The Wound That Hung On and When I Finally Forgave

{Today I’m following up to Tiffany Roney‘s guest post, Just Apply Compassion. I meant to get these thoughts to you Friday, as I said I would, but I’ve been fighting a doozy, hanger-on sickness over here so this was my first day to get it to you. I apologize for the tardiness. Her ideas really had an impact on me so I hope you read her story and mine too because this is just what most of us need.}

On most days I know I’ve got it good. My life, I mean. My work, my family, my church, my home, my dreams: they all fit, and I know where I’m going with them.

But one of the bad things about the roles I’m in as pastor, parent and wife is the many opportunities to get crazy angry. Disappointed, hurt, frustrated, confused, betrayed, accused. Mad. Spitting, stomping around the living room with a sailor mouth mad. Mad because I’m hurt. Feel abandoned again. Wonder what’s wrong with me. And then I just get mad all over again.

I would say most of this hurt comes toward Josh and I from our role in ministry, to be honest, misunderstandings mixed with our ignorance or best efforts gone badly. But the arrows are always flying, and not always from angry parishioners. Some days they’re flying out of our own mouths.

I’ve talked about my anger as a parent when I started my one-year-no-yelling campaign in July. And recently I shared the story of what happened when I chose intentional parenting instead of reacting, how it’s transformed my perspective of motherhood miraculously. As in, I like it now.

But one of the greatest areas of hurt and pain I’ve experienced in my life happened about two and a half years ago by someone in my family. Someone I’ve known all my life. I knew this person wasn’t in a good place, but I never thought it would come to betrayal and lies.

And then it did. Right in my front yard. In front of some of our friends.

It just about ripped my heart out that this person had no ability to see the wrong for what it was.

It didn’t happen all at once, but over time, the relationship became too strained and painful to manage. I cut this person out. Not in an obvious way. But I never called, texted or sent pictures of the family. When this person came into town, we managed not to see each other, and it didn’t really mess me up at all.

It took me until a month ago to realize how angry I still was. How I still held vengeance in my heart and hoped the bad this person had been chasing would finally catch up to them.

It was just a few days after Tiffany sent me her guest post about applying compassion when we need to forgive. I thought, “Hey, great ideas, but this just doesn’t apply in my situation. I mean, this person slimed me, and they don’t even care at all. How am I supposed to have compassion for a huge jerk?

God and I argued for weeks, and then, in a moment of courage, I prayed something wild: “For my birthday, give me the gift of forgiveness.” Then I forgot about it completely. But God didn’t.

That night, the night before my birthday, I had a dream that pulled back the rug on all my supposed innocence and showed me how raging and angry I was on the inside. I had a lot of forgiveness work to do. But I did it. The very next day, I started the journey. It took me an hour crying on the bathroom floor and about three pages of names of people who broke my heart, but I freaking did it. (Sounds dramatic, but that’s pretty much what happened. Ask Josh.)

But this one wound left by my family member held me strong. I couldn’t quite let it all go. I kept wondering if compassion might apply here, but I just couldn’t see it. After a conversation with another family member, however, I learned some things about this person, about their loneliness and cries for help, about their attempts to reach out to family and how maybe they finally wanted out of their old life.

I could hardly believe it, but then, it was what we prayed for. The compassion I never thought I could muster for this person oozed out of my heart, and I felt a little light of faith that maybe, just maybe, we could get them back. The person we loved and lost, back for good like the prodigal child.

I was closer to forgiveness, but not all the way free. It took me 30 minutes of holding the phone and dialing the number and practicing what I would say before I finally called them. Just to say Happy Birthday. They didn’t answer, but I left a message. And I got really brave and said I love you.

I never heard anything back. But it didn’t matter. By the time I’d made the call, I’d chosen forgiveness. Mixed with a little self-pity, but I was quickly running out of juice on that one too.

A week later, I got a letter in the mail. You guessed it: it was from this person who I’d been at odds with for years. 

I opened it to find a hand-written letter. (I mean, who does that anymore?) The letter asked for forgiveness, laid it all out and acknowledged responsibility for everything, for cutting us out and betraying us. The whole deal. Josh and I read the letter together, floored.

I couldn’t help but think: What if I’d stayed angry? What if I hadn’t asked for help to forgive? What if I never made the birthday call, reached out for just a moment to say “I still love you”? I would’ve been reading that letter and feeling like an enormous jerk for harboring the anger so long. 

I’m amazed at how often compassion does apply in our places of wounding, even in the deepest places. What if we looked at everyone with this compassion? What if we bravely asked Jesus to show us how he sees our enemies or the ones who hurt us – even our loved ones? I want to boldly pray as Jesus did, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

What’s your strategy when it comes to forgiveness? How do you let go? Share in the comments below.

{Let’s stay in touch. There are lots of ways to do it. Get all the updates to my blog by subscribing here, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.}

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “The Wound That Hung On and When I Finally Forgave

    1. Been there. It’s not pretty, until you look back and see how God brought you through, taught you, changed you. The bad stuff and the hurt looks further and further away. (It’s like it melts faster every day.) And there you stand, warm, fuzzy, HUMBLE and kind of different – a little more like Jesus?

      Like

Comments are closed.