This past weekend the ladies of my church had their annual retreat. From all the reports that I’ve heard it was a success. The women had a great time. They got to know one another better and the various speakers were informative and inspirational. But I’m not writing this to report on the event. I want to write about a question that got asked during it.
My wife came home after the first night and we talked a little while about how things and gone. She seemed really pleased by what had happened. She concluded our discussion by telling about a woman who was there that was really new to church and the gospel. At some point during the evening this woman asked one of the others at her table this question:
“How do you forgive?”
We talked a little while more and went to bed. But the question has been plauging me ever since. You see I’ve been a Christian as long as I can remember so I am very familiar with the idea and the reality of forgiveness. I know all about the commands to forgive as well as the consequences of unforgiveness. But I’d never given the “how to” of it a lot of thought. It’s just something I do. For the most part it comes pretty easy to me as long I’m not trying to forgive myself. I’ll write about that another time as that will definitely fit into my general theme of the battle between Worthless and Worthwhile that is my main topic.
But that other people might not know how to forgive is a pretty new thought for me. I would have told you that someone living in unforgiveness was just being stubborn or vengeful or something like that. I now realize that that may not be the case.
So just how do you forgive? Do you just let it go? What would that look like. I remember a few years ago at another church that we were attending the topic of forgiveness was being preached. The pastor asked us to write down something that we wanted to forgive ( in this case it was to forgive ourselves for but the principle will apply here) as we left the sanctuary we were to toss the paper with our note on it into a fire that was there outside and by so doing be able to somehow purge ourselves of unforgiveness as our paper burned up. Maybe that helped some people but to me it just was a little bit weird and not really practical.
Then there was a time many years ago now that I was talking with my mother in law about this topic. If you ha done pleasure of knowing Joyce then this story will recall her perfectly to you. Her advice was to just put whatever it was you wanted gone into a balloon in your mind and then just let go. That balloon would carry that thing away never to return. I liked that imagery sometimes I even use a modified version of it for myself. Again though not really practical.
So what’s the answer? Because there is one.
First you have to decide that you want to. If you haven’t done that then no amount of other techniques will help. Why you want to is up to you. But that is the very first step.
Second understand that forgiveness is a process not an event. It’s something that you’ll likely have to do over and over until it sticks. That’s ok it’s not a failure it’s how forgiveness works for us humans.
Third know that forgiving and forgetting are not the same thing. Just because you’ve forgiven someone doesn’t mean they get a free pass to hurt you again.
Next get help. It’s ok to talk about it with somebody you trust. I suggest going to God with it. There is nobody more capable of walking you through the process of forgiveness than Him. He has more experience and more wisdom than anybody else you know.
Finally pray for the person that you are forgiving. Jesus tells us this very thing at the end of Matthew chapter 5. It is not possible to stay in unforgiveness with some that you are asking God to bless.
If you are in unforgiveness right now I urge you to end that state. You are really only hurting yourself. Whatever you are holding onto is really only hurting you.
Oh and that balloon thing. I just picture my balloon going up to God as I pray. I know that he will take care of whatever it is. He’s faithful like that.
#forgiveness #unforgiveness #howdoiforgive