A Hard Ask...
On a recent Sunday I was sitting in service listening to the Pastor talk about when God asks us to do something that is hard. There came a point in the message where he asked the congregation if anyone had ever been in a place that God had asked us to do something very difficult, something that many have even seemed or felt impossible.
In that moment, I knew there must have been something, but like so many times when he asks a question in service, the hamster in the wheel of my mind froze and I couldn’t think of anything to say. Then, as typically happens, about 5 minutes or so passed that I thought of something that was quite suited to what he was talking about and so I quietly smirked at the slowness of my brain and enjoyed the rest of the sermon.
It occurred to me that just because I wasn’t able to bring my thoughts together at that moment doesn’t mean I can’t share now. So, here is the story of a time when I found God calling me to a very difficult, seemingly impossible task…
Forgiveness…at the best of times and in the simplest form is hard. However, when you feel hurt, deeply wounded and in a way that is seemingly undeserved, it is a hundred fold the challenge. When I was in my late teenage years God started working in my heart and pressing me that I needed to find forgiveness for someone in my life.
Someone who I had been wounded by, marking me with a pain that shaped who I was and that lingered for years after. It was a circumstance and experience that I have never fully understood, and have had to come to the realization I never will.
My response to this urging was simple, “I can’t”. At first I think I sincerely believed this. I believed that it was not that I did not want to…not that I was withholding my forgiveness, but that I actually could not. For a while I fought God on this and in the end I came to the realization that it was never about “I can’t” it was always really about “I won’t” . Somehow the feeling that it was beyond my capacity had given me the freedom to not act on what I was called to do.
The truth is that I knew all things are possible with God, I knew He would not ask me to do anything that He did not think I was capable of. I knew He was calling me to obedience and that knew that I always have the ability within me to obey Him. He who is ever working towards a good and perfect purpose and plan for my life. As soon as I realized I was hiding under the shadow of “I can’t” and realized it was a choice I was making to not even work towards the goal of forgiveness, the harsh reality of the responsibility that was hidden inside my choice actually set in.
You see, somehow I felt like forgiveness meant that I was saying everything was okay. That no wrong had happened, that someone was ‘getting off the hook’ for what had been said or done. I somehow felt that forgiveness was giving permission and was me saying some how that I was wrong. In this moment, God taught me some of the greatest lessons and they have served me well through many trials and experiences in my journey since.
He taught me that forgiveness is not about someone else, it is about me. It is not about approving their behaviour or thinking that justice was not served, instead it is about letting go of the poison in my own heart. Releasing the judgement, hatred and control over the situation. It is claiming the freedom of walking in obedience with God instead of obedience to anger and bitterness. Mostly, I learned forgiveness can happen without an acknowledgement or apology from the responsible party – and that is okay. I am not offering forgiveness because THEY ask for it, but because GOD does.
It took time, and I wrestled intensely with my old feelings returning again and again. But as God drew me closer and closer through the journey my efforts became easier. In the end forgiveness came. It came without apology or recognition of any pain caused…but it came.
Then, the most amazing thing happened. Where anger and hurt had been there was now sympathy and sorrow for the extreme brokenness, bitterness and desperate need of Jesus in that person’s life. My heart that was so hardened was softened. Not by eloquent words of healing spoken to me, not by a grand gesture of reconciliation from them, but by an act of sacrificial obedience to the call of my Saviour who is always asking of me to do exactly what I need, even thought it may seem impossible.
Choosing that forgiveness was one of the most difficult and best choices I have ever made…