Fools mock at making amends for sin,
but goodwill is found among the upright.
Each heart knows its own bitterness,
and no one else can share its joy.
This week I was re-reading Ann Voskamp's amazing piece The Fish Principle and reflecting on rejection and forgiveness. I felt that familiar twinge in my spirit that there was more to this story. I wasn't quite sure where it was going, but I knew the lesson would be made clearer eventually.
I didn't expect is so soon. But then, I guess I often do not expect the hard lessons to come.
A reminder came of some trouble in someone's life. A really tough time being felt by this family. There is an urgent need of prayer. I clearly heard that small voice say, "are you going to pray?" Of course I said I would, and uttered a quick prayer asking God to be with them in their need. But the voice persisted, "I mean will you really pray? Will you seek blessings in their life from me?" Insert a heavy pregnant pause here. I know what the answer is, but I cannot say the words.
This is a person who has hurt me deeply. This is a person who shook my very core of security and abolished relationships with half-truths, innuendos and sometimes outright lies. It is also someone with whom I have known for some time that reconciliation needed to happen. I've even had church leaders assist in approaching this person about meeting to reconcile these differences--and have been turned down more than once. This person has shown no willingness to resolve our issues, so I have let it go.
Except. Except that I haven't. I still feel the pit in the bottom of my stomach when I hear this person's name. I still feel physically ill when I see them. And, as is glaringly apparent this week, it is someone that I would rather wish ill upon than seek God's blessing.
*UGH!* The truth is so ugly to confront. Reality is, this person does not care if we are reconciled. This person is willing for things to continue as they are. It exemplifies that my harbouring of ill feelings is not harming that person at all. But it is harming me. Because I*have*not*let*it*go. And when God confronts and says, "let me have it," I hold on for dear life because I am afraid that he will not handle it as well as I am. How silly is that! Paul reminds us,
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. (Romans 12:19)but I would rather hold on be sure that the vengeance is what I would demand. I have become Jonah, sitting beside the destroyed plant stalk sulking.
I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Jonah 4:2The reminder to "really pray" for someone who has hurt me and to truly seek God's blessing is challenging. It is challenging because I know God's character and know that he may very well answer those kinds of prayers!
I would love, at this point in the saga, to happily report that I got my attitude straightened out and said the prayers with a pure heart. Truth is, it is not that simple. I've confessed my vindictive attitude, I've prayed for this person, I've prayed for me, I've argued with God and I've sulked a little more about it. The easy part is recognizing that God is calling me to a higher path than I've been on. The hard part is actually climbing the path and walking it.
I know that this is a path of higher calling. It is not something I do for that individual--as I have said they are not concerned with my forgiveness. This forgiveness has to do with me and my obedience to what God is calling. Obedience always requires a sacrifice. This time in order to obey I must relinquish my desire for fair retribution or for justification. I must trust that his ways make sense.
I doubt that I'm the only one out there that God is reminding about real forgiveness. Maybe you are walking right there beside me. If that is you, please be encouraged that you are not alone. I would love to pray for you. My email address is in my profile (or if you feel comfortable leave me a note in the comments). If you have already walked this road, I would be so encouraged if you would pray for me. Let's get real about forgiveness and allow God to heal.
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...
...And if you are so inclined, there is a hurting family that needs God's blessing. He knows the details.