This is a spiritual discipline.
Since my kids were old enough to talk, I taught them how to say, “I’m sorry.”
Just as importantly, the one who was hurt needed to reply, “I forgive you.”
There have been many occasions that the 2nd child just couldn’t force themselves to say those words.
They needed time to process their hurt and pain.
They needed time to be able to extend forgiveness from their heart,
and not just simply say those words in obedience to my instruction.
As a victim of abuse, I struggle with forgiveness more than I care to admit.
Forgiveness is difficult for me to extend.
I need time to process my hurt and pain.
I need time to think through what has happened to me and ask God to help me forgive.
Sometimes I simply do not want to forgive.
I want revenge.
I’m fully in touch with what Scripture has to say about forgiveness.
Colossians 3:13 – bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.
Luke 17:3 – If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.
AND YET … Scripture also says … in Exodus 34:6-8
The Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.
And again in Nahum 1:3
The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
In God, forgiveness abounds.
Yet, He also punishes the wicked and the guilty.
He is a God of mercy and grace.
Yet, He is also a God of wrath and judgment.
After nearly 10 years of abuse from my grandfather, I was incapable of forgiveness.
Or so I thought.
I was 20 years old, and it was 5 years after the abuse had stopped, when I was living in Israel.
I had gone over there with a mission group for 5 months.
It was 1991.
If you are old enough to remember, back then, there were no cell phones, and no email.
My parents called me a couple times a month, but we relied on snail mail.
One day, the phone rang.
It was my grandfather.
He was living in Texas, and dying of cancer from having smoked so many cigarettes over the years.
To this day, I have no idea how he got my phone number in Israel.
But he called to apologize.
“I’m sorry for what I did to you,” he said through his tears.
Then, a year later, he died.
What was I supposed to do with that?
After 10 years of abuse.
“I’m sorry,” just didn’t seem to cut it.
Forgiveness wasn’t going to come easily.
He was never punished for his crime.
He never went to jail for what he did.
But that apology started me on a VERY long journey of healing.
It’s a journey that I am obviously still on — and will be for the rest of my life.
I wish I could say that I’ve come farther than I have, after all this time, after all the healing I have experienced.
It’s been 23 years since that apology, and yet, I am still not quick to forgive.
I regularly ask God to give me a greater willingness to dismiss an offense.
But instead, because of what happened to me, I am bent on justice.
I want to see the guilty punished.
I don’t want God to clear the guilty.
It’s a fine line to desire that the guilty be punished
— and extend forgiveness when one is repentant.
An unbeliever that is walking in sin, with no intention of repentance is one thing.
But a believer, who is in touch with their sin, and repentant, though they may still fall, is a different story.
Most recently, I’ve been hurt by someone close to me.
This person is a believer, and is fully in touch with their struggle with sin.
Betrayal and deceit have kept that sin from me.
But now, it’s out in the light and I know all the details.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time this has happened.
I just figured it was no longer an issue.
I’m struggling to forgive.
I hate how I feel.
I feel ambiguous.
I hate the deceit and the sin.
But I love the person.
I want to forgive, but I want them to sit in their sin for awhile.
I want to see them change. Now. Forever.
I want to see them find freedom.
May God help me obey His words to the Israelites in Leviticus 19:18
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Or what Peter said in 1 Peter 3:9
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
And so, with that challenge before me, I am going to set it aside for now … and go sit by the pool with my dear, sweet family. Then, we are going to watch the sunset over Sedona.
From the rising of the sun to its setting,
the name of the Lord is to be praised!