So in the last post we looked at making the decision to forgive. It’s important – without making that decision, you’re not going anywhere. The next part is starting the process of actually forgiving. Welcome to Day Thirteen of 30 Days to Forgiveness!
Wouldn’t it be nice if forgiveness were simply a decision and we could stop there? Okay, I forgive you, and you, and … Unfortunately it’s nowhere near that easy.
Forgiveness is difficult, so don’t feel bad about how much you’re struggling. It is not a feeling and it certainly does not come naturally to us.
In some ways, forgiveness is more like a habit. We make the decision to forgive, and that gets us started, but then we need to spend a lot of time reminding ourselves of that decision until it become a habit, until it becomes automatic.
When you wake up in the morning, before the sun is up, and the blankets are heavy and warm but your room is dark and cool, do you really want to spring out of bed?
My instinctual reaction is to pull back into that dark, safe place of sleep and dreams. But if I stay there, nothing will get done and I’ll get sluggish and lazy.
We really aren’t meant to waste away our days snuggling into warm blankets and soft pillows.
Well, when we begin the process of forgiveness, we often want to retreat back to our “safe” prison of anger and pain, and we can come up with a lot of justifications and excuses for why we should.
We’re not meant to waste away our days there, either!
It takes a conscious effort to forgive, and sometimes we have to stay consciously aware of it for quite some time.
Forgiveness, while it starts as a decision, is a process.
How long does it take to forgive? That’s going to depend on a lot of things, like what you need to forgive, how painful the hurt was, and how committed you are to the process.
Prayer and meditation are both great tools to help you along this journey of forgiveness. (If you’re worried that meditation is not for Christians – I talk more about this in a future post)
Keeping a journal is another great way to support yourself during this process. And of course you shouldn’t discount talking to people. This could be a close friend, a family member, or even a therapist that helps you through your grieving process as well as the process of forgiveness.
The process of forgiveness isn’t easy or quick. That’s why you need to make this decision wholeheartedly. It will take effort, commitment, and a lot of time spent in prayer. It may mean tears as you face things you thought you had buried, and it will involve setbacks in which you feel you will never get past the pain.
But it’s worth it.
There is, of course, a … well, let’s not call it a shortcut, because it isn’t. You see, you’ll know you have finished the process of forgiveness when you can feel that weight lift away. I love how the classic book The Pilgrim’s Progress talks about our “burden” that must be laid at the Cross. That makes it sound very easy, doesn’t it? It should be. Just drop that pain and anger at the feet of Jesus and leave it there, right? The problem is that we keep sneaking back and picking it up again.
There is always room at that Cross, though, and always a place to put down your burden of shame and anger and guilt … even if we are coming back for the thousandth time.
You’ll know you’ve completed your journey of forgiveness when you are no longer sneaking back to pick it up again.
You’ll know you’re there when you can look at someone who spit in your face and still feel peace and love instead of anger and pain.
There are days that I’m there, and days that I’m just as spitting angry and revengeful as ever.
But I have seen glimpses of it and I know it’s possible. It’s the mystery to how Jesus could look down from that cross and ask God to forgive the soldiers.
That love and peace is there for us, too. One step at a time, as we forgive those who hurt us, we make our way there.