words, the other in specific actions- or rather inaction, have wounded my heart, and have felt justified in doing so. It's actually a bit of a pattern in that specific area of my life, and it has been a source of great frustration to me. Frustration is like my sore knee, it's not the actual source of the injury, but it is a byproduct that has resulted from it.

This week in the Becoming a Woman of Freedom bible study, we have been learning about forgiveness. The title of the chapter has been "Running with Forgiveness: Laying Aside Bitterness." The running metaphor has not been lost on me since my physical injuries have prevented me from a lot of physical activities these past few weeks, likewise, spiritual injuries can hinder us from "running" our spiritual race.

The theme verse from our Bible study, and week one's memory verse was Hebrews 12:1:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us...


The metaphor of the physical process is simple, whatever slows you down, you throw aside. If a rope wraps itself around you, you unwind or you cut and you move on. If a rock is placed in your arms, you toss it aside, you drop off a backpack, you tie the untied shoelace. Simple.

Spiritually speaking, the reality of laying things aside is not so simple. Those things that entangle us are not seen by the naked eye. Sometimes we think we have snipped off the snare only to find it was longer and more deeply wound than we even realized.

The Lord has been speaking a lot to me about forgiveness this week. It isn't a simple recipe to be followed the same for every offense. So many factors play into it: the offense, the offender, your own emotions, your history; all play a part. Some offenses are easy to overlook, others are not so. Sometimes it's a single offense, sometimes it's a long list of offenses. Sometimes the offender acknowledges the offense, other times they justify it, and sometimes they don't even acknowledge the offense at all.

The problem with an offense is that it becomes such because of the way it makes the offended person feel. Intentions mean nothing when a person walks away wounded. "I didn't mean it that way," or "You took it wrong," means nothing to the person who is nursing the hurt. Usually that exact response adds to the pain.

But God doesn't put conditions on His command to forgive. The truth is, forgiveness, in our case, is for our own good as much as it is for the good of the the one who has offended us. We are called to forgive because we are forgiven. The command is simple, the process is not. But it's difficulty isn't an excuse not to pursue the obedience to it.

I'll be honest, I'm not there, but I'm also struggling with the difference between bitter vs. angry. Sometimes when people hurt us, whether with their action or their inaction, with their words or their lack of words our anger is justified at the offense. And the Bible says, "BE angry... yet do not sin," so the reaction to the offense CAN actually be justified, but we have to guard our hearts from the crossing over from anger to bitterness. And I think the only sure way to do that is to get on to the business, messy as it is, to forgiving as quickly as possible. However, complicated that process may be.

1 comment:

JESSICA RENSHAW said...

Dear Diana, I am a "prophet" (truth-teller)-gifted person, so I tend to be short on mercy and I struggle with forgiveness. Thank you for this post. I need this reminder frequently--and I am sending it to a friend who, I believe, has passed from anger to bitterness. If you think to pray for her, God knows her name.