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"Many times they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me" (Ps 129:2).
If the word forgive causes your blood pressure to rise, relax. This isn’t another spiel about why you must forgive; a statement I do not make with ingratitude for the theologians who teach this Christian imperative. I appreciate them all and humbly acknowledge their sincere efforts to enlighten the likes of me. Me—a redeemed poster child for hopelessness.
For the record, I understand why I must forgive. Most often I want to forgive. (Occasionally I wrestle with unwillingness.) But that’s not why I write to you. I write to you because of all the times I’ve proclaimed forgiveness, mentally assented my feelings would catch up later, and then watched the months fly off the calendar while I was left with enough bitterness to choke an elephant.
Honestly, if you'd just made the unfortunate discovery that your husband was unfaithful, which actual book title would intrigue you? (A) Let It Go: Forgive So You Can Be Forgiven, or (B) So the Bastard Broke Your Heart, Now What? As you can imagine, these titles do not share the same section at Barnes and Noble. But I must confess. I found the secular title validating and mildly entertaining. (Call me human.)
I'm a practical girl. I'm all about offering practical steps that will guide you to "the heart of the matter". Then I leave you alone with Jesus, because only Christ Himself can heal a heart too broken to forgive and set free the captives of bitterness and despair.
But what is the heart of the matter? I’ve long suspected it has something to do with the piece of oneself that scatters to the wind when the heart splits open wide. But it was a scene in the 2010 movie Alice in Wonderland that convinced me.
Several years had passed since Alice’s last visit to Wonderland, and she struggled to remember who she was in the context of an environment she once loved. Try as she might, she couldn’t reconnect. Finally, exhausted, she inquired of the Mad Hatter, “What was I like back then?”
And he replied, “You were much more . . . muchier. You’ve lost your muchness.”
A brilliant description of why we despair. We long for a glimpse of ourselves before we tumbled down the rabbit hole of perpetual pain. The causes vary: Before the [abuse, betrayal, rejection, abandonment, addiction, disillusionment of church] we were much more ___________.
Regardless of what you’ve been through, you can get back to the woman God created you to be, or perhaps embrace her for the very first time. I don’t say this casually—I’m no stranger to the causes of despair. I’ve learned that most people cannot recite a one-size-fits-all forgiveness prayer and move forward as if they had never been wounded. There’s a time and place to mourn and even express our anger before God.
A long-time friend of mine recently lost her battle with cancer, leaving behind a loving husband and two precious little girls. I knew in my fragile heart that she was now face-to-face with Jesus (in a better place), but it would’ve been ill-timed for anyone to dole out that truth to me as I slumped in a puddle of tears. Likewise, we must be sensitive to the role timing plays in urging the brokenhearted to forgive. Attempting to forgive with an insincere heart forfeits the wonder of authentic grace.
Jesus commands us to forgive from our hearts (Matthew 18:35). The ability to forgive from the heart is the fruit of time spent healing in the care of Christ, our Healer.
If you’ve been deeply wounded and struggle to forgive, I’ve walked a million miles in your shoes. I do not ask you to forgive today. Instead, I invite you to journey alongside me and discover a deeper facet of God's unfailing love in the miracle of forgiveness.
Coming Friday, 1/17/2014: Wounded or Offended
- Discover the difference between a wound and an offense.
- Answer the question: Am I wounded or offended?
- Understand the role healing plays in forgiveness.
- Concede to yourself: Only Christ can restore my “muchness.”
Meanwhile, I encourage you to read over today's post a few times, and then journal your thoughts.
You're not alone,
Published on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 @ 1:13 PM CDT