I've written on the topic more than once. Probably because it's been such a huge theme in my life over the last several years. Such a large theme that it was an important theme in both Salvaged and Rise.
I've come to know that unforgiveness is a lot like quick sand. It causes you to be stuck where you are - spiritually speaking. While you may wrestle around and try to make progress on your journey with the Lord - you're only going to get so far. At some point that issue is going to come right back up and you're either going to deal with it - conquer it and move on or you're going to ignore it and fall right back to where you were.
The very fact that forgiveness was one of the last topics that Jesus mentioned (remember "Forgive them, they know not what they do"?) must mean something. Must speak to its importance. It's almost as if Jesus couldn't fully enter God's presence if he hadn't forgiven those who persecuted him.
Maybe we can't either. We can't get as close to him as we need to be - if we can't let go of those who have hurt us in the past.
I'm scared of people. I never was before a few years ago, but I certainly am now. I don't let myself get too close to anyone. I put up a wall. I've realized it over time but it really smacked me in the face one night a little while back. I went to a Bible Study with my family - walked right over to my seat and didn't look up until the speaker started speaking. I wasn't trying to be rude, but I was literally afraid of the people in the room. Afraid that I would get to know them. Afraid that I would form friendships. Afraid that those friendships would eventually bring pain. And do you know why? Because of unforgiveness. I hadn't forgiven those in my past who had caused me to be afraid of anyone new.
Holding on to hurts from old relationships keeps me from forming new ones. And holding on to hurts and harboring unforgiveness keeps us from truly reaching out to the Lord. It creates a barrier.
A barrier I want removed.
Luckily, I've learned that it is possible to forgive and forgive completely and I'm pretty sure the act of forgiveness is a miracle. It's a miracle of God. Why do I believe this? I've experienced it. Never thought I would - not to the extent that I have, but it happened and it was nothing less than a miracle.
My forgiveness of some people was so overnight and so opposite of how I felt about them, that it had to be a miracle. It had to be from God. I'd prayed that I would find a way to forgive them, but I never really "felt it" - if you know what I mean. I still harbored resentments. I still thought of things that had been said or done ... I was still struggling. I wanted to forgive and I had moments where I truly thought I'd forgiven, but something would happen and I'd strap that unforgiveness right back on.
Then, one day like a light switch had been flipped - I found it. Complete and utter forgiveness. How did I spot it? How did I know that it had arrived? I hurt when they hurt. I cried for them. I prayed for them - and I mean really prayed for God to deliver them from pain. My heart literally ached for them and wanted nothing more than for them to be healed. Instead of wanting God to avenge the hurt they'd caused me - I wanted them to be spared. I wanted God to intervene and take away their pain and suffering. I wanted restoration. I wanted joy - for them.
Given all that I felt I'd been put through by these people - trust me, that's the last thing I thought I'd ever do. If you would've told me that one day I'd pray on their behalf not out of duty but because I wanted to - I would've told you that you'd lost your mind. If you would've told me that I would want complete restoration in their life - I would've laughed in your face. If you would've told me that my relationship with these people would be restored - I would've immediately said "no way. It will never happen. I don't want that to happen."
But guess what? It has. And it's nothing less than a miracle of God. Proof that he exists. Proof that he's at work in our lives. Proof that he will intervene and bring about restoration whenever and wherever possible.
It's a choice, forgiveness. He's not going to make us do it. It's a gift we can either accept or not. We must pursue it - ask for it. Give it time. Fight for it. Wrestle with it. Ponder what it truly means... what it looks like ... how it feels.
We must deal with whatever it is that keeps us from choosing to forgive. It's hard work - but it happens. God will bring it about in your life and in the lives of those around you.
We so want it from the Lord. We want immediate forgiveness when we screw up. And we get it. No questions asked. No finger wagging in our face. No judgment. No ridicule. No scarlet letter or cone of shame. We just get it.
If only we could give it just as easily.
Pray for the miracle of forgiveness. Then, when God grants it, accept the miracle. Break the chain of unforgiveness and move forward in all that God has called you to do. He wants to use you for a greater good, and he isn't waiting for your perfection, he's waiting for your willingness. And a willingness to forgive is one of the most important areas of surrender.
We must deal with whatever it is that keeps us from choosing to forgive.
Holding on to hurts from old relationships keeps me from forming new ones.