Yesterday’s powerful service touched so many of us–partly because so many of us have been touched by abuse, most as children. I could feel the love, compassion and solidarity in the sanctuary as Rick shared his heart and his life with us. His example of moving into forgiveness with his father was truly inspiring; where does it leave you as you think about those in your life who have hurt you?
We are deep into Lent now and Easter beckons. It’s time to look at the unforgiveness we hold against those who have deeply hurt, wounded or wronged us. Perhaps it’s abuse from your past or in the past of someone you love. Perhaps it’s a betrayal or even a death. This week, I invite you to face the big, dark, hard edges of that unforgiveness with the shining light of Christ.
If we want to forgive someone who hurt us very badly, how do we begin?
Psalm 118:5 “Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.”
We absolutely most have God’s help in this endeavor. With God, it really is possible to forgive past hurts, even very big ones. Ask for God’s help. Say to God, “I really want to forgive this person, but I can’t. I don’t know how. It hurts too much. Help me. Show me how to forgive.” Listen for the promptings of the Spirit.
Then allow yourself to feel the loss, the grief, the hurt and the anger–not with the person, but by yourself! You can talk to a trusted friend or therapist or spiritual mentor, or you could write and write about it, or walk in the woods and think about it; however you can feel it and release it in a safe place. Pour out your bitterness, resentment and anger to God who will never tire of hearing you! Even if you tire of hearing yourself
Then consider that forgiveness is an act of freeing ourselves from the pain of the past. You don’t forgive to free someone else. Do it for yourself. Unforgiveness keeps the past alive inside of us; we all know that the past is over. Whatever horrible events we endured, even though we may FEEL them still, we are actually in the present moment. Forgiveness frees us to live in the now and move into the life God has for us.
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19
Last, have patience. It can take many years, many practices (and sometimes it doesn’t!), and much reflection. With tenderness and compassion, approach this project as if you were the most beloved child of the Creator of Life–because you are.