We are all wounded people. Who wounds us? Often those whom we love and those who love us. When we feel rejected, abandoned, abused, manipulated, or violated, it is mostly by people very close to us: our parents, our friends, our spouses, our lovers, our children, our neighbors, our teachers, our pastors. Those who love us wound us too. That’s the tragedy of our lives. This is what makes forgiveness from the heart so difficult. It is precisely our hearts that are wounded. We cry out, ‘You, who I expected to be there for me, you have abandoned me. How can I ever forgive you for that?’

Forgiveness often seems impossible, but nothing is impossible for God. The God who lives within us will give us the grace to go beyond our wounded selves and say, ‘In the Name of God you are forgiven.’ Let’s pray for that grace.  ~Henri Nouwen

The young whipper snapper who cuts you off on your morning commute causing you to spill your hot coffee all over your shirt and tie may make you mad as one of Michael Vick’s former pit bulls, but the rude driver isn’t very likely to hurt you.  It’s those closest to us who we must learn to forgive most, we might as well get used to it. 

God gives us no seasonal permits or hunting licenses to hold grudges and resentment towards one another. You might say “There are just some things that are impossible to forgive,” and maybe there are, without God.  All things are possible with him.  And if it were the case, that some things can’t be forgiven, don’t you think God would have spelled that out in his letters to us from home? 

A musician friend named Link gave me a lift from the airport a couple years back while I was scratching and clawing to survive in Nashville (at the time, I was still very much on the heels of my recent divorce).  He picked me up in his slightly used black Land Rover he’d just purchased.  He couldn’t help but show it off as he had every reason to; it was a nice ride and he bought it for a song and dance. 

We ended up having a good conversation during our short trip.  As it turned out, the conversation turned to forgiveness (which had me feeling a little queasy since it was something I was really struggling with).  We delved into the trouble we have in forgiving no matter what and in forgiving quickly (I hate to admit it, but I have been guilty of trying to make a person or two I have been really ticked off at squirm and grovel a little before I forgave them).

I realize that unforgiveness comes down to a sort of exercise of power on my part.  But that’s what makes it appealing, to my flesh that is—abusing the power I possess at someone else’s expense (God has given us power for simply one reason the way I see it, and that is to bless one another, not to be bitter with one another). It’s as if I want to let my offender know, “Hey, you hurt me and I want you to feel my pain too.”  Before he dropped me at my destination my friend shared a powerful truth that night that he’d recently heard his pastor share.  And it still challenges me to this day.

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.  (Colossians 3:12-14, The Message)

It’s when we refuse to forgive quickly and completely that the poison of unforgiveness begins to fester and spread like an open-infected wound, polluting our entire being and our relationships. 

Oh, and about my friend’s pastor.  He said, Forgiveness is not a place we are trying to get to, forgiveness is the place we start.

If we are going to get anywhere in our relationships, we must forgive first, and we must forgive fully.

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