The reason I needed counseling was really just for someone to teach me to forgive. My concept of forgiveness changed quite a bit in the past few years and it has become one of my dearest treasures. I cannot imagine a more beautiful gift! Jesus gave us everything when He freed us to forgive.
I think my old idea about forgiveness was that it was just for the big stuff. Forgiveness was like a big carving knife saved only for digging out the big, intentional crimes. The little stuff like everyday annoyances, not feeling heard, feeling a little left out…. these should be reasoned away. “Of course they didn’t mean it like that.”
While this seems like a nice way to believe the best about others, it really didn’t allow me to learn the art of walking in every day forgiveness. If I deny every small hurt, every little offense and annoyance, if I make excuses for why I shouldn’t feel, I deny myself the power of forgiveness. I want to be un-offendable, but in the process of getting there, I got offended sometimes. I got my feelings hurt. I did not admit it though, because I used my head to reason away what my heart was feeling.
Believe it or not, these little grievances I reasoned away did not magically disappear when I stuffed them. The blood of Jesus does make things supernaturally disappear but my head is not that powerful and I was left with years of little things that had stacked up and up and up. It made me cynical in many ways; it manifested in bitterness and gossip toward certain people or groups, and it even affected my body. Bitterness really is like poison; I have felt it in my bones.
I am well aware that I have had a very easy life, so for years I resisted needing any help at all. I compared myself to others who had suffered terrible trauma and abuse, and I deemed myself unworthy. My friend who has a counseling ministry pulled me into her office and basically forced me to start looking at my recurring issues and then she helped me identify bad roots and get rid of them. In the middle of it, I definitely thought this would become a lifestyle of allowing an issue (whatever that word means) to surface, identifying it and dealing with it. This seemed like an endless cycle and I was frequently overwhelmed by how unhealthy and messed up I was.
Then one day it hit me: I had pulled up all the deeply-rooted weeds and now I was looking at a big empty field of fertile soil. I am sure that people will hurt me in the future and I will deal with those hurts as they come, but when I look back at the past, I don’t see anyone I need to forgive. I am not living in the consequences of my sins. This is freedom! And I believe this is why Jesus died on the cross for my sins!
Forgiveness is the tiller that has turned over the soil of my soul again and again and again. Hj and I start each day by sitting down together and asking each other honestly, “What do you need to forgive me for?” At the end of the day, we pray with our kids, “God, is there anyone I need to forgive?” And every night we say thank you to Jesus who made a way for us not only to forgive, but to have all our sins forgiven.
In this fertile ground, the seeds of the Spirit will thrive and bear fruit.