I wrote last week about the journey of forgiveness that Jesus has called me to lately…or rather, about the journey He called me to a long time ago but that I have only now chosen to embark upon. The situation in my life must remain private for the sake of discretion. The experience of forgiveness, though…well, it’s pretty universal. It’s a journey, for sure. And it’s not an easy one.
It’s worth it, though. As I told some friends last night, forgiveness is a strange thing in that it really doesn’t change anything…yet somehow changes everything. The circumstances that had me so angry haven’t changed. There has been no repentance…no recanting of wrongdoings. Nothing outside myself has changed. Within me, though, everything is different. As one of those dear friends said to me last night, I seem lighter somehow…freer. And I am.
But the drama? It’s still there.
The mess is still messy.
Things still hurt. It’s all still real.
Really, painfully real.
So what Jesus has taught me over the past week has been amazing and yet amazingly simple.
I can forgive even while I am still hurting.
My tendency, and maybe yours, too, is to wait until the pain is gone – or has at least eased up a bit – to even consider this thing called forgiveness. How can I forgive while I’m still crying about it? How can I forgive while I’m still so mad sometimes? Would it even be real forgiveness if I did it while the emotions are so raw?
Really, I don’t even FEEL like doing it, so that must somehow negate the forgiveness itself.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (Luke 23:34 NIV)
Those words…. Those words have haunted me as though I myself stood at the foot of the cross on that faraway hill.
Forgive them….not tomorrow. Not later. Not one day when the pain becomes a memory and it’s easy to make that choice. No. Forgive them now.
Jesus bled. Gasped for air. Had to speak over the shouts of those mocking and condemning Him. He hung there, exposed and vulnerable…in the midst of very real human pain…and said simply – from the heart – “FORGIVE THEM.”
I can’t make myself believe that Jesus – fully God and fully man – felt like forgiving in that moment. The pain….the suffocating pain….
No, in a moment like that it is painfully clear that forgiveness is not a feeling.
Forgiveness, friends, is a choice.
I think those moments of decision present a unique opportunity for the best of God to intersect with – and defeat – the worst of man. It’s a choice – a concise representation of what this whole “Jesus-following” thing is all about. Will I go with my flesh…choosing what I feel, even though it hurts so, so badly…or will I go with my spirit? Will I choose healing? Will I make the right choice?
I’d be lying if I said I’m completely over the situation that brought me to this point in the first place. I’m not. It still makes me sad and, yes, a little angry. I must constantly remind myself of my choice: I chose to forgive. I choose to forgive even now.
Jesus’ choice to forgive did not remove the nails from His hands or heal the gaping wounds they inflicted.
My choice to forgive will not make these wounds on my heart instantly better.
I know something will come up to rip the scab off this wound again. I’ll be reminded of the reality of this pain again…but I choose forgiveness. I will continue to choose forgiveness.
When the best of God meets the worst of me, I continue to choose Him. If not now, then when? If not in a moment like this, then when? If I can’t follow the example He set out for me on the cross, can I claim to be following Him at all?
Taking up my cross means going all the way.