The Journey To Forgiveness
When a person begins down the path of forgiveness, he'll soon find that forgiveness is far easier said than done. In fact, he'll oftentimes find it impossible. There is something built into our fallen human nature that rails against wounds done to us hatefully or unjustly. Did a co-worker smear you and grab through deceitful means the promotion that should have been yours? Did your father molest you? Did someone kidnap your child? Did you serve time in prison for a crime you did not commit? Did you discover your spouse's unfaithfulness? Who, in any of these circumstances, could come up with forgiveness? Why would God demand something that he knows is humanly impossible? Well let's start with that point - the fact of it being "humanly impossible." The Humanly Impossible God is not a tyrant, far from it. On the contrary, the God of the Bible is constantly watching and hoping we will do the right thing so that he can BLESS us. He's given us his Word to show us how to proceed, and it's up to us to choose whether we will accept his Word, or not. But having accepted his Word, and knowing from his Word that we must maintain a heart free of unforgiveness, how on earth do we achieve that? The First Step
It has to start with acknowledging our inability to do it. When a believer is troubled over this or any sin, and yes, unforgiveness is sin, and thinks of bringing it to God to confess it, the newer believer will do so with great trepidation of soul. To get to the first step takes an enormous amount of humility and can take years to achieve. Once one does admit his inability to forgive, his innate sinfulness, his rootedness in pride, his self-centeredness, and his corrupt heart, the thought of confessing these awful things to God is wrought with fear and dread. But the response of God comes as a totally unexpected embrace that sweeps over the tortured soul and brings peace. Because, you see, God is very aware of man's inability to keep his laws. And when a person finally breaks down and falls humbly at God's feet admitting his inability, the hand of the Father will reach down and raise that person up with the surprise of love. That's what God really wanted. He wanted the admission of the person's inability. He wanted the broken pride. And in confessing this, the repentant one will find to his great surprise that there is NO condemnation. The rebuke from God does not come. When I first experienced this, the shock of it stayed with me for a long time. I was expecting God to swat me, or at the very least to yell at me, to rebuke me, but he instead drew me close to his heart. He did not, nor will he ever, condone my sin. And he did not, nor will he ever, allow excuses for it. But once admitted on bended knee, the love of God will sweep over the repentant one and bring a peace never before anticipated. Yes, for this sin too, Christ bore the judgment for us, in our place, that we might be set free. That does not suggest cheap grace, for this forgiveness does not come to the scoffer, or the excuser, the self-justifier; it is given to the humble, to the repentant. As it is written, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked..." How then does it work? I will share my experience with you, but it has to be in the light of it being "rhema" to me, that is, God's grace to me personally, which set me free. Each case will be different. The whole point is to go to God with YOUR inability, and wait for him to give you the word which will be personal to you. My experience can't heal you, nor can yours heal me. The walk with God has to be intimately personal, for only he knows the heart, the past, the factors involved, and the particular uniqueness of each one's makeup. The Story God showed me a picture, a story, a way of explaining life to me. God's plan for my life included being born as an infant in a certain place, time, and set of circumstances. God showed me that his plan for my life was very specific, and that it would take many circumstances to bring me to what he wanted me to be. He showed me the fallenness of the world I was born into; that my parents were people born in a fallen human nature, to their own parents who were people born into a fallen human nature, and into a world hopelessly fallen and unjust. He sensed my anxiety as he told me these things, and held me tight, telling me that it's OK, and that he would hold me close all the way through. He shared with me that before I would come to admit my own fallen human nature, I would make many attempts to deal with my flaws on my own. I would seek to justify why I was the way I was. I would blame others, my parents, my teachers, and hurtful things that would take place intermittently. God showed me that all during that time, he would be waiting patiently for me to come to the end of myself. He showed me the day I would be "born again," but that I would come to him with such limited knowledge and such ingrained deception that it would take many years for him to work things out inside me, and that it would take a lot of pain to bring about the character he intended to build within me. He spoke to me softly, telling me that I must view every situation and every player in the stories through the lens of the knowledge that he was delivering me from myself and transforming me into the image of his Son. It's been many years since the day I was "born again." I've experienced the injustices of life, the hurts, the losses, the horror of my own failures. But later in life, the Lord showed me that without the circumstances HE brought me through, the richness and glory of the "gold refined in the fire" would not have been possible. The Response of an Understanding Heart So if every single thing in my life has been planned toward a goal, how could I possibly not forgive those frail human beings who, in their own fallen natures, failed me, or hurt me, or in any way sinned against me? Would I rather go back and eliminate those stories - and continue to be what I was then - unbroken, filled with pride, self-centered, corrupt of heart, rebellious, self-willed? Of course not. No. I am called to have respect for the stories of my life, as given to me by God himself; for it is in our stories that the fallenness of our condition is stripped away and the glory of the light of the Gospel works in us to transform us into what God has in mind for each unique child of his. So rather, I embrace the stories I have lived through. I embrace the poor and fallen human beings who played a role in the "injustices" of my life. They were only the players, the chosen actors in my story. Without them, where would I be today? Can I forgive? Oh yes! And yes! And yes! There's one more very important part of the story. I ask to be forgiven too, for the injustices I have inflicted on others from the fallenness of my own human condition. I just pray that those touched in any negative way by me will be given the perspective I've been given, or their version of it, so that they too can be released from the horribleness and awfulness of bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness. We're all in this together. But for some of us, for those who would receive it, a glorious end has been planned for us. We're given a glimpse of eternity that lights our every step in every story, making all things we experience here part of the way God brings us to everlasting joy.