It took me a really long time to get to forgiveness.
I knew forgiveness was pretty important — Jesus makes that really clear in the Gospels. But I also had gone through enough of the process of learning my heart to know what was really in there. I couldn’t fool myself into believing I’d forgiven when I really hadn’t.
Besides, I knew that wasn’t what Jesus wanted, either. He’s the one who taught me the importance of the heart. He’s the one who helped me learn that our hearts are the key players in relationship with God.
I couldn’t just play lip service to forgiveness. Neither Jesus nor I would be fooled.
So what do you do when you know forgiveness is important but you just aren’t there?
You ask God to help you get there, and you be with the truth of the mess in the meantime.
I’m serious. This is what I did. For years — literally, years — I consciously asked God to help me learn forgiveness. And then I would look at the reality of my heart and know that forgiveness wasn’t in there yet. I was still reeling. Still in shock. Still picking up the pieces of brokeness. Still learning what happened because of all that brokenness.
Still learning what Jesus could do with all that brokenness, too.
I read so many perspectives on forgiveness over the years, and none of them penetrated me.
Forgiveness is a choice, they said. It’s a choice you keep choosing and choosing and choosing each day. Or they said, Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting what happened or saying that it’s okay. It means wilfully choosing not to hold that against someone anymore. Or here’s another one: Unforgiveness is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the other person to die.
These things may be true, but none of those declarations or platitudes meant anything to me. They just didn’t compute. And they annoyed me.
And then getting to a place where I saw new things.
The thing that helped me the most with forgiveness was having been with Jesus through that long season of darkness and scratches at healing. That long season helped me realize Jesus could handle everything that had happened to me. Even more, he could bring me through it — teach me new things, make something new.
I became more identified with Jesus and what he was making of me and my life than with the broken circumstances that had brought me to him in the first place.
That’s when I could finally consider forgiveness.
When I didn’t need to hold the wrongdoings so close to my chest anymore. When Jesus had given me something more.