I had this friend back in university. I suppose that’s a generous term. This person spent time making sure my self worth and the things I enjoyed were riddled with holes. When I came to them about quitting a certain team, they said, “Yeah, it was never really your thing. Better stick with what your actually good at.” When I wanted to move in with my close friends, lo and behold who decided to take my roommates? When I suggested reconciliation with another friend, this person completely turned the situation against me. I spent a whole lot of time thinking of ugly names and descriptors for who this person was. I spent ages counting the way they hurt me, the friends they had “stolen,” and the things they had said.
You know what though? As my dad likes to say, anger and stubborn hate only serve to imprison yourself. I let this person get so far under my skin, I treated potential friendships like poison with the labels ripped off — complete wariness and suspicion. What they did, what they said, how they treated me…I couldn’t let any of it go. My resentment and fear of getting hurt ate me up inside. My senior year in second semester, I mostly curled into bed, unwilling to even go to church if I had to see person A, B, C, etc.
It wasn’t fair. None of these people were nice. Christian people aren’t better people or good people, by any means. Real Christians are forgiven, but many of us have forgotten what that means. I knew I have and probably will again. However, I would like to make a commitment. Christianity is based on the idea of sacrificial love which embodies forgiveness. On the Cross, Christ is not recorded saying, “Father, smoke these idiots. They deserve it. Let them burn.” Rather (far more profoundly), Jesus said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. (Luke 23:34 ESV). As those fools gambled away the last of Jesus’ earthly possessions, Christ pleaded with the Almighty for forgiveness on behalf of them. They were completely undeserving of mercy. With a jury of their peers present day, many of us would cry for justice against those who sell off possessions as a murder happens.
Forgiveness and love is what motivated Christ to not seek vengeance on this earth. Forgiveness means letting go of anger to choose to love. It’s not an easy choice, but I believe it can be so rewarding. Forgive. Forgive. You give away your anger and take back the ability to live life to the full. You give away guilt and resentment to receive a new life from God. As John Piper says in “As We Forgive Our Debtors,” “The greatest risk is that we may lose heaven. Because one way to lose heaven is to hold fast to an unforgiving spirit and so prove that we have never been indwelt by the Spirit of Christ.” I am not God, but God lives in me. I know I must let go of the idea that anyone owes me anything. Love, forgiveness, and all ideas worth having are freely given. Sure, this person was cruel to me. They lied, they gossiped, and hey, maybe slandered my name. Haven’t I done the same and much worse to so many other people? We all need forgiveness to move on to a new day, a new morning in our lives.
I have been thinking lately about how easily we take care of our bodies, but how we lack true understanding about mind and soul hygiene. From our childhood, we understand how to floss or exercise daily, but even today we might forget to check our soul and mental welfare. Is what you’re doing today right? In whose eyes? These last few days, I dragged myself places. I crawled to work, I limped to the market, and I sifted ideas through the mud. Everything felt…soiled and selfish. You see, I set my own needs before others. Through my unsubstantiated opinions and self-entitlement, I deemed my own voice more worth hearing than others. How depraved is that?
This is my commitment. I will listen. I will not judge. I will let go of my past hurts and anger. People are going to talk, they always will. So, I will choose my friends more wisely. I will give feedback only when asked, in the most gentle of ways. I promise to embrace my perfect imperfections in my pursuit of God. I will not fear the intrepid waves of doubt from myself, the unkindness of others, or the undulating happenstance of life.
Nothing is known to us today, at least not all of it. What we can give, we should before the day is done and the lights go out. In forgiveness, maybe I can bring a little light to not just others, not just myself, but to God too. A blessing all around.
A little sadder, a little wiser, a little more hopeful.