Bless You

“Spoken forgiving, no matter how heartfelt, works best when we do not demand the response we want. I mean that when we tell people we forgive them, we must leave them free to respond to our good news however they are inclined. If the response is not what we hoped for, we can go home and enjoy our own healing in private.”

Lewis B. Smedes – The Art of Forgiving: When You Need To Forgive And Don’t Know How

We can all tell the difference between genuine remorse and the fake stuff.   The real deal opens the door to real reconciliation; the fake stuff only exacerbates the situation.

The third reason forgiveness may not always result in the two Rs–but can still result in our own healing– is because you can’t control the other person’s heart, mind, or actions.  They’re responsible for their choices.  You’re responsible for yours.  And while you may be willing to heal and reconcile, what can you do if the other party can’t or won’t engage?  Let me illustrate.

 I watched the WSAAG? video twice, once in a SS class and once in a small group.  A certain party within that group said and did something that my husband and I considered incredibly insensitive and deeply offensive.   Following the Matthew 18 model, my husband and I tried to sort it out with the other party, both individually and corporately.  More than once.  But as Smedes puts it, the response was “not what we hoped for.”   Beyond a shoulder shrug, in fact, there was no response.  Having exhausted all other means, we eventually gave up and “went home” to heal in private. 

Reviewing WSAAG? recently, Smedes’ comments reminded me that while forgiveness is always possible, the two Rs may not be.   Let me emphasize that when someone can’t or won’t apologize, that doesn’t mean you refuse to forgive.  Remember Jesus’ cry from the cross?  “Father, forgive them…” (Luke 23:34).  

Also remember that a lack of repentance or unresponsiveness doesn’t entitle you or me, as the injured party, to nurse a grudge.  Nor should we allow the brine of bitterness to pickle our wounded heart until the offending party “gets it,” repents and apologizes.  That may never happen.  Instead, the answer as Yancey and Smedes point out, is Grace.  Unmerited favor.  Extravagent kindness.  And in some situations the most *gracious* thing you can do is to just not be there. 

In our situation, for example, the offender(s) choose not to respond the way we wanted or hoped.  So what do we do?  We accepted their choice.  And let them go.  Released them to God.   That doesn’t necessarily mean the hurt is gone.  It means that the heart hole that resulted can only, ultimately be filled by One. 

I still grieve the loss of that friendship on occasion.  But as I choose to give my wounded heart to Him, He, in mysterious exchange, gives me more and more of Himself.  We can learn from these “hole-y” experiences, this best and finest teacher, if we are but willing to ask: “Lord, what do you have for me in this?”  (For more on this theme, see “Teach Me” under Devotions.)

So bless you, once-was friend, for being in my life.  Bless you, relationship, for showing me what can and can’t mend a hole-y heart.  Bless you for teaching me of The Broken Heart – and of a Father’s pure, unending love for His children.  And for showing me the vast, unending love of the Greatest Heart of All.

***

“The Risen Christ proclaimed not that we ‘have to forgive,’ but rather, that at last we CAN forgive–and thereby free ourselves from consuming bitterness and the offender from our binding condemnation. This process requires genuine human anger and grief, plus–and here is the awful cost of such freedom–a humble willingness to see the offender as God sees that person, in all his or her terrible brokenness and need for God’s saving power. I would never tell another, ‘You have to forgive.’ But my uncomfortable duty as a Christian is to confess the truth, so lethal to our self-centered human nature: ‘Jesus, who suffered your sin unto his own death, calls you likewise to forgive, so that God’s purposes may be accomplished in both you and your offender.”

Lewis Smedes – Forgiveness: The Power To Change The Past (article, Christianity Today, January 7, 1983)

See you next time for Are You a Good Friend?

Laus Deo.

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