How well do you forgive? Some people have a hard time forgiving, others have a hard time receiving forgiveness. Sometimes forgiving yourself can be the most difficult task of all.
Hope in the Lord’s Forgiving Love
A Song of Ascents
Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications.
If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait,
And in His word do I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than the watchmen for the morning;
Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord;
For with the Lord there is lovingkindness,
And with Him is abundant redemption.
And He will redeem Israel
From all his iniquities.
Just on the heels of the Psalmist’s cry for vengeance upon his enemies in Psalm 129, we step into God’s forgiveness. I find this particularly encouraging in terms of moving from a position of anger to one of contrition. As is often the case with the consequences for our choices, the Psalmist finds himself in “the depths” because of his own sins, and I suspect his position has to do with the previous Psalm and his attitude of wishing the worst on a perceived enemy. Considering the progress of the worshipper as he/she ascends to God, this is logical – the Psalmist’s negative attitude to his perceived persecutors would be a hinderance to meeting a forgiving God in worship. To move towards a God who is defined by love, we must move up to that higher calling, and this will require forgiveness – of others and ourselves.
Even though the Psalmist calls out to God for forgiveness of his own sins, I believe it is how well we forgive others that is at issue. Jesus said that God forgives us according to our ability to forgive others (Matthew 18:35). Therefore, it is impossible to perceive or receive God’s forgiveness when we refuse to offer it to those who have wounded us. When we offer our forgiveness, we will experience, by default, the forgiveness of God towards us.
Refusing to forgive someone else creates in our mind a one-dimensional caricature of that person.
I once heard a preacher say that when we hold a grudge, we are basically acting as a caricaturist. The typical caricature accentuates certain features of a person, say a large nose or wide eyes – something distinctive that the artist then blows out of proportion for emphasis. Pretty soon, all you can see in the drawing is that one thing (usually a flaw) that the artist fixated on. We do the same thing when someone hurts us – all we see of that person is the action that caused us pain. The speaker reminded his audience that when we do this, we are reducing the other person to one dimension of themselves.
But people are not one dimensional. To make his point, the speaker asked his listeners to remember a time when we had hurt someone’s feelings. How would we feel if the person we hurt made a caricature of us to others – reducing us to that one misstep? Of course, he insisted, we would argue, “But that’s not all of who I am – I’m more complicated than that!” He then challenged us understand that the people who hurt us would argue the same – it’s complicated.
My favorite part of this Psalm is the comparison the writer makes between darkness (night) and the light of God’s forgiveness (dawn). When we are in “the depths” – the prison of unforgiveness (either towards ourselves or someone else), it feels like a dark pit of the soul. God’s forgiveness then rises like the sun to shine the light of day into our lives, bringing hope.
That is what forgiveness really represents: hope for a fresh start.
When we forgive someone else, we let go of the past and our requirement that we and they remember the hurt, all the while demanding repayment (usually in guilt). But there is absolutely nothing any of us can do about the past. No one can ever pay you back for the pain they have caused you, just as you cannot pay anyone else back for your sins. We can only move forward, believing that while grace is simple, people are complicated.
Stop looking at the offender’s mole and see their entire face. You just might fall in love with their eyes, or find another feature that blows you away, like kindness, mercy, or joy.
What about you? Are you holding a grudge against yourself or someone else? Aren’t you/they more complicated than that one action? Have you ever experienced God’s forgiveness? How has that helped you to forgive others? I pray that God’s grace chases you down and convinces you of His amazing love for you. May you find ways to give that love away to those around you.
Day 29 NaBloPoMo 2015