I sat in the church, listening to the pastor explain forgiveness. I was on the other side of the country from where I call home, and at 18 was quite surprised that even people in New England struggled with forgiveness.
As he explained forgiveness, he touched his pulpit. He explained that his pulpit was like the person who had offended us. When we don't forgive, it's like we attach ourselves to them and we are the ones who get stuck. When we don't forgive, we imprison ourselves with that unforgiveness. And until we forgive, we will never be free from that offense or that person ultimately.
I remember that Sunday so vividly.
In my life, there have been a few people who I have really struggled to forgive. Quite honestly, there are a couple people who when they come to mind even after years and years of praying to forgive them - I have to forgive them all over again, because resentment and bitterness keep creeping up.
So, with that said - I have been recently confronted with a situation, well two for that matter. Forgiveness is never an option - that much I am sure of. God forgave us, all of humanity who would receive Him, for our grossness - we can forgive those who have offended us in some way. But, does forgiveness equate to a "stay in my life and keep hurting me" card?
I would venture to say no, it does not.
But as Christians, I think often times we think it means that in order to forgive you must forget and let down boundaries.
I can forgive someone who abused me, but I will NEVER allow them the opportunity to do that again. I have forgiven, but I'm not stupid. God tells us that we must forgive, but He says He
forgets our sins - He doesn't command us
In our family, with four little ones, someone is always
wronging another one. I'm sure as they grow, it won't change - for at least a while. We encourage our kids that when we say "sorry" we must also ask for forgiveness. There are times that they don't want to forgive, they want to stay mad. But I explain to them that if they choose to stay mad, they are only ruining their day while the rest of us continue on with having fun. I also have to encourage them to not bring things back up. Once it's been forgiven, it's done. We don't need to rehash it every few minutes.
I'm a list keeper. I keep lists...I say I forgive, but boy do I keep lists. Poor Dave. I forgive him for little things, but when he does it again three years down the road my initial instinct is to say, "You said three years ago that you would never do it again. Guess you can't keep a promise!" But in the Bible we are told that love does not keep a record of wrongs. So, a lot of times (not every time) I bite my tongue, take a deep breath, and try to erase my mental list.
But chronic abusers? People who are dangerous to a family's emotional and physical safety? Those people should be forgiven as well...but I don't think we are commanded anywhere in the Bible to allow them back into our world to continue to violate our boundaries.
I want my children to be people who forgive. I don't want them to be eaten alive by bitterness and anger, unforgiveness and contempt. But I also want them to be people with strong boundaries, not allowing themselves to be manipulated or taken advantage of. And they are learning how to be that person from Dave and me. Are we those people?
Are you that person?