I think I need to talk a long walk down forgiveness lane.
Two things happened to bring up the bitterness churning below, out of sight, mostly out of mind.
I attended a retreat and met a parishioner from my former church, the one that let my husband go. We got to talking about the past, and the pain started to rise. It didn’t help that the retreat focused on those whiny Psalms (Those Whiny Psalms) and got me thinking again about my “enemies.”
Then we attended a funeral at the same church. We cared for the guy who died and his wife, so we showed up for them. But it wasn’t easy to go back to this place of pain.
The guy principally responsible (in our minds) for my husband losing his job four years ago came up and shook my husband’s hand (oh, how godly we all acted…). I asked my husband after how he felt. “Like punching him in the nose,” he replied.
As for me, when the many former parishioners I ran into asked how we were doing, I refrained from saying what I felt inside: “Crappy (actually, I had another word in mind), thanks to you. My husband has been out of work four years. Do you even care??”
That night I cried myself to sleep wishing that just one person who’d hurt my husband or myself in the last 12 years of church life would apologize.
No bitterness here…
Next day I attended our small group where we listened to a sermon on Hebrews 9 and 10 which focused on the sacrifice to end all sacrifices (the animal ones that ultimately accomplished nothing): the sacrifice of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ.
The pastor said he is often asked why Jesus’ blood had to be shed to effect our forgiveness (a doctrine sadly under attack these days even within the evangelical church).
Why couldn’t God just have wiped the slate clean, removed our debt?
I realized then that I had yet to endure the hurt of forgiveness. I still wanted to inflict hurt. I still wanted payback.
I’ll have forgiven when I no longer desire others to pay the debt they owe, when I no longer need even an apology.
One time I went to a church that told us to write on a piece of paper the names of all the folks we still hadn’t forgiven. Then we were to rip up the paper in a single act of forgiveness.
Forgive me, but that is utter bull-crap.
No one forgives like that. Can’t be done.
Forgiveness is a long road.
They say my husband and I left the church with grace. We tried hard not to slam the church to others and to keep our hurt to ourselves and close friends. We chose not to exact vengeance… outwardly.
Every time I choose to say kind things about that church, I am walking down forgiveness lane. But I am not there yet. It’s a long road.
Every time I hold my tongue or try to think of others as better than myself, I am walking down forgiveness lane. But it’s a long road.
If we didn’t TRY to act like we forgive, the road might be longer still.
Frankly, I don’t know when I’ll reach the end, where I’ve absorbed enough of the pain to free the other people – even the church itself - of an obligation to me.
The church was once my haven, but for the last 12 years, it’s pretty much been hell. And I just about hate it for that.
I need to forgive.
How do I get to the end of forgiveness lane other than continuing my attempt to obey, to say the right things, to try and think the right things?
Honestly, I think there’s one huge thing I need.
I think I need to better undertsand how I have been forgiven.
I have to somehow draw on the power of the blood shed for me, almost swim in it, until I am so boyed, feel so loved, that I can do no less than to let go, finally endure the pain, and complete that walk down forgiveness lane.
I think I need to repent of my unforgiveness.
Oh, Lord: Thanks for opening my heart’s eyes to the foaming cauldron of hatred, bitterness, and unforgiveness down in my soul. Thanks for showing my husband the same about himself. I get to this point where I think: what next? What do I do now? How do I move farther toward complete forgiveness? And I know that all I can do is ask You to do the next thing. So, do it. Even though it’s scary. Amen.