The words came quietly, on catlike feet. “You need to forgive an individual.”
My world tilted immediately. I felt like the duck, head underwater, little webbed feet quickly fluttering attempting to maintain some sort of balance. Granted, the duck chose to put its head underwater in search of food. I felt like I was drowning. My equilibrium was lost as the water closed over my head. I had not seen those words coming. Panic surfaced in my heart. The angst and frustration from past encounters was instantly in the forefront of my mind.
My response back to God, “I already did.”
I amended my answer. God’s spotlight glared brightly, revealing truth. Harbouring seeds of an unforgiving spirit, I had allowed roots to develop, to burrow down into my soul and grow into rather substantial plants. I had buried my head in a sea of hurt and held onto that pain with intention and purpose. It would shield me from future pain, or so I thought.
I discovered that I like to be the recipient of forgiveness. I want to be in right relationships with others. I do not like frustration, tension, a lack of unity. When I have wronged someone, I want to be forgiven and quickly.
But I am a rather stingy forgiveness giver. I had prayed to forgive. I had prayed to be released from that hurt. But I had always prayed tentatively as if the process was occurring at that moment or might someday happen in the future. “Father, help me to forgive. Give me grace to forgive.” And in each of those phrases I clung with a tight fisted grip to my hurt. Those prayers, offered sincerely, kept me in a state of remembrance. The hurt was right there.
I was challenged to pray with more of a past tense frame of mind. “Father, I have forgiven this individual…” The forgiveness has already happened. It’s already done. It’s already finished. There is nothing more to be done than to let go completely of the pain and ugliness and surrender to the beauty of the cross. My pain, significant though it was in my life, was already paid for. The scars on His hands and feet the evidence that atonement was made in the most expensive of fashions.
And in that moment, “Father, I have forgiven …,” the burden lifted. I had chosen to carry around a weight that was never meant to be on my shoulders. The world tipped right again. Instead of being swamped by the sea, like the duck I had a different perspective – feet paddling calmly, eyes ahead, face above the water. That one change of tense, changed the sentence, changed my heart’s motivation, changed every piece of it. I have been forgiven so much, how could I refuse to forgive another.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14
The head underwater floundering feeling was not worth hanging onto. Instead, the beauty of His forgiveness which is already purchased and paid for, that is a priceless treasure. I can only pray that when the next moment of hurt comes along I will remember this hard learned lesson.