Forgive?

I know I am forgiven. Or do I? If I truly believed this would I behave the way I did yesterday?  Lots of days, truthfully. Henri Nouwen is one of my favorite authors. He writes with incredible depth and such honesty. I recently read his book, The Road to Daybreak, which had a lot to do with his journey from academia to serving the physically handicapped in France and then in Canada. More than that, it is an account of his struggle to trust God and find his worth in Jesus alone.

Today I opened my Sojourners magazine e-mail and I saw a quote from this book. Again it made me wrestle with what I say I believe and what I REALLY believe.

Here is the quote:

Maybe the reason it seems hard for me to forgive others is that I do not fully believe that I am a forgiven person. If I could fully accept the truth that I am forgiven and do not have to live in guilt or shame, I would really be free. My freedom would allow me to forgive others seventy times seven times. By not forgiving, I chain myself to a desire to get even, thereby losing my freedom.

– Henri Nouwen
The Road to Daybreak

Dang it, Henri. Do you have to bring up so many issues? I create enough of my own. But here is the part that really hit me… by not forgiving I chain myself to a desire to get even, thereby losing my freedom.

It is so easy to think I do not want to get even but indeed I do. I want to hurt the people who hurt me. I want them to suffer. Of course, you could wrap my hands around my body and twist them all around and I would never admit this. I would probably tell you that I have forgiven the person who harmed me and that I pray for them. Sometimes this is true. Often it is not.

Lately, I have not forgiven someone who I think had wronged me. Do you know what I did? I lied to myself and everyone else that I was over it. I had moved on. But oh how subtle the little thoughts of revenge take hold. So, I made a big mistake and in a very manipulative way, I tried to get even… or just hurt this person a little. It didn’t work. I felt horrible. I knew I was wrong. And I realized by continuing to play the tapes of the wrong-doing in my head, I had created a prison inside myself – and around myself. I was sick. When my little revenge-fest was over, I cried most of the day. I cried because I realized that by holding on to this, I was still involved in a game I was never meant to play. God revealed much to me about the depravity of my heart and how much I not only need to forgive, but how much I am forgiven.

It’s hard to swallow. Grace is free. Completely. But there always seems to be a catch in something free, right? It’s hard to grasp. Maybe that’s what it means to continue to work out our salvation. We are going to slip and fall. Yet we do not have to stay there and fester about how dirty we are. Because of the Cross, we can look up again, and because of Jesus’ resurrection, I can walk free.

Now if only I can remember this EVERY moment. Paint it on my eyelids and my dashboard. My kids’ homework. The dark recesses of my mind.

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