Saturday, March 22, 2008

forgiveness and reconciliation

I've been thinking a lot about forgiveness for the last month. Mostly because God brought it to my attention that there was someone in my life who had hurt me a number of years ago, who I still needed to forgive. For the last 6 - 1/2 years I've been living life holding on to bitterness, hurt, and anger towards this person. And, all the while, thinking that I was hurting the other person by doing so . . . when in reality the only person it was hurting was me.

But, as I've discovered, after so long, the hurt and bitterness that goes along with unforgiveness, and even the unforgiveness itself, is hard to let go of. It becomes a part of you. It most definitely had with me. I had grown so accustomed to it, that I could hardly imagine what it would be like to let that go.

But, God knew that I needed to deal with that. And he got my attention about it one night at Alive (the young adults group at my church). When I broke up with my boyfriend 6 - 1/2 years ago, our lives very quickly went in opposite directions and we weren't living in the same place again. But, about a month ago, he showed up at Alive . . . which, with the size of the group, still meant that I could have easily avoided him all night without too much difficulty. Then, once the evening started, I realized that he was sitting in such a place that I could see him out of the corner of my eye all evening.

It was impossible to get him out of my mind! And believe me, I tried! But, when you really can't look anywhere and not see him, you're kind of stuck. And, it was God who ordained that for that night. I honestly don't remember much of what happened that night . . . but I know that God started a month long journey in my life (so far, I know it's not over yet) that night, just by having my ex-boyfriend show up back in my life.

I've spent many hours digging into Scripture about it and talking to some people in my life who's opinions / wisdom I value in my life. Forgiveness is a huge issue. God offers us forgiveness and we, in turn, should be offering it to those around us who need it from us. The Bible says that we are to forgive others as we have been forgiven by God.

So often when I've talked to people about it, they've talked about how forgiveness needs to lead to reconciliation. Honestly, this has probably been the hugest stumbling block to me in this whole situation. I can get to the point of forgiving him and letting go of the hurt from everything, but I struggle with the idea of having to reconcile my relationship with him.

At this point, I know that things should never be as they were between us. And, I'm unsure if there is room, or if it's right, for their to be any kind of a friendship / relationship between us again. Can we be friendly to one another in a group setting again? Absolutely! Can we truely be good friends again? I don't think so.

I've heard people say that they will forgive someone but they don't ever have to trust the person again. And, in the same conversations, I've heard people they were talking with tell them that then they haven't really forgiven the person. But, I really have a hard time believing that's true. I can think of many situations where you can choose to forgive someone, but trusting them again is probably the last thing you should do (ie. abuse, violent crime). So, does this mean that people who have been victims of abuse or violent crime can never really forgive the person who hurt them? That doesnt' really seem fair or right.

The way I see it . . . forgiveness opens the door to reconciliation. Forgiveness should change our attitude toward the person we have forgiven. But, I think we can forgive people without having to be reconciled to them. Reconciliation of the relationship would be the ideal outcome of forgiveness, but I don't think it is a requirement of true forgiveness.

But, at the same time, some of the people who have said to me that true forgiveness doesn't happen without reconcilation are people whose wisdom and opinions I value a lot in my life. It leaves me a bit torn. I know that I can (now) and need to forgive my ex-boyfriend, but I don't see any possibility of anything more than some friendly conversation in groups between us in the future. So, does this mean that I will never be able to truely forgive him, because our relationship can't and really shouldn't be reconciled. I'm just really not sure on that one. I still struggle with that.

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