I’ve been mulling over how to put into words everything going on in my brain this week/month/year. My heart is heavy, my spirits are low and my mind is so full. I posted a Facebook status on Monday, that I deleted shortly after. It was emotional and personal and I find Facebook to be a bad platform (for me personally) to express those types of emotions (although blogging about it makes me feel vulnerable too). It essentially said that I was heartbroken about a recent news story, that 2016 has truly felt so heavy between deaths, illnesses and other stresses. We are only 3 months in and it has been so emotionally overwhelming. I have felt pretty low. But I also said that I have never held on to Jesus, like I have this year. After deleting the status, I did still feel like I needed to write and get some of this out, so here it goes.
Last week, I went to confession (I’m Catholic, we must go at least once during Lent). I brought up a situation and individual who has done something, that I feel is unforgivable (it wasn’t done to me, but to others, to people who are defenseless, the sin/hurt they’ve committed is deplorable). I told Father that I did not feel that my unforgiveness was a sin, my heart is not harden to it, but that I just don’t understand what forgiveness looks like for this person, I don’t know how to reach forgiveness, to just let it go and not feel like I’m saying that what’s been done is okay or that they are off the hook. Forgiveness right now feels like I’m handing out a free pass. In most cases when we forgive, we are forgiving someone we love or care about. We forgive them because we want to, because they deserve it, because we want to keep the relationship whole. In this situation, I’m trying to find forgiveness for someone who isn’t remorseful. But I have built up a wall of anger around my heart because of everything that has transpired and feeling such despair is no place to live.
After I was done speaking, Father agreed that this lingering unforgiveness isn’t a sin/wrong but that the anger could become a footstool for it. That the way evil continues to win in this situation is to allow my anger to become more, consuming too much of me. That for him, pity should replace anger. Pity, because people who choose such severe evils, without remorse, without shame, are people so lost, who need redemption the most. And that forgiveness here doesn’t look like a loving embrace, but a letting go, a release.
I have thought, prayed and done several Bible studies in the past week, I mean serious soul searching. I have thought about the people I have hurt in the past (although never to quite this caliber, so it’s hard to even tell myself that others have forgiven me, why can’t I just get over it.) and how I have received forgiveness for my wrongs. It’s funny how God has seemingly handed me exactly what I needed to read. Here are some points that have really struck me.
- “Forgiveness frees us of the bitter demand of restitution.” (Author unknown) It means we don’t have to feel like what they’ve done is on our conscience anymore. It frees us. Sometimes unforgivness fees like a jail cell, we are trapped by injustice and hurt, making us (the innocent), the prisoner, essentially being wronged/hurt over and over.
- Forgiving can feel like allowing a wrong to go unpunished. It’s hard to forgive (especially when there is no remorse from the perpetrator) because we feel like some sort of justice needs to be served. But this means we hold on to anger, we continue to play everything out in our minds. Our unforgiveness ends up hurting us.
- Unforgiveness/anger or nursing your hurt is a heavy burden to bear. You may allow the situation to consume more of you than it should.
- Laying down everything, the pain, the unforgiveness, the anger, it does not mean that there is no justice/vindication.
- “Never avenge your selves, but leave it to the wrath of God.” And when you lay it down, “God will pick it up.” (John Piper)
After reading through these thoughts while studying I felt like I finally grasped this different/harder level of forgiveness, the “undeserved forgiveness”. I hadn’t achieved forgiveness, just by reading all of this, but I felt like I understood what it looked like and maybe I could get to what it feels like. But I also felt like this applies to more than just forgiveness, but to any strife or struggle our hearts have (anxiety, heart break, anger, self loathing). Unburden yourself and be free of the constraints of negativity. Don’t let anger consume you, don’t let it destroy you. Although 2016 has had a little black cloud floating around, I know that a new dawn will come, that joy, hope and light will return. And in the mean time, I will mourn but grow in this storm.