“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy seven times.” (Matthew 18: 21-22, ESV)
There comes a time when every Bible studying, praying, and confessing Christian learns a truth about herself. Sometimes that truth has been lounging about in the recesses of consciousness for a while, waiting ever so patiently for her to deal with it for real. Other times, the truth hits like a ton of bricks to the forehead, dazing her for a few weeks while she recovers from the blow. For me, my latest “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139: 23-24, KJV) moment came when I learned that I lack a forgiving spirit.
“I forgive all the time!” I tried to argue to no one in particular. “I have been hurt. I have been used. I have been lied to, and I have been trifled with over and over again,” I protested, trying to justify my feelings. “And I am just supposed to take it and act like I don’t see what’s happening. I am supposed to walk around like I’m ok. It’s not fair. I don’t do people like this!” I sulked. I sank into a depressive state on my couch, hiding, ironically, under my prayer blanket and pouted.
My husband came into the living room and sat across from me in his I-know-you-don’t-want-to-hear-this-but-nobody-else-is-going-to-tell-you-the-truth-because-a-lot-of-the-time-you-are-right-but-this-time-you’re-not sort of way. With his body leaned forward, elbows planted firmly in his thighs, and his hands clasped tightly at his chest, he fixed his eyes so intently on me that I had to look away because I knew, I just knew that what he was going to say next was totally right and totally not what I wanted to him to say. “You need to let this go, Babe.”
I wanted to scream a loud, banshee-like wail of a cry, but moms can’t do that, so I flopped down hard to one side in defeat. “I know,” I murmured. Milking the moment of his rightness, like only a husband can, he gave added explanation where none was needed and in 50’s tv-dad fashion patted me lovingly on my blanketed feet as he got up to head back to the bedroom, leaving me to process what he had said.
“Why haven’t I let this go?” I wondered as I rose to grab my prayer journal.
“Because you haven’t been honest with me yet,” the Spirit whispered to my heart.
I decided to give this over to God. Instead of praying in traditional vagueness, I laid out every hurt and deceit. I expressed my anger and frustration. I told God about my disappointments and my heartaches. Then something happened. I realized that everything I was telling Him about someone else, He had experienced with me. I had hurt Him and tried to deceive Him. Surely my actions angered and frustrated and disappointed Him. Every time I strayed away from what He expected and wanted from me, I had broken His heart.
“You deal with people after they’ve hurt you, but you do so in such a way that you make sure they know they’ve hurt you. You punish them in your silent treatment, distancing of yourself, and in your awkwardness around them. I don’t do you like that,” God said.
I felt ashamed of myself, for there was no way I could process the magnitude of God’s grace in my life and not feel poorly about refusing to extend grace to others. I fell to my knees to thank God for revelation. I thanked Him for showing me my sin. I thanked Him for a husband who was willing to tell me the truth. Then, once again, I asked God to forgive me.
Friend, on the eve of this Thanksgiving holiday, I am thankful for another opportunity to honor God through my living, forgiving those who’ve hurt me, not because it will show how good I am, but because it will show how good God is. I’m thankful for His forgiveness. Let’s remember our charge as Christians and emulate Christ that it may edify others.
“Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18: 32-35, ESV)