We were childhood friends, college roommates. We shared the carpool lane on our commute and were coworkers in ministry. We were best friends. At least I thought we were. I remember the last conversation we had. She needed space. I needed approval. She needed space. I demanded answers. That conversation was nearly fifteen years ago, and we haven’t talked since.
I’ve rehearsed that relationship over and over in my mind. What did I do wrong? What did I do right? What was her fault? What was mine? Her absence left a gaping wound, and the rejection left me raw and angry. I knew the only way forward was forgiveness. I knew I would never have answers that would soothe out the stabbing ache I felt.
Forgiveness was the way to freedom. It was the Christian thing to do. So I did. I pressed down the pain, pushed memories out of my mind, and committed, with my will, to move on. I prayed. I forgave. Now the task was to forget — right?
That was what I had been taught: forgive and forget. That was the loving thing to do. When people sinned against you, you forgave, let go, and moved on; you gave them another chance. But as I set out to find internal freedom from that broken friendship, I found it impossible to forget. Everywhere I went were fingerprints of what once had been, and the pain intensified. What felt beyond my control was the anger right there next to my forced prayer of I forgive her. I felt guilty that I couldn’t just “get over it.” I forgave like it was on my to-do checklist. I forgave in my own fortitude. I forgave because I wanted to be rid of my pain more than I wanted true wholeness. Wholeness, true redemption, true death and resurrection only come through relationship.
Our hearts bend and mold and are breathed back to life again through relationship. The sweet and tender relationship with Christ is required to bring about the full circle of forgiveness. Our shattered souls need the nurturing of the Holy Spirit to become whole again. In all of my attempts to forgive and forget, Jesus was inviting me to bring my brokenness back to Him. He wasn’t asking me to forget it but inviting me to revisit my pain. He was asking to be with me in it. Jesus was helping me forgive with patience and compassion. He wasn’t demanding I forgive but instead scooped me up from my devastation and held me safe inside of it.
Even years later, when remanence of pain resurfaces, Jesus pulls me close. He won’t let me forget — not because He wants me to stew in my suffering, but because He wants to do a deeper work of forgiveness inside of me. He purges the hidden corridors and brings the warmth of His love. Forgiveness isn’t about what I can do, but about what Jesus did on the cross and continues to do in our souls. Through forgiveness, we see the fullness of God’s love for us. Forgiveness isn’t about power and control but about healing and love. He doesn’t want us to forget. He wants us to speak over and over again about His goodness and the way He carried us through a pain we never imagined overcoming. The way Jesus picks us up in our despair and gently puts us back together is the profound poetry of God writing His love story across our souls.
Keep forgiving, friends, but you don’t have to force yourself to forget. Don’t harbor resentment and bitterness, but please don’t pretend pain didn’t happen either. If you are having a hard time forgiving someone who has wronged you, it isn’t because you are doing forgiveness wrong, but because healing takes time. It takes so much time. Our good Shepherd is tending to your soul. He is precise and good and walks the long road of restoration right beside you. God gives you strength to continually forgive someone. Sometimes forgiveness is an every-single-second act of obedience. It takes courage to enter the hard, loving work of forgiveness. It takes staying with the pain and waiting for the choke hold of rejection’s grip to slowly release. When someone has hurt us, it takes time to breathe again.
If you are stuck in a cycle of forgiveness, anger, pain, sadness, forgiveness, tears, hate, and forgiveness, I might suggest that you aren’t stuck at all. The sharp edge of pain is still working its way through your body and soul. The dizziness and disbelief are all part of the process. Keep leaning into Jesus and trust that He is the one leading this forgiveness story. He was the original Author penning what a life of forgiveness ought to look like. Trust He isn’t interested in you just forgetting the pain but is invested in forever being present with you as you seek to love another with your gift offering of forgiveness.
Forgiveness isn’t about what I can do but about what Jesus did on the cross and continues to do in our souls. - Anjuli Paschall: Click To Tweet