The topic of forgiveness has been on my mind recently. I have known many people who have let the decay of unforgiveness consume their lives. Strangely I have been able to offer forgiveness at times when apologies were never made. It was a part of surrendering a past hurt to the Lord and asking Him to redeem it. Often times the people involved are unaware of their offense toward me. And isn't that just it? Forgiveness is a matter of the heart. Another person really can't do or say the right amount of things to make a relationship right again. It is only by God's strength and grace that we can even offer such a gift to someone who maybe doesn't even really understand the pain they caused. 70x7. That is how many times Jesus said that we should forgive our neighbor. Yes that is a calcuable number of 490 times but the point is there should be no end to how many times we forgive. If you are keeping a tally of how many times you have forgiven someone than your heart probably isn't in it. I don't know about you but I am thankful for a Lord that didn't stop forgiving me at some calcuable number because you can be sure I have exceeded 490 offenses toward Him.
In one of my marriage studies last week, there was an exercise where you had to write out every sin your husband had committed against you. Every way he has failured or disappointed you. I sensed that God wanted me to take some time to put everything out on the table and not rush through the assignment leaving some hurt unturned. I searched my mind and heart but I took too long in the process. A couple days into the work and Satan had set himself up a nice little camp on the foothold I had prepared for him. As I thought upon all the ways My Love had offended me I started to get more bitter toward him. Fights we restirred between us that he had no part of. Of course that blew up into a major ordeal. But God brought something so beautiful out of it. He put his finger on an issue that was buried so deep that I didn't even know was the cause of some festering resentment.
Shortly after that reconciliation I completed the study homework in which I told God I forgave My Love for each offense and that I wouldn't hold it against him any longer (per the assignment instructions). Saying each thing on my list out loud so my heart and mind could acknowledge the act of forgiveness. It did take some time of discernment to figure out what things about my husband were actual faults and which were "just the way he is". One's heart sure is revealed in such an exercise. In the days to follow I found situations popping up that brought to light the things I said I had forgiven. God immediately spoke in my mind and didn't let me wander into bitterness. There was a real spiritual warfare going on and the voice of truth was louder. "No! You forgave that, remember? Don't go there." I allowed him to take the thought captive. With each reminder I could feel the resentments washing away. After each item on the paper was listed and verbally forgiven, the sheet was destroyed and was never shown to My Love. Most issues of the heart are between me and the Lord anyway. The Holy Spirit is more than capable of showing him the ways that he falls short. And in fact, when I spend too much energy pointing out his sins to him I may be getting in the way of him hearing from the Spirit. What a hot mess I have created!
A week later in Bible study again, the speaker gave us two pieces of paper. One was labeled HUSBAND. The other was labeled ME. She asked us to repeat the exercise. Mind you My Love was aware of the assignment but did not know anything I had written down. And nothing had really changed from his part. The difference was my heart toward him. I sat there and had a hard time thinking of offenses he had committed against me. It was like God was blocking my memory and not allowing me to slip back into bitterness. I was free even though our circumstances hadn't really changed. Next she had us write down all the ways we had sinned against God lately. Oh boy did the thoughts come like an ocean wave crashing over me. Seeing my offenses against God in writing next to a blank sheet of paper of the wrongs My Love had committed against me was powerful. Suddenly I became overwhelmed by how much God loves me and how much more I am in need of His forgiveness than My Love is of mine. We stapled the two sheets together. The speaker said "If you want God to forgive you of your list, than you have to forgive what is on your husband's list!" Gulp. After some time with the Lord, we walked out front and threw our lists into a lit fire pit. We watched God take all our sins away. Powerful.
Fast forward to the next day (yesterday). I totally blew up at a close friend over the phone. In the midst of some raw emotion and hurt I felt she had caused me, I allowed my anger to spew in her direction. It didn't take long before God showed me that I needed to seek His forgiveness and HERS. Yet again he put his finger on a deeper issue that I allowed to fester. An eruption was inevitable. I feel ashamed and embarressed and broken. It continues to amaze me how God brings more and more dark corners of my heart to the surface so he can scrape off the dross and keep working at transforming my heart and mind toward the imagine of Christ. "Surrender more!" I hear Him say. "You think you have it all together? That you have forgiven much? We'll see. There is more work to be done." He has poked at several close relationships this year that he wanted to do a healing in and really it boils down to forgiveness. In many of those situations I thought the other person's wrongs against me were enough to fill up a whole sheet of paper when in fact God showed me that I was really in need of forgiveness FROM THEM. Oh how the pride gets wounded! But with humility comes forgiveness and reconciliation with God...even if the circumstances from the other person's side never changes.
Pray about it. Is there anyone in your life that you need to forgive? Is there someone who you need to seek forgiveness from? In either case take it the Lord and watch as he burns up the heavy burden you are carrying around. There is freedom found in forgiveness.