As Christians, we like to talk a lot about the power of forgiveness, especially when it comes to the forgiveness of our own sins. We paint a picture of forgiveness that looks a lot like Julie Andrews spinning around a flowering Alpine meadow in The Sound of Music–light, airy, carefree, fulfilled. I’ve found, however, that forgiveness, true forgiveness, is much more like wading through a swamp. It’s muddy, mucky, and there are alligators hiding under the stagnant water. While I believe that in order to ask for forgiveness we must be willing to forgive others (“forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”), sometimes it feels like an impossible task. And, humanly, it probably is. It’s not really in our nature to forgive, or in our culture for that matter. You get stuck in the muck of your own sense of righteousness and indignation. Our anger and pride (the biggest alligators of all) strike out at us, opening afresh wounds we’ve tried to slap a band-aide on.
I guess I’m thinking about this now because there are a few people in my life I’m having trouble forgiving. These people were people I trusted, people my husband and I invited into our home, people who turned around and stabbed us in the back, causing pain to both my husband and I and to the ministry of the church we serve. I’ve prayed about this over and over. I’ve prayed specifically for these people, that God would enrich their lives, fulfill their lives, heal their hurts. I’ve prayed that I might be able to forgive them and asked for help in moving forward. My difficulty is that I can’t seem to move beyond my own feelings of anger and injustice. These feelings have been heightened by the fact that these people insist on continuing their campaign of manipulation and hurt. As my husband so aptly said, “How are you supposed to turn the other cheek when you know someone’s just going to slap it?” I don’t know what else to do. I’ve thought about calling and meeting with them to discuss things, but conversations have been so manipulated in the past that I don’t trust it. I keep praying, but it’s so hard to let go. Maybe I don’t really want to. Anger can be a comforting blanket at times.
I recently read the novel, The Shack, which was wonderful and offered some truly brilliant insight into the importance and nature of Christian forgiveness. The novel pointed to the reconciliation that forgiveness can bring, which I believe, but I don’t know how to start. And, if I’m being truthful, I don’t know if I want to be reconciled to these people. I know there are two sides to every story, but I also know that there are people out there who are hell-bent on causing drama and divisiveness everywhere they go. So, again, what do I do? As a pastor’s wife, I feel like I have to set an example because there are several in the church watching. I also want to support my husband, who I believe is doing God’s will in this congregation, and help him to build strong relationships where I can.
I don’t know. I know I need to forgive, but I’m just stuck in the muck.
Blessings and Peace,