Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
I’m not good at forgiving. That’s not something I share proudly, but rather a sincere honest moment that I’ve come to terms with. Sure I’ve forgiven the person who has cut me off on the road or when Kai doesn’t listen and ends up spilling all of his cereal on the floor…I mean those are pretty excusable situations right? But it’s the deep hurts and wounds that I’m not so great at “letting go” I guess…
As my telephone rang I checked to see who it was…it was my biological father. I quickly press the silent button on the side as to nonchalantly tell him “I don’t have the time today.” And I’ve done that so many times, never really mustering up the energy to have small talk or catch him up on the last several months of my life. Or even listen to his drunken banter and empty promises which remind me why I don’t care much for our conversations… It stings. It hurts. It’s still unforgiven.
I can remember back as a little girl eagerly waiting for him to come and pick us up for the weekend. Staring out of the large bay window at my grandma’s house just knowing this time he would show…and after the sun began to set the telephone would ring (sometimes) and I knew it wasn’t this weekend…maybe the next. It was always the no show. The vacant space where I expected him to fill and redeem what I insisted he didn’t want to miss out.
How do you heal that wound? How do you let it go? And how do you move on and not take the pain out on those that unintentionally sprinkle salt on those wounds?
It’s incredibly difficult to forgive, especially when I think I have so often before. When you allow time and amnesia to create a hardness to protect you from it ever happening again… We all do it. No one gets too close. No one sees that side. And all the while you’ve pretended so long you even believe your own defense mechanisms.
Recently when my phone rang I began to think to myself how much I had not let go…and not just with my father, but with several other people that have cut me so deeply I vowed to never be vulnerable again.
But it doesn’t end there…because this life we live is so so messy. In this season it’s been one gracious conviction after another that this mess is meant to reshape and mold me into something I no longer see as me.
Forgiveness is messy, because you never really know if the other person is sorry. There is no qualitative or quantitative data that can measure if things are genuinely restored. Truth is forgiveness doesn’t look the same ever. Sometimes it looks like new boundaries in that relationship, sometimes it’s a saved marriage or friendship, and sometimes it’s never hearing I’m sorry, but choosing to not kill that person in the streets one day. I can say that because I’ve felt all of those. I live all of them daily.
I love the disciple Peter because he had no filter and he had so much zeal that he did something for Christ despite his screw ups. Most of all I love his question in the scripture above, because he was just waiting for Jesus to give a number of how many times to forgive. And so graciously Jesus’ response was forgive and forgive and forgive.
More and more I realize the continuous forgiveness (with wisdom!) is far more for YOU than anyone else. Forgive even when it’s messy and it hurts like hell and they don’t apologize…when it’s a repeated mistake. Forgiveness does NOT mean staying, but it does lead to freedom. Freedom from staying in that cage of fear, resentment, and bitterness while wishing the world would just fix itself. Forgiveness has allowed me to love myself more and set healthier boundaries as to how I want to be treated rather than handing out punishments to innocent bystanders.
I can measure my willingness to forgive even though I may not pick up the phone the first time, but rather I give him a call back with no expectations but just to say hello.