It was a punch in the gut. Betrayed by someone hidden among a group of peers and mentors. A friend, yet a stranger. Stunned and speechless, I did not want to consider who it might be. Someone thought that? Someone said that? Someone that was encouraging us down a path, now sabotaging and blocking the way. Not knowing who it was, it casts a shadow on the whole group. Was it….? Surely not them…I mean, remember when they said…. What if it was that person? It would hurt so badly to be them…
So now what? How to live with the offense, with the damage it has done to personal feelings, relationship, not to mention our future prospects? What now?
Sigh. I know. Deep down I know. And I don’t really like it, at the moment. But I don’t like the way I feel either. I don’t like the anxious reviewing in my mind, of relationships. Things spoken and unspoken, the lack of trust I feel. The heaviness in my heart and spirit. The ache when I think I know who it is and the guilt for even thinking of that person in the first place.
Earlier this year my sister loaned me a book to read–Total Forgiveness by R.T. Kendall. It was amazing. I worked through forgiving some people–really forgiving them. Now I feel the need to pick up that book again and The Book again and huddle down and work through this again, this forgiveness that I crave for myself, and even want to give, not only for the benefit of the other person, but for myself when I forgive. The freedom that comes from releasing that burden I carry, a burden dropped when my heart says, “I forgive you.”
“Love is a choice. Total forgiveness is a choice. It is not a feeling–at least at first–but rather an act of the will. It is the choice to tear up the record of wrongs we have been keeping. We clearly see and acknowledge the evil that was done to us, but we erase it–or destroy the record –before it becomes lodged in our hearts. This way resentment does not have a chance to grow. When we develop a lifestyle of total forgiveness, we learn to erase the wrong rather than lock it away in our mental computer. When we do this all the time–as a lifestyle–we not only avoid bitterness, but we also eventually experience total forgiveness as a feeling–and it is a good feeling.” R.T. Kendall in Total Forgiveness
But how to do this, when I don’t know who this is I need to forgive? What can I do? When I can forgive this person, I will set myself free. When I can say “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they did to me” and love them and bless them and want God to bless them, we are both blessed. And in this case, because the specific person is unknown, I must forgive them all. While only one caused the pain, I have cast a shadow over the entire group. I must forgive them all as if they had all, each of them, said what was only said by one. To be able to look again with love at all these brothers and sisters in Christ whom I respect and cherish–to look at them as if it never happened to my heart.
To not allow scars of stone to form on this heart of flesh He gave me–a heart given when He forgave me.
To go beyond the natural world of resentment, bitterness and getting even into the supernatural world of forgiveness.
This is what I know I must do.
“Total forgiveness is a chosen privilege. It is a privilege to be godly–to be like God and to pass this forgiveness on to someone else.Why should you want to forgive? Because you prize intimacy and fellowship with the Father more than you desire to see your enemy being punished.” (R.T. Kendall again)
A friend told me of a time when she had something very big to forgive. She was in a worship service and the pastor invited everyone who had something or someone they needed to forgive–something big–that might be difficult to do. Everyone was invited down front, where bowls of water were placed on the edge of the stage, to wash their hands as a sign of forgiveness. She could not begin to tell me how amazing that experience was for her, and how freeing.
I’d never really thought about washing hands as an expression of forgiveness. I always think of Pilate washing his hands, and saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. He is your responsibility” in a negative light–dodging responsibility he should have taken. And yet, his words work here. If I wash my hands in forgiveness, I say “I am innocent of this man’s blood. I will not “shed his blood” in gossip, maliciousness, or getting even. God, it is Your responsibility. I will not take up Your role as judge. I will not try to punish them for what they’ve done. I leave it all in Your hands, to do what You see as best, which may be nothing that I ever see. It may be to bless this person without measure, while I have to live with the consequences of what they have done. Regardless, I leave it in Your capable, omnipotent hands. Because you are God and I am not.”
This morning I woke early, and choosing one person on the list, prayed long for them–for blessings unbounded, release from trouble, increase in joy. I envisioned laying hands on them and blessing them and speaking their name and forgiving them for this thing they may or may not have actually done. It was the most amazing prayer time I’d had in a long time, and ended with a sweet sense of peace in my soul. And the anxiety and fear and sadness and heaviness were gone, not just toward that person, but about the situation and the consequences of the offense. I thought of the scripture, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, for my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” I’d never thought of it in a situation like this, but it’s so true! The burden of unforgiveness, judgement and resentment is a yoke Jesus never asked me to carry. Slipping off the yoke I needlessly picked up released me to wear His yoke that lightens my burden and my heart, and allows Him to lead me along paths of righteousness.