"I know it's hard, honey, but you have to forgive them and move on."
I have uttered these words half a dozen times to my son in the last few weeks, every time he comes home with a new tale of playground antics. He has been so frustrated with this process. Pain, forgive, move on, new pain occurs, forgive, move on, new pain, forgive...
It is frustrating for me see because I can't tell him that the forgiving becomes easier with time or that the pain lessens or that the people who hurt us learn from their mistakes and stop hurting us. They don't, and behind every hurt, real or perceived, new hurts, real and perceived, lie in wait, ready to knock us down all over again.
As I'm watching my son learn his first lessons in heartbreak and forgiveness via the playground I'm having examine my own issues with forgiveness. I say "issues" because, frankly, forgiveness and me, we aren't always buds, man. Sometimes I want to hold on to my hurt so hard it...um, hurts. Physically, mentally, and most especially, spiritually.
The times when I cannot forgive my bible feels like it's a million pounds. It's too heavy to open, it's too heavy to turn the pages, it's too heavy to even hold. I won't allow myself to find comfort in the only place that can give me comfort because being the victim is way too comfortable. I would hear people say "God forgave us our sins and he forgave those who sin against us, so surely we can forgive as well?" or "There is so much freedom in forgiveness!"
When I am hurting, when I am sad, when I am feeling alone, all I can think of is, "Great. God can do all the forgiving for both of us, because I'm certainly not going to." Lucky for me he does. He did. He forgave, he forgives, he moves on. Sometimes knowing that angers me. I always think to myself, "Woohoo, bully for you, God that you forgive when I am the one wronged here. Easy for you to be all forgiving and stuff. Freedom in forgiveness? Ha. Cliche much?"
Then I remember what it's like as a parent to watch my hurting child try to forgive. It isn't easy on anyone. Not my son, not me, not God. My perspective begins to shift and I realize what the heart of the matter is.
The root of most my problems with forgiveness is pride. I forget that anyone else has ever been hurt besides me. I forget that I hurt people, too. I forget that there is freedom in forgiving and life and community and love beyond the hurt feelings, sometimes even with those who hurt me. All I see, all I can focus on is my pain, my feelings, my suffering, me, me, ME.
I have noticed that when I harbor bitterness, pain, and disappointment it feels like everyone around me flees. It is hard to be in fellowship when I'm holding onto stuff. I begin to withdraw from people and they withdraw from me. It's a vicious cycle which can only be broken by forgiveness. I have been stuck in this cycle for years before. Years, people. It isn't pretty.
I have had to forgive daily, hourly, every ten minutes, but I have to do it, and keep doing it until the grace brought by true forgiveness takes root and stays there. When it finally does the freedom I get really is as amazing as everyone had told me all along.
Kids. They sure do have a way of showing me my baggage.