There are many things in life we take for granted, the love that surrounds us, food, comfort, warmth, health; things that until they are absent we don’t even think of. I am totally unaware of how I need all the above to get through today, until one of them is missing and I feel loss and experience discomfort.
One thing I have taken for granted often is forgiveness. I have always known that God forgives me, it has to be one of the first lessons I learned about Jesus – He forgives my sins. If I did something wrong he would forgive me if I told him I was sorry, and I proved that to be true many times. I used to think as a child that when I grow up I wouldn’t need forgiveness because I would no longer do anything wrong. The experience of entire sanctification would be mine and I would no longer require forgiveness because I would no longer “sin”. It seemed to make sense from the sermons I heard, that this is where I was heading and so I would not require to ask for forgiveness from God or anyone.
Well, I know it won’t come as a surprise, but I have not yet reached that point of perfection, nor have I met many people who have (thank goodness), and yet my books on holiness teachings are still on my shelf behind me as a write this, and I still admire those who imply that it was possible, but I have my doubts now whether it is in this life.
Not long ago I needed forgiveness for something I did to a dear friend. I won’t divulge what it was here because it was very personal and it should never have happened, and I was quite ashamed of my actions. I let my friend down badly, and not just that but in trying to cover up what I did I only added to the hurt and disappointment. I sincerely prayed about this and as always I felt God’s love and acceptance. At times though God’s unconditional love comes with a course of required action and this meant putting it right with the person concerned. That was the difficult bit.
When I came clean I was not immediately forgiven. Far from it. I had deeply hurt my friend and time was required before we could decide how to go forward, or whether there was any way we could grow from this and remain friends. I then experienced something I don’t think I have ever known before, the feeling of not being forgiven. It was like banging my fists against a brick wall, like shouting out in the dark. To not be forgiven left me feeling helpless and powerless, desperate and sad.
Surely my friend could see my sincere sorrow and regret for what I had done; If I wasn’t truly sorry why would I have made the confession as I did? But time was needed and all I could do was respect and wait. Eventually we were able to talk it through and be friends again, and when I realised I was fully forgiven it was such a relief, like being released from prison and given a key to freedom again.
This was a really hard lesson for me to learn, yet through this experience I was able to learn something fresh about God’s forgiveness to me. As a child I learned it was easy, and at times it really has seemed so; yet the way my friend acted, the sadness, disappointment and hurt I saw in their eyes, God also felt when at times I glibly said “Sorry Lord”. Yes it is true that nothing I can do today can mean God will love me less, but because God loves me so much I now know that often I break his heart too, yet still I encounter his forgiveness, because he loves me.
Thank You Father that I learned forgiveness was easy and yet I’m still learning of the depth of your love for me and the act that even though it seems easy it breaks your heart.
Jesus – during this Lenten season – remind me again that your death on the cross saw you reaching out to me in my sin and to the Father in his great mercy and through your pain and suffering you continue to make peace.
Lord hear us – Lord graciously hear us!