What does your refusal to forgive look like? Does it look like 2:19a.m and a spoon rapidly diving into an ice cream container, hoping nobody wakes? Does it look like a needle delivering the killer and the cure? How about the contents of a prescription bottle being washed down by the contents of a bottle with a faux-etched goose? Perhaps it looks like waking up to yet another stranger after a night of can’t remember? Maybe your refusal to forgive masquerades as something else: 60 hours a week at the job, the furious scrubbing of a house that absolutely must look perfect, the insomnia that plagues for years, or the never-ending quest to maintain perfect hair, nails, teeth, and tan.
My own ugly refusal to forgive has taken a few forms; vicodin and vodka, painful relationships destined for demise, rage, physical ailments, and a strained-to-the-point-of-nearly-ending marriage. Like I said, ugly. Now, you would think that this was all before I came to Christ, right? Wrong. It is amazing to me how ridiculously bull-headed I have been. Why insist on doing things the hard way? Why insist on causing more strife? Why insist on holding a grudge? I know all of the verses that speak against it, so what’s wrong with me?
An unyielding heart.
See, we can sing “I Surrender All” until our lips are blue, but when that statement isn’t genuinely coming from the heart; it boils down to lip service. It is useless, unfruitful, and worst of all, untrue. Surrender, yield – words I despised because they showed weakness. I was tough, I was always right, and no one was in control of me except, well, me. What I have come to discover is that the more I tried to control everything in my life, the more chaotic things became. The more chaotic it became, the more I tried to control everything. Such a vicious cycle.
Such is the life of a Christian who has not fully received forgiveness from God. How embarrassing. I made the confession of faith that I had been forgiven more than a decade ago. Lip. Service. Well, not totally. I had just enough faith to believe that I was forgiven enough to not end up in Hell. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand the magnitude of my own sin and how tremendous is the gift of forgiveness in Christ.
This is where we get tripped up. We think that we have to earn our forgiveness and therefore, others in our lives, including ourselves, need to earn our forgiveness. Start with receiving forgiveness through Christ. Don’t move on until you know that you know that you are forgiven. Pray – and be blunt! Tell Him that you need a real understanding of the preciousness of His forgiveness. Don’t ease up. Keep at it until you get it, because until you do, everything else that you strive for in this walk with Christ is worthless.
Once you understand how much he loves you and how much you have been forgiven, you can forgive yourself. Once you start the ball rolling, it doesn’t end unless you choose to harden your heart against forgiving others. When you examine your own shortcomings and the fact that you have been forgiven for how wretched you have been to God, you understand that you have absolutely no right whatsoever to withhold forgiveness from others, regardless of their offense.
I know this is a tough pill to swallow, especially when you have been hurt severely. But Christ made no exceptions.
Abide in His Grace,