Wrestled with forgiveness until it won.
Carrying nothing but love into twenty-fifteen.
These are two of my recent six word memoirs, published on Smith magazine’s website. I’ve been part of the six word community for about four years now, under my moniker of Kharis. It’s an interesting mix of writing talents and provides a constant source of fun, reflections and topical points of view.
These two sixes highlight some of the struggles I’ve had in my life in relation to forgiveness. Some painful experiences have taken me many years to come to terms with, to the point of being able to put them firmly where they belong, in the past. Injustice and abuse do not usually exist in isolation – often they are supported by a culture of silence and denial, and as such forgiveness may need to be extended to more than one person or to a group or community.
There are lots of well known quotes about forgiveness but it is pointless to talk about wishing your enemy dead and drinking the poison yourself, etc. etc. until you have come to the place in your own walk with God that you can understand the effect that grace has – God’s grace to you, and the effect of grace that you extend to others.
The story of Jacob wrestling with God (Genesis 32:24) is one that has always struck a chord with me. It’s a peculiar story in many ways: Jacob wrestling with an unknown assailant all night long and demanding a blessing from him, while the man dislocates Jacob’s hip and changes his name to Israel (meaning “he struggles with God”). To me it’s a powerful reminder that we can sometimes rail against what we know to be right and what God wants, but ultimately we realise that what He wants is what’s best for us. Even the things that hurt us can ultimately draw us deeper and closer to God.
Over the Christmas holidays I’ve been watching the first two parts of The Hobbit movie trilogy. In the second movie Gandalf remarks to Bilbo that he (Bilbo) has changed. Indeed, Bilbo has changed – his possession of the magic golden ring has seen him subtly beginning to lose his innocence and evade questions, kill to protect his possession and begin to idolise the power of what he has. He is losing control and the ring is controlling him. So it is with a hurt or grudge or injustice that we cannot let go of.
On the other side of forgiveness, when I can genuinely pray for God’s revelation of Himself and blessing upon others, I can see that I have regained a soft heart, a heart that loves and cares, that wants to believe in the goodness of God and his ability to change lives for the better, to hope for the best in others, even within a fallen world in which none of us are perfect and all of us are hurtful. The alternative is to subtly allow bitterness and cynicism to creep into my life and change me, to steal away the best that God has placed there.
Thomas More wrote in his prayer, “A Godly Meditation”
Give me the grace, good Lord,
To set the world at nought,
To set my mind fast upon thee.
To think my most enemies my best friends,
For the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their
love and favour as they did him with their malice and hatred.
This is the kind of forgiveness that Jesus epitomized on the cross, extended to each of us, and subsequently demonstrated by Stephen, Paul, most of the apostles and many Christian martyrs over the centuries since. Amazing love, and humbling to those of us who have thankfully never needed to extend such grace.
A watercourse is sometimes dammed up, perhaps by man, or by natural courses such as a landslide or debris blocking its way. It may pool for a while, but such is the nature of water that it usually changes course and finds another path. So it is with lives that are changed. The acts of others can set us on a different path, but one which, if we are open to God’s leading and guidance, will be used by Him for His glory and in ways which will deepen our walk with Him and knowledge of His love and blessing in our lives.