I’ve wanted to write. I’ve wanted to lower my pail into the cool, refreshing well of ideas and pull it up gloating in it’s abundance; but I must confess, I thought my well was dry. Then, out of desperation, hope came. Maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t going deep enough. I lengthened the rope on my pail and lowered it again, deeper, and deeper, still. I heard the echoing splash as my pail hit water; felt the tug of the rope in my hands as the weight of water filled its emptiness. My heart felt it’s fullness. I pulled, marveling at the heaviness of its contents. The weight was almost more than I could struggle to pull up. Finally, I reached for the wet, dripping bucket and looked at the surface of water contained there. The ripples soothed themselves within contained walls and granted me my reflection on its surface. I look away, shamed. I know what I must write.
As I sat amongst a group of friends, the subject of forgiveness was raised. Quietly, I listened as these voices around me shared their experiences, their beliefs. “What do you do…how do you forgive…when the same person hurts you over and over?” I saw tears in the eyes of some. The question itself had brought back painful memories. That was all it took for that same hurt to enter the heart of the injured. Quivering voices spoke their truths and struggles with forgiveness. I sat in my chair as if alone and kept my lips tightly sealed. My mind, though, betrayed me and let my past hurts bubble up. I constricted my throat and choked those feelings down. I wasn’t ready to share.
I believe this: that when you are deeply and tragically hurt by someone you love that it is like a physical wound. You look down at this gaping slash in your quivering flesh and it fills you with shock. Surely, you don’t see what you think you see. It just isn’t possible that someone who claims to love you could do what they just did to you. When the shock wears off, you practice some self-care. You apply whatever salve you can find: God, food, movies, books, sleep, and then, you carefully protect your wound. It helps some if the offender seems truly sorry. It is like an antibiotic that keeps the ragged flesh from festering. Finally, after time has passed, the wound closes and heals, leaving a ugly scar on your once perfect skin.
Now, let’s look at what happens when that same offense is repeated; the same offense…the same offender. They take their finger and rip open your scar. They know exactly where to poke. They know exactly how to hurt you. The pain is magnified. The flesh that you thought was healed was somehow, more vulnerable…like an “X” that marked the spot. Shock again hits you with its blow. How could this be happening again? How could you have ever trusted this person? Why did you let them near?
You retract to heal. This time, you seal the gash up tight with stitches. You cover it with bandages. The words “I’m sorry” don’t ring as true. Sometimes, you learn to keep your distance. You run. You find some little corner and build up your wall of defense. You stock up the things you need and prepare for the worst.
I’ve thought this to myself; I’ve prayed this: how can I ever forgive, truly forgive, if I can’t forget? It is not only the offender who can rip open my wounds. A word, a phrase, a story, a flash-back…these are simple, innocent things that can turn what was once healed into angry, infected cuts in my being. Peace can not come when you can’t forgive.
It is easy to become filled with righteous indignation. Your own pain can blind you to the hurts you inflict on others. Bitterness is an evil companion. “Evil company corrupts good habits.” I Corinthians 15:33 (NKJV) You can find yourself blaming the innocent for the crimes of the guilty. The armor can be thick. It may protect you, but it is very heavy. Try to picture a joyous person frolicking through a glorious field of wildflowers with a full set of armor on. There is something comical about that vision. We must be free and unencumbered to be truly happy.
Now, to what really fills my soul with shame…
Picture Jesus, our Lord. He is covered with severed flesh. Each wound caused by my sin. Look at Him. Remembering my own pain, is it possible to imagine how many times I’ve inflicted my Sweet Jesus with hurt? How many times have I ripped open those gashes again and again by committing the same sin over and over? How many times have I gotten down on these knees and begged Him to forgive me?
What if Jesus were like me? What if those nail-scarred hands turned me away each time I came to Him for forgiveness? What if He remembered every blow I’d dealt Him instead of looking down on me in Love, embracing me, kissing the top of my dirty head before sending me out to try again.
I’m not worthy of this love. My reflection shows it to me every day. How can I not see that every other man, woman, and child is just like me? “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23 (NKJV)
In the words of Jesus: “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Mark 11:25-26 (NKJV)
In the words of my husband, James: “That’s in the past. Every time you go back there, you know you’re going to run in to something!”
Don’t dwell. Keep busy. Move on. Throw off your armor and go pick some wildflowers!
I’ll try to do the same.