“Have you forgiven her, though?”
I sat in my chair, feet heavy on the ground, stomach whirling, hands sweaty. My mind spun like it does when discussing something I don’t quite understand.
“Forgive her?” I asked, almost as if to buy time….like perhaps the answer would be found in me asking again.
“Yes, have you forgiven her?” asked my counselor. It was the summer before I left home to start graduate school and I’d decided to take advantage of the biblical counseling sessions my church offered. The sessions so far had been great. Super reflective and deep conversations about my thoughts, my emotions, and how to reconcile the hard stuff back to God. All the things I love. It’s funny, as I look back now- this was probably the start of my love for counseling and coaching others.
But this particular session had me confused and didn’t feel right.
I’ll just say it—it had me pissed.
We’d been discussing the hurt I’d experienced from a girl I’d been trying to get to know. In the process, she’d pushed me away and said some offensive things about me. If things had stopped there, it would have been something I could have let go of. I’d have been annoyed, but would have just dropped it. But the girl, construed my pursuit of friendship w/ her as something negative and spoke negatively of my character to others. The hurt felt like someone had punched me me in the gut. It’d totally taken me unaware. Throughout the counseling sessions, my counselor and I had been discussing the pain I’d been carrying and working on how to move through it.
Talking about it felt good, but the idea of having to forgive the girl didn’t.
Mostly, I wrestled with how should I be feeling in the process. Conceptually, I knew this was about letting the matter lie at the feet of Jesus and trusting Him to handle the matter and heal my hurt. Every sermon and testimony, I’d heard thus far captured the beginning and end of this process. The emotional surrender to God and asking for help to forgive, and a quick fast track to the end where the person has suddenly forgiven, and automatically they no longer feel the pain of that hurt that once held them in bondage.
I’d hear these stories, and always ask: But what about the middle? How should forgiveness feel?
At the time, it felt impossible to imagine no longer having any feelings about this situation…and one day even feeling warmly about this individual.
The counsellor asked me again, and I came to.
“Leslie, do you want to forgive her?”
I sat silent. “I do…..but how do I do that?” I asked.
She smiled. ‘Well I can help you. Here just pray with me.” We both got down on our knees and she led me in a prayer, asking God to soften my heart, and to forgive me for not forgiving. At the end, she helped me pray to forgive the girl and that I’d be free from the hurt of the situation.
I prayed the prayer. I cried a lot. But I was still hurt and angry.
I turned towards my counselor who asked me, “So? How do you feel? “
“I feel…good….better, “ I said.
I was too scared to let her know that I was still pretty hurt and angry.
She looked elated, and more shame washed over me. Now here I was, still feeling unforgiving, and now guilty because I’m lieng to this counselor who earnestly wanted to help me.
I smiled, and played the part for the remainder of the session. When I got to my car afterwards, I just wept. I somehow felt like I was too inept to understand this concept that so many seemed to have understood and too hardened to let go.
If I could talk to the versionof myself who sat weeping in the car, I would have reminded her that Jesus cares about the middle too. That, yes, He’s present in the beginning as we acknowledge the need to forgive…and yes, He’s present at the end, when forgiveness has happened….but, with a RESOUNDING yes, He’s especially present in the middle.
Isiah 30:18 speaks to this. It says, “
“Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!…Cry for help and you’ll find it’s grace, grace, and more grace”
I love this verse. Imagine, God in all His glory, in all His majesty, gathering the robes at His feet, standing to show compassion to you. It hits me every time. As a mom, if my kids do something I told them not to do, and still end up hurt, I would do the same. I would fall over myself to tell them sorry, kiss their wounds, and real talk, remind them that I told them not to do it. If I as a mother, can do that for my children, how much more not God.
So, Heartworker, where are you on your journey of forgiveness? Who are you struggling to forgive? Always know that even if you’re in the middle of the pain, even if forgiveness right now seems so impossible, the Lord is so with you. He’s there rising to show you compassion, longing to be gracious to you. He sees every one of those tears you’ve cried over this situation, and is ready to overwhelm you with grace, grace, and MORE grace.
Join me tonight on the 61 Exchange FB Page where I’ll dive deeper into things I’ve learned about handling the messy emotions in the middle of our forgiveness journey’s and the truths that Scripture gives us around this area.