You know their name. You can see their face. The pain, humiliation and disgrace rush back into your memory. You have heard over and over you need to forgive them. On one level you want to, but you can’t. You are just not there yet.
This is a place I were I have much experience. When it was time to forgive the icky neighbor, I didn’t want to do it. I was still angry and hurt. I was stuck in this place where I wasn’t ready to let go, but I also didn’t want to continue to feel angry and hurt. I wanted to change, but I didn’t want to change. There was a part of me that wanted someone else to come along and just fix it for me. I was tempted to start antidepressants, but I knew that wouldn’t fix the problem. It was simply a band-aid. Medication has its place. For me, I knew in my heart that medication wouldn’t get rid of the problem. I wanted it to go away.
The forgiveness journey is just that a journey. It starts in this very awkward, uncomfortable place where we begin to wrestle with our feelings of hurt and humiliation and entertain the idea that it could be different. In The Book of Forgiving, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter The Reverend Mpho Tutu write a beautiful prayer (2014). They call it the prayer before the prayer. Here are some pieces.
I want to be willing to forgive But I dare not ask for the will to forgive In case you give it to me, and I am not yet ready I am not yet ready for my heart to soften I am not yet ready to be vulnerable again Not yet ready to see that there is humanity in my tormentor’s eyes….
The last line shared here resonates within me how difficult the forgiveness journey really is. However, there is beauty and freedom in choosing to start the journey. The late Zig Ziglar said, “Fear has two meanings: forget everything and run, or face everything and rise.” It is fear that holds us back. It is fear that leaves our feet stuck in cement as the heart longs for change.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9).
We have a way to walk this journey. There is a Savior who is bigger than our fear. When I pour my thoughts, prayers, longings on God, I am given strength, courage, and direction to forge ahead. Forgiving the icky neighbor was long and difficult. It was also one of the best things I have done. God gave me the strength and courage to see the humanity in him. In doing that, my love and compassion for myself and others has multiplied.
The forgiveness journey may take unknown twists and turns and force your heart to break open, and all I can say is that it is sooo worth it. Will you join me?
How has forgiveness touched your life? Share here and encourage one another.