“Forgiveness: The Heart of the Matter”

(Mark 11:25) But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”

Forgiveness and self-care are not two things that we usually relate to one another.  I always considered forgiveness to be more for the person who wronged me than for myself.  Someone asks for your forgiveness because he or she is full of remorse and in need of your grace to get past it — so you extend that grace and that person feels better about everything.  Right?  That’s what I always thought.  However, as I have gotten older, and have grown more mature in my my spirit, I have learned that grace and forgiveness heal us all, from the inside out.  When we extend or receive grace, it is like a soothing balm over a festering wound.  It instantly coats that painful outer layer, shielding it from further injury and stimulating the beginning stages of healing.  Just like a wound to our skin will start to regenerate new skin from the inside of the wound until it is a completed process of healing, a wound to our soul also needs to heal from within.  It takes time, but the process will never be able to begin without that protective covering — without grace. 

I have a very passionate personality.  I feel everything very deeply and with much intensity.  It may take me a bit to come to trust someone new, but when I do, I love with my whole heart.  However, just as we all have our faults, one of my biggest shortcomings in life is that I feel things on the opposite end of the spectrum just as strongly.  I wouldn’t say that I hate, but I do tend to struggle with unforgiveness and resentment when I feel that I have been wronged, yet never receive an apology.  That kind of injustice just sort of burrows itself into my soul and begins to take root — sprouting bitterness and anger.  But who do you think is damaged by that root of bitterness, bearing its rotten fruit?  It certainly isn’t the unapologetic party!  It’s me!  I’m the one who suffers with the burden of it.  I’m the one who thinks about it every time I see that person.  It’s my spirit that becomes embittered and hardened because of this unforgiven transgression. 

There is an old African Bantu Proverb which says, “The bitter heart eats its owner.” And so true it is!  Bitterness will eat at and erode your heart and soul until you have nothing beautiful left inside to give.  The biggest part of who we are as Christians must be love, for that is the foundation for our calling and commission.  When we allow a root of bitterness to grow, when we hold back forgiveness because we are waiting for an apology that we’ll probably never get, we are slowly emptying ourselves…and you can’t pour from an empty cup, can you?

So forgive, as God the Father has forgiven you.  In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”  When we hold onto bitterness, we are allowing the enemy of our souls, Satan:  Father of LIES, to rob us of our joy and satisfaction.  It just doesn’t matter if you ever get an apology.  Forgiveness is for you, that you might enjoy the freedom of grace, both internally and externally.  Don’t let the thief drain you dry.  Keep that cup filled with every good thing that Jesus has to offer you — filled to overflowing — so that those sweet, living waters flow from Him, to you, to others, and back to Him, in a beautiful exchange. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank You for this reminder today that there is freedom for me when I am able to forgive others.  Help me to keep my cup filled to the brim with the beauty that is found in You, so that I can easily and faithfully love others the way that You have called me to.  Amen.

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