The challenge of forgiveness

"Can you forgive your brother?"
The sentence falls on ears that don't want to hear. All the anger rages on the inside like a volcano on the cusp of eruption. Molten, hot, scorching. The outside is crusted over disguising disgust and annoyance...and hurt.

How do you explain the point of forgiveness to a child who, quite honestly, can see the need for justice more than the need to extend grace?

How does a mother tell her child of the necessity of forgiveness when she, herself, bears resentment and bitterness on the inside. Any sweetness has been neutralized by the acidity of hatred. I remember the scene well, I can play it over in my head. I do play it over in my head, like a need to justify my own behavior and scorn. I probably add a scene or too as well, if I'm honest. I play it out like I'm the hero and she's the snake. What I fail to see is the scales growing all over me as I sat curled, ready to shoot my venom. And my forked tongue lashes back and forth looking for a way to make right what she spoiled. To spit venom at venom. To bite poison into the veins of the one that I felt poisoned by. Even now I feel the familiar feeling of self-justification and I stalk, silently, waiting to strike.

I feel the conviction in my own soul as I urge my son to reconsider, to extend forgiveness to the one that has so embittered him. Jealousy can strike a bitter bite and a festering wound will last long.
"I don't want to forgive him," he states unequivocally.
I get it. I really do.
So I start to tell him my old story, the one that I've kept the book open on. I should architect a graceful ending, but I'm not ready to write that chapter yet.
"It's been twelve years Luke," I start. And as I talk I know the gentle prompting that it's time to let go of grievances. I felt it last week. I ignored it. A dangerous thing to do. I think I want to forgive, I wish my behavior was better but DAMN IT I truly don't want to forgive. I cannot let go. I can't let her off my hook. I want her strung up and feeling the pain she caused me. I really do. And yet there is the call again, to take her off my hook and let God be the judge. It's all a matter of trust, can I really trust in the good judgement of God. Can I really trust that He will take better care of this than I can?
And I hear the words come out of my own mouth and I feel like a hypocrite because who tells someone else to do something that they can't damn well do themselves?

We are reflected in the lives of our children. Here am I clinging to bitterness and asking my son to attempt to trust God in a way that I am not. It's like a mirror.


"Jesus said to forgive seventy-times seven," well I haven't hit that mark yet. It all sounds so trite.
"Luke, I know if we hold onto anger and bitterness, it impacts our ability to feel free and have joy." I know it's falling on flat ears because I'm not sure that I even believe this. How can I expect him to.
So I drive down the road with him in the back seat and I think about how many times I've been given grace and how grateful I am that its been extended to me and I get it, a little bit. I would hate to be living in an existence where no-one could forgive me for the ways that I've hurt them. It helps a little bit. But there is this thing in me that doesn't want to let go because it GIVES ME CONTROL. How do I release control to a God, even if it is my God who loves me. It's that trust thing again.
If I'm truthful I think there is still a place where I need to be honest about how much the events hurt and get the screaming out. Let it all fall on a God that hears and then, when I've found comfort in Him, maybe then I can find grace to forgive. Too many times I have heard the words, "Get over it, she didn't mean it like that, it was so long ago. Can't you just forgive?" Honestly, I don't know how she meant it but I can tell you that her words cut to the core of my soul and planted strangling roots that sucked my life dry and my joy dry for a long, long time.
Maybe this should be the message to my son: Luke, tell me how much this hurt. Let me know. Tell me, tell God, tell whomever but get it out. You will never be able to forgive until you first acknowledge how much this was justifiable pain. I want to hear all your cries and tell you every tear is precious. You are loved. Deeply loved.
I want to know the depth of God's love and protection of me so that I can know, without a doubt that I can let him be in control and he will fight for me and bring justice more swiftly and with greater precision than I ever could. And then when I talk to my son I wouldn't just be spouting off a slew of well-meaning words. I would mean them with all my heart.

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