In the light of EASTER weekend I have actually had quite a bit to reflect on. Do you ever think about what it would be like for everyone to be against you? I mean seriously. Imagine that people didn’t believe who you said you were. Imagine they called you a liar. Imagine your closest friends and confidents betrayed you. Imagine being put to trial and being found guilty for false claims. Imagine being beaten and spit at and mocked.
CAN YOU ACTUALLY IMAGINE THAT?
I can’t fully imagine that, but I can only fathom that it would be devastating. But guess what? That is what Jesus endured. It absolutely stuns me to think that in the Garden of Gethsemane, he could have chosen to not go through with it. He says “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”Mark 14:36 The thought of the impending pain and deep betrayal and death was a LOT to process.
He didn’t HAVE to do what he did, BUT he chose to.
He chosen to TAKE ON our sins at the cost of our life. And because of this, because of JESUS, God has made TOTAL forgiveness available to US. We were a messed up people at that time nearly 2,000 years ago…. and flash forward to present day where honestly we are still ALL sorts of messed up in 2018. Right?! I mean think about it. Sometimes I think about how messy we are as a society. We hurt one another on purpose out of spite. We say mean things. We are reactionary. We make false claims. We are afraid to stand up for others. We gossip. We MAKE THINGS UP for our own benefit. We lie out of fear. These kinds of things still happen…. all. the.time.
It completely breaks my heart if I’m being honest. But I am also guilty of some of these things.
I think some of the hardest times in my life when it comes to forgiveness often have to do with very close friendships and romantic relationships. After all, people who you allow past your safe zone are much more susceptible to hurting you more deeply. We can’t NOT let people in for fear of hurt, but we also need to protect our hearts in the process and be attune to red flags along the way.
Much of my life, I have been a bit naive when it comes to trusting people. I have trusted people who maybe showed me that they should not have been trusted. I have given the “benefit of the doubt” sometimes too freely, and far too many times.
Let me give you a brief picture into what this looked like. Years ago I dated this guy that truly hurt me in relationship. I mean DEEPLY. I will save you the long and gory details of what exactly transpired, but trust me when I tell you it was not a “healthy” relationship. Not at all.
I took part in it all too. There was a slew of problems on my end from over identifying with the relationship versus letting God’s love take root in my heart. My heart was clouded and mislead. I acted out in horrible ways at times. I was far from the best version of myself.
When it finally ended, I found myself in shambles desperate for reconciliation. What I realized however, was the person at the time was too unhealthy to even realize what they had really done. He was in denial and refused to truly recognize what they had done all that time.
Over time I obsessed over getting closure. I was determined to seek justice and wanted nothing more than affirmation of my hurt and pain from him. However, as time passed I realized I was holding onto something that this man might never be able to give me.
A friend once challenged me saying, “Kait, what would it feel like to forgive this man even if he never apologizes to you?”. Being challenged like that sent me into a tizzy. I knew it was right, but so much of me didn’t want it to be right. I wanted justice. I wanted justification. In some ways, I wanted him to hurt for the deep pain he caused me.
And yet, as soon as my friend challenged me with that question I knew it was not just her. I knew in my heart it was God challenging me to let go and let HIM handle it. Deep down I knew I had to do what I had been pressing against for so long. I had to forgive.
This idea did not seem to excite me nearly as much as having this ex come to me with a list and read down all of his wrongdoings whilst ending with tears in his eyes and a plea for forgiveness. But the reality was that exact fantasy might never come to pass. I wold have to forgive him even if he didn’t ask for it. Forgiving him meant freedom FROM him FOR me.
I love how C.S. Lewis says, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because GOD has forgiven the inexcusable in you. If God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than him.” This is what I needed to do. I needed to forgive the inexcusable in my hurtful, abusive ex, because God had forgiven the inexcusable in ME… time and time again [and he STILL DOES to this very day!].
In choosing to forgive my ex without a true apology, something crazy started to happen! God started softening my heart in ways towards my ex. He started to show me that most likely, if he had been so hurtful to me, there was a huge likelihood that he himself was hurting and broken on the inside. It made me think just how awful the things he was internalizing truly were. It made me sad. In many ways my heart started to break for him.
Though it did not excuse his actions, it did humanize them. We all make mistakes. We are all hurting in ways and sometimes the hurt projects onto others in ways we never intended or imagined. At the end of the day, hurt people, truly do hurt people. My ex was no exception.
While I made the decision to forgive my ex, this did not mean that an immediate switch went off and I was absolved of all resentment and hurt. Not at all. This process took years of CHOOSING forgiveness over and over. I had never been so deeply hurt romantically so to forgive him took years, and a ton of endurance. It was truly a conscious, steadfast pursuit of forgiveness and mercy. I had to form new neural pathways to train my mind towards thoughts of mercy and grace over resentment, bitterness, and anger.
It. was. not. easy. BUT, the distinct pull to pursue radical forgiveness like Jesus’s radical forgiveness for us was one that I simply could not ignore.
So you see, my dearest friends, in the wake of the glorious Easter Holiday this last weekend, I want to challenge you with considering the weight of how much Jesus has forgiven YOU for your wrongdoings. Meditate on how much grace you have received throughout your life. I am just going to go out on a limb here and say that I bet that you have received a lot of passes [at least if you are a normal human like the rest of us].
And now… imagine what life would be like if you aimed to shower that same amount of GRACE and forgiveness onto others? Some of you might be squirming reading that. You might be quite comfortable where you are in your seat of bitterness and resentment just going through the motions. It may have been eons since those hurts and you can barely even remember them anymore. But Jesus isn’t okay with it. He’s not okay with pent up pain for the past because he DIED for it which means we might be missing the entire point.
We are blessed by Him to be a blessing. We are forgiven by Him so we can forgive others.
I love how the incredible Brene Brown puts it. She says so clearly:
“Forgiveness is so difficult because it involves death and grief. I had been looking for patterns in people extending generosity and love, but not in people feeling grief. At that moment it struck me: Given the dark fears we feel when we experience loss, nothing is more generous and loving than the willingness to embrace grief in order to forgive. To be forgiven is to be loved.”
Indeed forgiveness means that we are giving up something and instead embracing a LOVE given to us so we can shower it to others. Embracing a LOVE knowing we are inherently LOVED more immensely than this person or situation could ever show us love. Brene also says, “forgiveness is not forgetting or walking away from accountability or condoning a hurtful act; it’s the process of taking back and healing our lives so we can truly live.”
So in the wake of our glorious Easter Holiday I want to ask you this:
Who in your life do you need to forgive?
How do you want your legacy on this Earth to look like?
What kind of path are you on right now?
What kind of example do you want to be to others?
How can you bless others with the blessings you have been given?