So Justin and I recently joined a pastorate group through our church. There’s a group of us that meet every Sunday night. It’s a place where we can build community and where we can go to learn more about Christianity. Each week we have a study that we complete on our own and then when we get together we talk about what we’ve learned. This week we learned about grace. We learned that grace is not earned, but rather it is God’s gift to us, to all of us. (Even you.) It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, what you will do. We all have it because God love us so much.
While I’ve struggled before with the understanding and the grasping that God loves me no matter how awful I am, I get it now. I get it now and it’s amazing what it has done for me. I still realize that I am not worthy of God’s love, but He loves me anyways and so, in turn, it makes me want to be better. In a sense, I want to make Him proud.
And so I’ve been striving in doing just that. I have been trying to be better, to do better. And if I were to give myself a progress report, well, I think I’m earning at least an A-.
But then last night as I listened to the Bishop talk about what we had learned over the past week, he said something that I didn’t want to hear. You see, most people have such a hard time with understanding what grace is because we can’t give grace to others.
It’s that attitude we have. I’ll be nice to you if you’re nice to me. I’ll respect you if you respect me. If you are going to be rude to me I’ll be rude to you. And that’s not the attitude God has. I know that I do terrible things (often without even realizing it) and God still loves me just the same. But here’s where it gets tricky, at least for me: forgiveness.
As I sit here and reflect on forgiveness, I realize I have never actually forgiven anyone. Not one person. Never. I have moved on, I have over looked, but I have never forgiven. I may have said I have forgiven someone, but I lied apparently. I have every intention to forgive, but it’s a real struggle for me.
So when the Bishop made mention that Jesus said that if we can’t forgive others, then He can’t forgive us, immediately I thought “Well crap”. Just when I thought I was doing good. Just when I thought I was doing better. Just when I thought that my relationship with God was growing, I am slapped in the face by something so simple.
And it’s true, it is simple. I expect to be forgiven. I am forgiven. I have wronged others and they have forgiven me. God forgives me for everything I’ve done, and will continue to forgive me for everything I will do. So why is it if everyone else can do it for me, then why can’t I do it for anyone else? And especially since it means that if I don’t do it then it won’t be done for me. I don’t know about you guys, but I would rather not spend eternity burning in hell, instead I would like my chance at an eternal life in heaven.
So now what? I still find it hard to truly forgive everyone who has wronged me. And here I am struggling with my control issues, thinking that I know better than God, thinking that I am going to be doing this all on my own. This is what I know: I know that God will help me forgive. I know that He knows how hard it is for me to forgive. I know that He knows it’s hard for me to forgive that boyfriend of mine who hit me. I know that He knows it’s hard for me to forgive the people in my life who constantly disappoint me. I know that He knows it’s hard for me to forgive the people who have spread rumors and lies about me intentionally. I know that He knows it’s hard for me to forgive people who take my children for granted. I know that He knows it’s hard for me to forgive those who have lied to me and still lie to me and think that I don’t know that I’m being lied to. He knows all of this. I know that.
But part of me doesn’t want to forgive them. I only want to forgive them if they can promise not to do it again or if they were really sorry. I only want to forgive them if they know they were wrong. So basically, I want some stipulations when it comes to receiving my forgiveness. I know that this sounds crazy, I do. I know that if I were held to the same standards and stipulations that I am setting for forgiveness then I would fall very, very short. I know that, so then why do I still struggle?
I wish I could say by reading what I’ve just written I realize what I need to do and now I have it in my heart to do it, but I don’t. I still don’t want to forgive just as much as I did before. But I need to trust God. I need to give it all to Him, my anger, my resentment, my hurt, I need to give it all to Him and let Him take it from me. Instead of finding comfort in my own plans to hurt people by never forgiving them, I need to find comfort in Him for making me realize what I’ve been holding onto for all these years. I always say to others that He knows what He is doing and it’s time that I listen to my own words.
And so that’s what I’m going to do. I am not forgiving those who have wronged me because they deserve it. I am forgiving you because that’s what He does for me. I am forgiving you because He means that much to me. I am forgiving you because I love Him and He loves me.
So with that said, I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you.