The concept of forgiveness is one that is confusing to many. Most of us have long ago given up the idea of "forgive and forget." In truth, without even being consciously aware of it, we may "forgive and forget" multiple times during any given day. Small offenses are easy to forgive. We accept that as human beings, others will fail us. We acknowledge small mistakes or offenses, shrug them off, and move on, knowing that we live in a fallen world. But what about those things that are not so easily forgotten, that wound us to our very soul and stay with us forever? How does one know if they have truly forgiven?
It is my experience that there are no lightening bolt moments of forgiveness. We do not wake up one day with a sudden awareness that we have forgiven someone for a particular deed. Forgiveness is not an emotion, it is a decision.. In John 8 Jesus makes a decision to forgive the woman taken in adultery. Likewise, in Mark 2 He decides to forgive the paralytic. Jesus forgiveness was not based on emotion, they were decisions made quickly and with great assurance. Because reality is that there are some things that the human mind cannot forget, for some offenses we must make the decision to forgive over and over again. If we are deeply hurt or betrayed by someone, either by acts of commission or acts of omission, every time we see that person we will be reminded of said betrayal and choose, again, to forgive. In Luke 23, Jesus spoke the greatest words of forgiveness of all time "Father, forgive them for the know not what they are doing." He wasn't likely to forget the torture that he was subjected to but he chose to intercede and forgive them.
Forgiveness, in most cases, is more beneficial to the the forgiver than for the forgiven. Often, those who hurt us are not even aware that they have hurt us. Others are aware of their actions, but do not seek forgiveness. We are not called to forgive only those who ask for our forgiveness but any who offends us. An unforgiving heart is a breeding ground for anger and bitterness.
It is my experience that forgiveness is characterized by abscence. As we make the choice to forgive, we begin to notice that our desire to strike back or retaliate has been removed. We are freed of resentment and hostility. We no longer have the intense longing to understand those things which we cannot comprehend. With forgiveness, the anxious writhing within the soul begins to cease and we find that there is simply nothing left to be said.
We often hear that it is more diffiult to forgive ourselves than to forgive others. There is nowhere in the scripture that we are commanded to forgive ourselves. Christ already did this for us. We do not need to forgive ourselves, we only need to accept that we have been forgiven, that the price for our sins was paid on the cross. Every evening, as I close my eyes and the images of her death play over in my mind, I choose to remember that I am forgiven. Upon seeing a child that reminds me of her and brings renewed regret, I know that I am forgiven . As I work in her garden, pruning flowers instead of wiping dirty little hands as I so long to do, I accept that Christ already forgave me. I hurt.... I ache for her..... I wish that I could have a second chance.... I long to turn back the hands of time......but since I cannot, I accept the shed blood of Jesus.
I have struggled with the question "Is it possible to forgive God?" At surface level, the question seems absurd. God is perfect and without sin, he makes no mistakes. How then can there be a need to forgive him? The answer is that God is in need of nothing, least of all our forgiveness. Forgiving God is not for him but for the health of our own souls. It is not only possible to forgive God, it is pertinent.
CS Lewis once said that "grief is like the sky, it covers everything." In recent weeks, our family has found that this is so very true. It seems that there is no right or wrong way to travel this path of grief. I have created this blog in hopes that some day we will be able to look back on our journey and see written proof that our great God never leaves us. God is good all the time.