Forgiveness is "For Giving"

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For my darling Estephy

"Forgiveness is 'for giving'. The very word explains that it is a gift."

 A tear slid down my cheek as my pastor said these words. There are some words that slice through our heart like an arrow of truth. They reveal to us just how far we have traveled from where we want to be. 

I had been holding hurt inside for far too long. It had seeped into every pore of my heart; it had pillaged my soul and left me as someone I no longer recognized. The sparkle was gone from my eyes. Cynicism had replaced hopefulness.  Darkness had pushed out the light. I knew what God was asking of me. I knew His heart was beckoning me to be free. He whispered gently to hand over all my pain to Him and see what He would do with it. 

But how does one let go? Offenses; seeming so light and small can pile up so easily and before you know it you are carrying around the weight of the world. No one could lighten this load for me. No compliment or kind word from a friend could ease my suffering or bring me solace. 

I knew I had to let go. 

Yet, how?

I reached in vain for demonstrative symbols; something to signify the end of my bitter era. One night I desperately scribbled all my offenses like a haphazard ransom note onto a sheet of paper and buried them in the backyard. Perhaps this act would somehow end all my pain? Yet, even though I didn't physically unearth them from my backyard, just twenty minutes later I was in my living room sobbing again because no matter how hard I tried I couldn't find the strength to not mentally excavate my troubles. 

Everyday brought about the retelling. The rehashing of past memories and hurt. If a friend was willing to listen then I would talk to them, telling over and over why I was right; why everyone else was wrong. If no one was able to listen then I would sit alone rehearsing  my thoughts. The wounds engraved deeper inside my heart with every mental reenactment; the rhetoric of my loss became the cadence to my song. The skeletons in my closet my dance partners, whose company I summoned to entertain my lonely nights. 

Rather than turn away from these reckless habits I surrendered to them. I hated them and yet I craved them. I wanted someone  or something to take away my suffering and yet I was unwilling to let go of it. Slowly I would loosen my grip on my sadness and then quickly reel it back in; if for no other reason than it was familiar to me. 

Eventually I had to ask myself, "how long will you carry this burden?" One year? Two years? For the rest of your life? 

Over time I've learned that forgiveness is a process. It is something we make strides towards each day. It is a gift. A true gift is often undeserved. It is free. It comes with no strings attached. How often do we exchange our "forgiveness" with a list of requirements for that person to meet? How often do we hold others ransom, and dangle their mistakes over their head? I get it. They don't deserve to be forgiven. They don't deserve to go free

Yet, forgiveness is a gift. 

I used to hand out forgiveness flippantly, hoping that as soon as I extended the words,"I forgive you" that my internal feelings would somehow transform. It was naive of me to think that deep wounds could be healed by uttering empty words not attached to the heart. I have learned that first the words are given, the decision is made, and then the heart will follow suit.

I think of forgiveness, and the art of forgiving, more like waves of the ocean.  As waves of hurt roll in, we send them back with a little bit of the sands of forgiveness. Sometimes the waves come in strong and crash against our shores, and other times they are small and seeming unnoticed. I've found that I must give words to the waves. 

I forgive you.  

This happened in the past. The past is not today. 

You are free from this and so am I. 

Forgiveness is a gift that you extend towards others; yet the act of giving it will relinquish you from the pain you feel yourself.  

Set yourself free. 

Forgive.