Thanks to the insights of some prayer warriors, I was recently confronted with an ugliness in my soul. A spirit of unforgiveness had settled within and kept me from living in joyful peace.
After a time of confession and intense prayer, by God’s grace, I was able to release the pain that led to the unforgiveness. Peace came as a blessed byproduct.
The experience reminded me once again of the importance of forgiveness, and of how difficult it is to actually step through that door.
In order to forgive, we first have to be willing to feel our pain and grieve it in a healthy way. We also have to realize that the problem isn’t just about our suffering but it’s also how we perceive what has been done to us – and who did it.
Sometimes we have to forgive ourselves. Sometimes we even have to forgive God for allowing such pain into our lives.
But as long as we live in the bitterness of refusing to forgive, hope stalls and with it, the energy to move forward. We become stuck in whatever action caused the pain. We relive it and each time we pick up that grudge, we carry a heavier burden.
We become victims rather than victors and the ugliness inside will eventually seep into our souls and even our bodies. We can, literally, kill ourselves with bitterness and hate.
The news reports lately have reminded us how far we still have to go to find true acceptance of each other. America suffers from the grief of lost lives, damaged reputations and questions about injustice.
It is a blight on our land and an attack against the very soul of a country that was founded on colorful demographics. Although I don’t understand all the nuances of what has happened, I do feel the grief of families who have lost children, store owners who have watched their businesses burn and stereotypes profiled unfairly on both sides.
I know how easy it is to allow our pain to gnaw through the goodness God has granted us and to refuse to show grace to each other. One side of my family tree is decorated with Cherokees who were forced to march from North Carolina to Oklahoma. Thousands of men, women and children died along the Trail of Tears. The tragedy was so intense, even the soldiers who were ordered to carry out this debauchery wept.
Yet the Native Americans still thrive as a people, proud of their heritage, artistic in their pursuits and determined to seek a better livelihood for their children. It has taken several generations of honest confrontation, better laws and yes – even some national apologies to make peace happen.
I personally know some of these beautiful people from the Sooner State who learned how to forgive the past and moved into a place of mutual respect with those who stole their land.
We all make mistakes. We stumble and fail. We disappoint God and ourselves and yes – sometimes we make life-changing errors. But somewhere in the road back to sanity, we have to find a way to learn from the experience and not do it again.
I believe one of the stepping stones in that road is labeled forgiveness. I wish we would give it a try.
©2014 RJ Thesman – “Intermission for Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/1l4oGoo