Forgiveness Fridays: “The one person I don’t forgive” by Penelope Swithinbank

We say we forgive. We ask God to help us forgive. We think we’d done it – phew, we’ve forgiven. But why the niggle? Why, actually, the unforgiveness that rears its ugly head? What are we holding onto?

Oh, how I love this post from Penelope Swithinbank. Please, don’t miss it.

I wish I could tell you that I have learnt how to forgive. That over these past few years there have been lessons learnt from each of the hard places. I thought I had forgiven – the Christians in the church who sent the vitriolic hate mail; the woman driver of an out-of-control car that, as I watched, ran over my mother and ended her life; the man who bullied my husband so much that it made him ill; the Conservation officer who even now is causing us so much stress and headache with our house.

And all that is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s been a long tough ride for several years.

I know I need to forgive. To forgive and go on forgiving. Isn’t that what Jesus said we were to do?

A lack of forgiveness can be one of the main blockages in our lives – holding grudges, not letting go of our rights, allowing distances to grow between us and those who have offended us. It happens in churches, it happens in relationships, it happens in marriages. And it causes a distance not just between the individuals concerned but between us and God. Because if we do not forgive others, the Father does not forgive us. Matthew 6:14–15 says very clearly, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (NLT)

But I have forgiven them, God, I argue with Him as I walk across the field, dodging the puddles and stomping through the mud. I do forgive!

I saw that driver across the courtroom and I forgave her – she hadn’t planned to go out and run over someone that day, and her life is in ruins – so I asked the judge to grant her mercy. And the local planning officer – I sat in that meeting and prayed, prayed, prayed for blessings on her even though she seems so unreasonable.

Isn’t all that proof of my forgiveness, Lord? So why are you allowing all this mess and hurt and pain in my life right now? Why are my prayers not being answered? After all we’ve done for You, God – nearly 40 years in Christian ministry with all its ups and downs and joys and sorrows; following your calling on our lives, giving up so much for the privilege and blessing of full-time Christian service; how could you let all this happen to us now?

It rains and the sun comes out and there is a rainbow in front of me as I’m nearing home. It pierces me, the realization that it’s not all those people and situations that I have to forgive again.

Yes, there is still unforgiveness in me. But it’s GOD I can’t forgive.

I’m blaming Him for allowing all this suffering. For not answering my prayers the way I want him to. I can’t forgive him for the traumas and the deaths and the ongoing unpleasantness.

And Matthew 6:15 runs through my mind again. Forgive. Literally, let go, or give up your right. The word translated as forgive is one that means: Yes, you may have complete justification in demanding recompense; yes you do have the right. But let it go; give it up. You are owed something – but let it go. Regard it as having been paid in full.

And I hear Him say, “Come to me – I know you’re weary and tearstained and blaming me. But you have my undying love, always, all the time. I’ll take everything you’re carrying, all your brokenness and pain, all your sorrow and heartache. And in return, my Grace is pouring over you, in and through it all. You are my beloved daughter and I love you more than you can imagine. This all will pass but my love for you is for ever and ever.”

Lord, I need your help to be a forgiving person. Help me see the great love and forgiveness you daily bless me with and from that may I love and forgive others – and you.

Penelope is an Anglican priest who writes, blogs, mentors others (mostly through Spiritual Direction), contributes to Daily Bread Bible reading notes, and speaks on conferences and retreats. She has just retired from running a small retreat house and now is able to spend more time hiking, reading and daydreaming. With grandchildren on both sides of the Atlantic there is also quite a lot of travelling to be done. She can be found at  http://www.ministriesbydesign.org


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