I thought I was over the hurt. Was sure I had moved on. But as I slipped my thumb under the seal of the invitation to my 10-year college reunion, it hit me:
I had not forgiven her.
During our last semester at school, the harsh tone and accusing anger of a friend had been more than my heart could handle, especially in the middle of my year-long battle with depression. A deep sense of sadness and self-doubt, that I couldn’t explain or escape, had left me feeling depleted.
When she questioned something I had done and expressed deep frustration toward me, I didn’t have the mental or emotional strength to process her criticism without being pulled into a pit of condemnation.
I knew if I attended our class reunion I would see her and other friends who had gotten tangled in our mess.
And with that possibility came a flood of memories and emotions that made me feel paralyzed. The same way I felt the day our friendship ended. The day that pretty much ruined the last few weeks of our senior year.
Holding the envelope in my hand, all that hurt took hold of me again. Instead of simply deciding how to RSVP, I stood at the edge of a pit filled with insecurity that threatened to pull me back in.
After weeks of holding onto the invitation, I decided I was tired of living as prisoner to my hurt. I wanted freedom. The kind of freedom I had come to know in the ten years in-between. The freedom of forgiveness Jesus died to give me.
I spent hours praying and pouring over Scripture about forgiveness, reading my Bible like a desperate woman each day, for the next month. Listening to worship music and messages on forgiveness, I asked God to drench me with His perspective, heal all those hurts and give me a soul-confidence that was separate from what had happened.
I needed His assurance so I could walk into my reunion, not as a wounded woman but as a secure child of God.
By the time I arrived, my mind was filled with Truth and grace. And much to my shock, I literally wanted to find my old friend and restore our relationship. The confidence that came as I followed God’s command to seek and offer forgiveness felt like a miracle.
Forgiving those who have hurt us is hard. Often we feel afraid to forgive because it might open us to be hurt again. And that’s understandable. Other times we’re afraid if we bring something up we might unearth bitterness we don’t want to deal with, so we just leave it buried.
But any time we bury a hurt alive, it will keep rising from the dead to haunt us.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. . . . Forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.”
Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves when we offer it to others.
Forgiving those who have hurt in the way this Scripture describes has helped me recognize I need God’s grace as much as anyone else. And although pardoning pain and offense is never easy, it is possible when we follow God’s plan of being humble and gentle, patient and bearing with others.
In doing so, we don’t forgive so we can forget. We forgive, as we have been forgiven, so we can find freedom from the pain, whether it’s still present or in our past. It can be the most excruciating faith work of all, but Jesus did the greatest work of all on the cross.
Because of what Christ did, what we do with His grace and mercy makes all the difference. It is worth the work it takes to be set free.
Lord, I need Your help to forgive. Help me process my hurt with You and let go of any pain or bitterness that keeps me from wholeness and hope. Empower me to forgive just as You have forgiven me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.