"To err is human, to forgive, divine." Alexander Pope
I have been pondering the difficulty and blessing of forgiveness over the last two weeks. Not just pondering, I guess, more like living forgiveness. Its pretty interesting too that I had to be on both sides of it. I have needed forgiveness and needed to give it on two separate occasions.
Somedays I don't know which is worse.
It is difficult at times to forgive. To forgive someone who has wronged, particularly when you have been wronged repeatedly in the exact fashion of the previous offense. Saying this I feel myself echoing Peter's question, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus answers Peter and I, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven."
It's a hard saying. It feels as though you have no protection from the pain. Seventy times seven, the ultimate number isn't important, it's the idea that forgiveness is unlimited.... and when I don't forgive, the resentment simmers, threatening to boil over.
I had to work on this one last week, I needed to forgive. I had forgiven previous offenses, but the last couple were festering in my soul. I knew it wasn't holy, and I asked God for help. He came through. Forgiveness.
I forgave and let God calm my stormy waters. And I must forgive repeatedly until the wrong is forgotten, lost in love.
I also struggled with being forgiven recently.
I hate making mistakes. I weep my eyes out and beat my soul and mind silly over them. Hearing that I'm forgiven after I have personally flogged myself is always so wonderful, but I always have to take care that I don't continue the torture after I'm forgiven.
Maybe I think the self-punishment will merit forgiveness. Maybe I just feel too deeply. Maybe it's pride. Whatever it is, I don't always just take the forgiveness easily, it works itself in slowly.
I particularly hate it when the person I wronged is the person I love the most in the world, my husband. Hurting him is one of my worst nightmares. And I punish myself thoroughly for it. He is always so quick to forgive when I ask him. It puzzles me. I expect anger, frustration. But he forgives and reminds me that he will always love me, and he loves me just the same as he did before if not more.
Why is this unexpected, even confusing? Because it isn't our nature, remember what Pope said? It's divine.
God forgives, humans don't. We hang onto the pain when we ourselves are hurt, or we punish ourselves for the pain we have caused.
Jesus Himself, who carried the sin of the world on His shoulders and was wrongly killed though innocent and perfect... forgave us while on the cross. "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34
How powerful, how divine. It puts my efforts at forgiveness into perspective. God has forgiven me all, can I not forgive my brothers, my sisters? God has forgiven and taught others to forgive, can I not accept forgiveness from others?
Forgiveness is the kind of thing I think I have under control when there is no one that needs my forgiveness. These last couple weeks were a good reality check. Forgiveness must be a way of life.
I am so thankful that there are people in my life that have taught me forgiveness first hand. Tim, thank you for showing me what forgiveness looks like again. I love you.
My prayer is that I will be quick to forgive and eager to love. Jesus, please make me more like You.