So, I received a note one day from my father asking me and my siblings to encourage my mother via notes/calls because she is writing papers for school and it is really wearing on her.
My first reaction was, “I totally know how that goes.” I can remember the agony of trying to find all my sources, the temptation to change the font so that I could end my misery sooner, and the late nights I sat with my laptop trying to finish my paper which was due the next day. I could understand the frustration and how much a word of encouragement would mean in this situation.
But then I had a second reaction: “You hardly ever called me when I was in college, and now you’re asking me to think about your situation, feel bad for you, and try to encourage you? The nerve!”
(Enter appropriate Christian response: Forgiveness)
As I grow older, I find that forgiveness is an essential ingredient in healthy relationships. Forgiveness isn’t easy. It’s a choice. Choose to withhold it, you will lead a miserable life clinging to the wrongs others have done to you, growing ever more bitter as the years go on. In essence, you choose slavery to bitterness. Choose to give it, you open a door to freedom– freedom to love and enjoy living.
In the case with my parents, I have had to forgive them time for the past things they have done that hurt me. Every time it has been genuine. The thing that is annoying, however, is that even though I’ve had those moments where it’s me and God, my Bible, a piece of paper and a pen, and I’ve worked through these issues, laid them at the cross and forgiven them, something always happens afterward that pinches a nerve and reminds me of what was past.
I believe these are character testing experiences in which I get to prove the faith that I preach. Sometimes I pass and sometimes I fail. That is the struggle of dealing with the old and new natures. In those moments, the potent words of Matthew 6:14-15 come to mind:
For if you forgive other people when they forgive you, God will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
That’s some pretty heavy stuff. God has forgiven me so much. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). What better reason to forgive others?