arts, movies, music, pop culture · faith

the chains of forgiving

It could be said that we completely misunderstand how to “forgive one another.” At least we don’t do it well or we don’t even bother doing it, because we have a definition of forgiveness that is too consuming and overwhelming. Or maybe we grew up with the forgive and forget definition. Or the ignore it definition and we value moving on and pretending nothing happened more than any actual resolution. We even think we’re stronger for it, ignoring the possibility that it’s eating away at us somewhere in our subconscious world.

Sure there are some grievances that just go away. Someone cuts me off in traffic is a far cry from someone getting behind a wheel crazy drunk and taking someone’s life as a result. We all know several “levels” of grievances, and we all have our own capacity to range from ignoring it to raging about it for decades, building our chains, anchoring us to dark places.

I love a good revenge story. I mean, who doesn’t? I think it’s ingrained in our souls to want justice, and barring that, vengeance. Because let’s face it, it feels good. Sooooo good. Some of my favorite stories are full of revenge. Off the top of my head, my first thought is Shawshank Redemption. I mean it has “Redemption” in the title, right? Then there’s any number of those fairy tales we tell our kids, so many of which have elements of revenge and setting things right.

Of course we root for innocent people. Of course we want the evil to pay for their wickedness. Of course we want those who have ill intentions to suffer far worse than those they inflict suffering on. I believe that is the image of God, albeit tainted by deceit and corruption along the way, working itself out in our hearts and minds. We long for truth and justice to win, but we also don’t necessarily start at the right point of origin. We don’t know the whole story, the centuries of story, working out over time, tangled and warped by all humanity’s strivings.

We long for the day when all will be set right. We have in our heads what that looks like, but I will bet everything I have ever had on the fact that it won’t look like what I think it will look like. Or what I want it to. Because the grace of God confuses things. It’s amazing grace. It’s sweet sounding to those who have known it. But it confounds the wisest among us. It is downright frustrating when considered in full. It’s not fair. It screws up every system and scale.

I think, in the end, when all is said and done, it’s all about the forgiver, not the forgivee. People have done horrible things to each other. I’ve done horrible things to people. You’ve done them, too. If you don’t believe that, well, I can’t and won’t even try to convince you. That’s not my job. I still say that whoever forgives sees a small glimpse of what it means to live as a forgiver, and it comes from somewhere else, like another planet, another dimension. It comes from a spiritual place. It comes from God himself. I’m not able to forgive some very real hurts. It isn’t in me. I don’t want to do it and even when I have wanted to, I could not. But what I’ve come to realize, to feel, deep in my soul, is that I’m searching for an ability I don’t have. I’m doing math that doesn’t have all the necessary parts. I don’t know everything there is to know. I don’t have all the right formulas. I’m lacking the essential components to make the right kind of machine. I need to go somewhere else. No other places, no other way works. Maybe temporary fixes here and there. But nothing lasts. and the hurt and anger creep in again, and Im making everyone pay up their debts all over again. Including me.

There is One who forgives. Even with his dying breath, he is forgiving. He not only wants to make things right, he gives us ALL to make it so. Make no mistake. It was not easy. It was hard. Maybe the most difficult thing ever. It required great pain and suffering. It was all in. And it was for you. And like a boat that never sets sail, we are chained to the dock when we don’t recognize our need to be forgiven, which then compels our need to forgive. Our boats are decaying and sinking. We were made for more.

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