A few things swirling around in my head today. Just things that have happened to people we know recently and what I've been reading and watching, it's all got me thinking. I just finished reading The Shack, (took me forEVER), I saw a quirky little movie called Then She Found Me, and have been studying the Psalms of Ascent--15 songs the Israelites would sing on their pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Psalms 120-134--in Beth Moore's Stepping Up. The recurring theme? Betrayal and Forgiveness. Sometimes I go deep.
Betrayal happens. In our imperfect human-ness, we hurt others. Sometimes it happens when we don't mean for it to, and sometimes we know exactly the impact our actions or words will make on another, and out of anger or our own pain, we let them have it. Zing. We have all done it, and we have all had it done to us. But what to do with it when it happens?
I think there have been studies to make this point, and the Bible makes it clear that holding onto your anger wrecks you. Sometimes you take others down with you. Forgiveness is the only way to find relief. In the movie I saw, the main character has to "make peace" in order to move on with her life. I think we all believe in the concept of forgiveness, and making peace, but the practice of forgiving someone else is slippery. Your head may buy the idea, but hearts can be slow to follow.
I love a conversation towards the end of The Shack, where Mack, who has been done wrong by someone else, is talking to God about what it means to forgive them. God gently explains to Mack what forgiveness isn't. It isn't embracing that other person, or deepening the relationship. It isn't saying the actions were ok, or even forgotten. These things might all happen over time, but the initial act of forgiving someone is much smaller, more simple, a tiny step. It is described in The Shack as removing your hand from that other person's throat. Taking your hand off, and trusting that God knows what has happened; who was wrong. And, we may have to peel our hands off one finger at a time, we may struggle, but as we let go of that person's throat, we let go of the weight of the anger.
Over and over we can read in the Psalms about how David and his people have been mistreated, and how God sees and protects them. And we also see how God forgives the Israelites when they fall short of the mark. We learn from the Psalms that it's ok to complain and cry out to God when we're hurt. I think this is an important step in the peeling away of those fingers. Because when you know God knows, it's easier to trust Him to handle it.
The idea of "making peace" is a funny one to me. Peace is one of the fruit of the Spirit. It's something that grows or flows from the Spirit within us. We cannot manufacture peace on our own. We, alone, with our own head and heart and nothing else, can't make peace. We can unwrap our fingers, though.