Forgiveness. Seems to be a word we bandy about a lot in the church. Forgiveness. Just like Jesus did. Ok. Got it. In practice though? Sometimes climbing Everest with one leg and no oxygen would be easier. And less painful.
It can be something I really struggle with – and believe me, I speak as one who’s been forgiven an awful lot. But when I’m hurt or in pain, it’s all too easy to cuddle it to me like some kind of toxic hot water bottle. My rage might keep me warm at night, but it certainly doesn’t help me sleep.
A little while ago, I blogged about my friend Mina. Mina was killed along with her one year old daughter in a raid on Gaza. I heard from her husband today. He writes this –
“Lizzi, I don’t hate the Israeli’s. I love them. I love all of them – those that understand and those that don’t. Those who work with us for peace and even those who pressed the button that dropped that bomb.
You ask me how this is true. Believe me that I don’t say this with a light heart. The thing is that this love and forgiveness has to be – not even a daily choice, but often, hour by hour. It is a choice to understand them as broken sinners, just as I am – broken and forgiven by our Lord. Sometimes I wake up and I simply don’t want to forgive. I am angry and I am heartbroken. My beautiful wife no longer sleeps next to me in my bed, her body curled into mine, her hair splling across the pillow. My daughter no longer squeals with delight when I pick her up from her cot in the morning. This is a terrible wrong, and surely the whole world should cry out against it.
But if I remian unforgiving, if I harbour hate, what do I acheive? I certainly cannot bring my family back. With my hatred, I gain no time – not one further second of time with my precious family. But with my love, I gain those who were once enemies as family. I see them as fellow children of the same father, and see that they too are hurting and broken. with my hatred, I lose my life, or at least that which is meaningful in it. With my love – I gain the whole world as family”.
I’m guessing I’m not the only one with two reactions to that – admiration and “I wish I could be the same”. For me, anyway, some of the things which hurt me and haunt me still, many years later, seem like insurmountable hurdles. I want to forgive, but I feel like if I do, that will somehow make it “all ok”. Or even,I don’t want toforgive, because the hurt was too big and too raw and that person doesn’t deserve forgiveness, damn it!
I don’t think God sees it likethat. He calls us to forgive – again and again and again and again and again (ad infinitum) as our Sunday School helpfully told us on Sunday (there were a lot of agains – painful!) But He knows we’re human, and that sometimes, the choice to forgive is one that has to be made daily, hourly, minutely (that’s not a word!) even. I do think though, that amazing things happen from our broken, stumbling attempts to forgive.
I love the perspective of my friend though. I think he’s probably right – hatred acheives nothing. It can’t undo what’s happened and it can’t do anything except poison the future. I pray though for the grace to see the opposite side of the coin – that forgiveness means accepting the whole world as family. I’m not there yet, and I may never be. I’ve said before that my theology reminds me of my toddler- a stumbling, often incoherent wailing at God. But somehow He’s in that, and He untangles the mess and makes it beautiful.