Forgiveness. It’s a tricky thing isn’t it?
I’ll admit, I can be a bit of a grudge holder. I don’t mean to be, but I often don’t know that I’m doing it, until I realize that I’m doing it. I will honestly think I’ve forgiven, when all of a sudden I have to start the process all over again. How do you know when you’ve actually, truly forgiven somebody? For me, time seems to be a deciding factor along with a little intervention from God.
For whatever reason, growing up I had never been around people who divorced and experienced the bitterness that goes with that. I had a small glimpse with my grandparents, but I was pretty young when that happened and was kept out of the loop. I never saw any of my friends’ parents divorce. If I had friends with divorced parents, the acrimony had happened way before or long after I was around. I had no way of knowing what I was in for when I started dating the man who is now my husband.
I could understand some anger, but I couldn’t grasp how bitter his ex-wife still was towards him. Nor was I prepared for how long that anger lasted and how sometimes things played out in public. The situation was very difficult for me for a long time.
Over time, I became quite angry myself. I tried not to let it interfere with my relationship with my step-daughter, but I can’t say I was perfect. I would be ok for a while, but I became particularly upset sometimes when I wrote the child support check. We were struggling financially and never got to see his daughter as much as we would have liked and the ex was raking in big bucks with her job and she was just being bitter and sticking it to him and… my list of perceived grievances went on and on in much greater detail.
Something had to change. The anger I felt wasn’t causing her any problems, but I was suffering. I started to pray. Lord, I am so angry and don’t know how to deal with this. I don’t want to be like this, especially since [the ex] is her mother. Will You help me?
It took a while, but one day while I was in the store looking for a birthday card, a thought came to me—if we have to send a check, I might as well make it fun. I decided, as often as possible, I would find the funniest card I could and send it along with the check. The ex probably thought I had lost my mind, but I had a good time picking out cards and was positively giddy when I found one that made me laugh out loud. My anger subsided and eventually disappeared.
I have no doubt the inspiration to do that was from God, I just had to follow through. Forgiveness began being worked out in me through consistently choosing to do good, rather than feeling helpless and focusing on the multitude of things I thought were unfair.
When we had about a year of child support still left to pay, she wrote me a note and told me not to send money anymore. It was time for me to start saving for the future for my kids. I was so surprised by this, I started crying—it still brings tears to my eyes now. The last time we saw each other, we hugged. Considering where it all began, I never could have imagined either one of these things happening. It is amazing what God’s inspiration can bring about.
Since I am not one who lets go of hurt easily, there are a couple of things I have come to understand about forgiveness. One is that it always requires a sacrifice. We have to give up our right to payback and the right to the hurt we nurse. We have to let go of our pride. We have to do something kind or loving in return for the pain that has been inflicted on us. Sometimes that something is just forgiving and not holding on to the grudge; other times it is an action. Another thing I’ve learned is forgiving is not easy for me. I am not good at it, but I know Someone who is.
As I struggle with letting go of something, I am gently reminded of the sacrifice He chose to make for me. If I follow Him, shouldn’t I be more willing to forgive others, especially considering my shared imperfection? I find that as I pray words like this really hurts, how do I do this?, He eventually shows me a way to follow His example. It is never easy for me, but as I am obedient, I begin to receive the peace I so desperately want. What happens with the other person is in His hands.
Bear with one another and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13