Yes, forgiveness is a process.
I don’t feel the looseness of freedom, after I say “I forgive you.” Maybe, I will after ten or twenty or seventy times seven.
Things were heated the other day, and I was around to ingest the stress, like I didn’t want to do. Like I said I wouldn’t.
But, I swallowed the familiar sting of pain. Hot and sharp. It makes fresh cuts that I have refused to let go deep. But, worse, it knicks wounds that are healing. Scrapes the scabs. Starts a fresh bleed. The hurt flows down hot, a lot like anger. I thought I just forgave? I wish I could forget. But my body has memory like my mind. And, feelings have memories too, I conclude.
I ask myself, “will I have to forgive again and again?”
The answer, which I already knew (“How many times must I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me?” Jesus answers, “Seventy times seven.”) came quick by way of a book I was reading, Coming Clean. The author, Seth Haines, says,
“We cuddle our pain like a newborn pup, hold to bitterness against our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers. We internalize it, adopt it as part of our identity.”
Identity? I thought I was finding a new identity for myself these days. One that is not my own, not my families, but God given, “Beloved.” From Trina to Beloved. Maybe it’s more like from Trina to Pain. I identify. I wonder if this is where I’m supposed to be? Part of the process. Because, when we hold in, or onto, our pain it’s like we walk past the mirror and don’t recognize ourselves any longer. Pain becomes our reflection. I recognized.
Haines says, “Forgiveness is the way of God. Without forgiveness we compromise the Spirit. It begins along the path through pain……it stares down the perpetrator; it releases all debts. Forgiveness is the path to peace.”
The author prayers a prayer that is beyond the Sunday school way many of us learned to pray. It’s a prayer of release.
“I release _______ from haunting my past, my present, and my future. I have given _______ permission to leave the cave of my soul. I allow the light of Christ’s forgiveness into the darkness.”
We have to give people permission to leave the cave our souls.
It’s a letting go and a letting in. Letting the person (or instance) out and letting God’s light in. He meets us in the darkness.
Not coincedentally, I had been praying a prayer like this by way of Psalm 139 (TPT translation)
God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares. See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on, and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways – the path that brings me back to you.
These are the kind of prayers God seems to answer, quickly, in my life. I invited his searching gaze. I asked him to examine me. To sift through all my anxious cares. To show me if there is any path of pain that I’m walking on.
He met me in the darkness. He showed me my reflection. And, he asked me to forgive. I felt no instant freedom, but I did feel my foot take a step in the right direction. I was certain I’d have to take another step and another and probably seventy times seven more.
Coming Clean puts it like this,
“Forgiveness is not often a single shining event but a continual repetitive act. A letting go, followed by another, and another.”
I will feel the pain again. Hauntings like this travel from past to present to future. I’ll see pain eye to eye. Hear its voice. I’ll catch a whiff of it, because pain has a scent. The look, the sound, the smell always transports you to the moment of your wounding. When I recognize its revisit, its scented or audible invite, I’ll do my best to not ingest, but to reject. I can’t hold it any longer. It is part of my story, but it is not who I am. I will let it go. You will let it go. On the wind or out the window. Mind and body will get in synch and one day when hurt and pain return they will realize they don’t have a home in me.
Forgiveness is the turn. The intersection of pain and peace. I’m at merge. Maybe you are too? An off ramp. Peace must be ahead. I am on the right path. Yes, I choose my direction and it is peace. Peace that is coming by way of starring down my pain and going through. Straight through to peace.
The most beautiful part of Psalm 139 says,
You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way, and in kindness you follow behind me to spare me from the pain of my past. With your hand of love upon my life, you impart a Father’s blessing to me.
I’m stuck on the promise of a God who is not only in every detail of my life, but also in all my times. He is in my future preparing a way, and he is following behind me, in my girlhood, to spare me from the pain of my past (helping us to face the pain in order to be spared from reliving it over and again.)….All with a hand of love and father’s blessing.
I’m no where near seventy times seven, but, I think I’m beginning to look a lot more like myself.
This post is adapted from my journal. I’m not really sure why I’m sharing it, but there must be a reason. You, dear reader, are the reason.
“Forgiveness is releasing all hope for a better past.” -Buddy Wakefield