Sunday, June 23, 2013

Choosing to Forgive to Find True Freedom

I've been feeling like I should write this post for a while, but I've been hesitant to write it, let alone post it. A couple of days ago, I briefly hinted at this journey when I shared a post of a poem I had shared a few year earlier that talked about this same thing. But, God is not letting me go on this one - the topic even came up loud and clear in a TV show I was watching - so here goes the post.

At the beginning of April I drove to one of my favourite places to be. To the Bible camp that has played a significant role in my life. I was heading to a retreat. I've gone to many retreats there, but I really didn't have any idea what this one would be about. I knew it was a retreat called Encounter God, and that for the people I knew who had gone before it had been life-changing for them.

I won't say all of the weekend was easy, but all of it was God-ordained. God had things planned that He wanted to deal with that weekend. But even in the face of things that weren't always easy, God was gentle and loving in how He brought things up.

It doesn't take long walking through this life to gather up hurts from other people. It happens when you interact with people. We're all fallen and we hurt other people - sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally - but we hurt each other nonetheless.

Over the years, I've picked up my fair share of hurts from other people (and I'm sure I've hurt people along the way too). It took me a while to learn to trust people again. I started on that first Encounter God weekend to trust people again.

But that was only the beginning of that. I had taken those hurts and decided that the way to protect myself. That first weekend, I made the choice to trust people again. To begin to remove that wall.

Fast forward a couple of months to this past weekend. I found myself driving to my church for another Encounter God retreat. I knew what to expect the second time, but at the same time I didn't know. I went open to what God had for me that weekend.

But, once I figured out where He was going this weekend I wasn't sure I wanted to go where He was going. Over the years, I had taken all those hurts from other people and held onto them. At first I thought it was a good idea. But, over the years, I had come to see that it was not a good thing.

The problem was that I wasn't sure I was able to forgive those people any more. The unforgiveness I was holding onto towards those people had become something I was so used to carrying around. And the truth was that I didn't want to let it go because I thought it was protecting me.

This last weekend, God showed me that I needed to forgive those people - that holding on to that unforgiveness was hurting me, not helping me. It happened as I knelt before the cross, contemplating all that Jesus had forgiven me for. I was overwhelmed with all that Jesus had forgiven me for. And I knew I had to forgive others as I have been forgiven. It was a choice I made to forgive them.

But, in making that choice, I realized just how good choosing to forgive was. I quite literally felt like a weight had been lifted off of me. Letting go of something that I had carried for years that had been slowly destroying me, was the best choice I could have ever made.

Three months ago, I would have told you it wasn't possible - that I would be carrying this with me to the end of my life on this earth. Now, it's been a week since I finally let it, but I can't imagine carrying it around any longer.

It's changed the way I look at life. It's changed the way I look at the importance of being in community with people.

I know I'll probably be hurt again in the future, because that happens with fallen people, but the one thing I do know for sure is that I don't want to pick up that hurt and start carrying around unforgiveness for it with me for years.

Forgiveness is possible with the help of Jesus. And it really is the best way to live. We may not feel like it, but when we make the choice to forgive, it is worth it.

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