Over the last few years, I have been doing a lot of work in the area of forgiveness. I’ve worked on forgiving and reconciling with those who have hurt me. I have worked at length on forgiving myself for things that deeply injured others…things that those people have forgiven me for and that Jesus has long since taken on my behalf. And I have worked tirelessly on forgiving those who deeply wounded me…injured me in such a way that it affects nearly every area of my life…and from whom an apology (or even an acknowledgement) never came.
So, this weekend, when I listened to a sermon on reconciliation, I was struck by how the pastor was lumping forgiveness and reconciliation together as the same thing. Maybe I am getting lost in semantics but I don’t see them as the same at all. I see forgiveness as the place where I can affect change. I think forgiveness has everything to do with my posture before God and nothing really to do with any action at all by the other person. Forgiveness is the part where I wipe the account clean (at least from my side)…where my heart comes to a place and says “You owe me nothing.” Forgiveness is where healing begins but where pain is not magically erased. See, I think that pain will still crop up as the wounds heal…and that hurt…that little bit of agony…can be offered up to God as worship through obedience each time I feel it…because it doesn’t go away in one big hurrah…it creeps back in…all stealthy-like…and catches me off-guard when I see it because I think “I’ve already done this! I’ve already forgiven him!” But, it is time to forgive him again…and I embark on the weighty task once again.
On the other hand, reconciliation is the mending of the relationship…and while I think this is a beautiful thing…I don’t think it always happens and I don’t think that we always have any control over it…nor do I think it is always healthy and good. See, I don’t think that reconciliation is meaningful unless forgiveness has happened first…forgiveness is what happens in the heart-space…it is what is bone-deep and, I think, connects us to Jesus more deeply…because it teaches us (in a tiny way) about the work that he had to do to forgive us. I think that forgiveness is a part of us being image-bearers…and consequently it is deeply spiritual. Reconciliation is also spiritual and a blessing…but I think it is a result…a natural consequence…of the work done through forgiveness…a beautiful side-effect.
This may not make sense to everyone…we haven’t all struggled in the same ways…but I am hoping that it brings a little bit of clarity…and a touch of peace…to someone who has struggled in the ways that I have. If you find that you forgive someone and then it keeps cropping back up, don’t beat yourself up…pain doesn’t just disappear because you have forgiven someone…but you can acknowledge that pain…from the deep and tender place in you…and give it to the healer as an offering. Reconciliation, if it is meant to be, will come…opportunities will be presented…but first…the heart space.
So, how are you doing this? Are you doing the hard work of forgiving someone? Yourself? Do you find yourself having to go back and repeat the work that you have already done? Instead of getting frustrated and berating yourself, can you acknowledge the pain that exists there? Can you trust God enough to offer that pain to him? To allow that offering to be a way that you worship him? If you are being forgiven by someone, can you allow them the time necessary to work through it? If it doesn’t happen magically for you, you can bet it won’t happen magically for them either. Can you allow them to be hurt without your interference? Whether it is you or someone else doing the hard work of forgiveness, allow time and space to work through it…don’t press for an immediate result and don’t be surprised if much of the work must be repeated in order to heal.
My prayer today is that we would reconcile where appropriate…but that first, we would do the hard work that is forgiveness. I am praying that we honor the one who has forgiven us of so much by embarking on the same task. I am praying that we wouldn’t press for an outward result until we are healed inside so that reconciliation has a chance of being authentic and lasting.
Much love friends,