Monday, February 13, 2006
Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
Who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
That we might learn to fear you.
I am counting on the Lord;
Yes, I am counting on him.
Have you ever been just unable to forgive someone? Maybe someone wronged you, hurt you. Maybe you were beaten by them or neglected. Maybe they said something against someone who you deeply care about. Maybe they lied to you.
There was a man in the recovery home where my parents lead bible studies. He’d been in and out of the program, to the streets and back, struggling to get clean. Our family knew him well and had been working with him relatively closely. He had a drug problem but was troubled with something much more toxic, more destructive. He had an un-forgiveness problem. Every time, in my parents bible study, the topic of forgiveness would come up he would get up and leave the room. His father was not a good father. He had been somehow mistreated and failed by his father in his childhood. Of course, the first person that came to mind for him, when the subject of forgiveness came up, was his father. He couldn’t forgive his father. He believed in the depths of his heart that his father didn’t deserve forgiveness.
Can you relate? Is there someone who does not deserve forgiveness? Someone you can’t forgive?
What happens when we see forgiveness as something which is only to be given to those who deserve it is we gage people’s actions. We decide what level of wrong-doing is just too bad, so bad it shouldn’t be forgiven. We become the judge. We dole out forgiveness when we choose to and hold it back when we feel it necessary. But what if we’re holding back something that shouldn’t be held back? What if God held back forgiveness? What if there was something that God just couldn’t forgive you for because you wronged Him too much?
Forgiveness is not about someone else deserving it. It is about you. It’s about how you deal with them. It’s about how you handle being wronged. We have a forgiving God who forgives even before you wrong Him. Are you a forgiving person?
What happens when we hold back forgiveness? Why do we do it? It is a type of internal revenge. In a way we are getting back at them for what they did to us. But who are we hurting? We suffer our own un-forgiveness. Anne Lammot says it like this; “not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” It’s self-destructive. All the pain and anguish we wish upon someone else will only fester inside us. For our friend, the drug addict, it destroyed his life. Since he believed his father didn’t deserve to be forgiven from the depths of his heart that is where the pain and anguish was; in the depths of his heart. His un-forgiveness followed him into the program and back out onto the streets.
Forgive and be free. As God forgives you, as His forgiveness flows down upon you even before you do wrong, forgive others. If you can forgive, from the depths of your heart, then freedom will follow wherever you go. You’ll never be able to kill the rat, so instead, just let it go.
 Anne Lammot, Traveling Mercies (New York: Anchor Books 1999) 134.