There is a prison that many people never intended to be in, yet find themselves in, and usually blame others for putting them there. Most times this prison sentence comes quickly, unexpectedly yet can last a very long time. Getting out is simple but not easy. Getting out is not up to anybody else but the person who locked themselves behind its’ bars. This prison is unforgiveness.
As human beings we were made to desire relationship, community, intimacy, closeness, togetherness and unity. We achieve this only by letting go, not by holding on.
There are hurts in this world we never think that we can get over. Offenses that we never dreamed we would experience. Usually, unforgiveness creeps up on us. Sometimes it is a choice. Most times it is a perceived act of protection. We have all seen the effects of bitterness, maybe even experienced it. Hardness, loneliness, isolation, anger, depression, physical and health issues and more. We don’t ever set out to cause ourselves harm. All we wanted to do was protect our heart and never let ourselves get hurt again. So, we hold on to feelings of bitterness and unforgiveness thinking “I’ll teach you!” We keep people out and lock ourselves in. We haven’t taught anyone anything and instead have missed out on a lot of learning that life could have taught us.
Unforgiveness achieves the total opposite of what we need and what we want. As human beings we were made to desire relationship, community, intimacy, closeness, togetherness and unity. We achieve this only by letting go, not by holding on.
In Mathew 18:21-22, Jesus was asked the question, “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 times seven.”
God knew it needed to be a continual act or we wouldn’t have any freedom.
When our heart is broken into a million pieces, God whispers forgive.
When the tears cloud our vision, God whispers still forgive.
When the memories steal our present joy, God whispers again forgive.
When we feel confined to a certain space and time, God whispers please forgive.
We forfeit our future as unforgiveness keeps us living in our past. We relive moments that cannot be changed and stay stuck in a place we don’t want to be in, increasing pain and keeping us from enjoying the gifts of the present and the opportunities of the future. We cannot change what has already happened but we can change the hold it has on us through the choice of forgiveness.
Many feel forgiveness is an act that ignores and refuses to acknowledge pain. They feel that it releases the guilty and makes no one responsible for any damaged caused.
When in reality it releases pain and gives God the responsibility of healing and vindicating. Jesus looked down right in the midst of excruciating pain and spoke the words “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing…” Luke 23:34
He was not declaring them innocent. He was taking their guilt and ours to the father. He was in more pain than we could imagine but He made a choice to allow Father God to act in His grace and mercy.
Earlier in Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus told us “for if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” On the cross Jesus had ALL our sin placed on Him. In that moment He modelled a choice of forgiveness so that the Father’s forgiveness would extend to us. In Matthew 6:12, He taught us to pray “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”, knowing that we would need forgiveness and would need to extend it. He knew that we would need a path to a healthy relationship with God. He knew that we would need a path to a healthy self and relationship with others. The choice Jesus made to forgive did not remove the pain, it invited the healing.
I heard a quote that has stuck with me from the moment it was spoken. It has rooted itself in my heart and helps me to put so much in perspective. “If you can’t forgive and forget, forgive every time you remember.” Some things are hard to remove from our memories. It is “funny” how there are many times the things we try so hard to remember are forgotten and the things we want forgotten are remembered. Forgiveness is not an instant eraser. Pain and memories do not vanish. But freedom increases. Forgiveness is a choice that takes our hand and walks us one step at a time into liberty. Forgiving every time you remember allows you to stay out of a prison you were never meant to be in. Jesus paid the price already. Forgiving every time you remember, which may be more often than you wish, is an act of obedience that brings Jesus nearer than you expected. Forgiving every time you remember takes you closer to the life you have always wanted and the life you were meant to live. Forgiveness is a gift that keeps on giving. You may be thinking that someone doesn’t deserve forgiveness. You may be right. But YOU do. You deserve all that choosing forgiveness has to offer you. Give yourself a gift. Open it up now. Your future will thank you.