I'm really not sure how to start this post out. There's so much to say. I just don't know where to begin.
The minister's sermon last Sunday really hit me. He preached on forgiveness.
You know how sometimes (okay, a lot of times) you go into church on Sunday, and you're struggling with something, or something affected you that week that you can't get your mind off of? Or maybe you've been harboring something in your heart so deeply, you've stopped thinking about it? And then, the preacher gets up and when he announces the topic of his sermon for that day, your eyes grow wide, or you jump, or if you were looking down, your head shoots up to stare at the preacher. Why? Because the topic of that Sunday's sermon is exactly what you've been struggling with. Exactly what you can't get off of your mind. Exactly what you've been harboring in the depths of your heart.
That's how I felt this last Sunday morning. My family was in Idaho with a few other families, staying in a cabin. Our church has a thing where you can "call in" and listen to the sermon if you can't be in church. So we did just that.
The minister announced the sermon topic: forgiveness. At first I didn't jump. It was more of a "cock my head to the side with curiosity" kind of thing. As I started listening to the sermon, I felt something tell me "you need to hear this. This is for you. Listen closely." As if God had sat down beside me and tapped me on the shoulder. I instantly began taking notes. The minister was going through misconceptions about forgiveness. Then he went to lies that prevent us from forgiving. The next point was what really hit me.
The connection between bitterness and forgiveness.
If you don't forgive, you can...well, you will become bitter. Signs of bitterness are feeling angry when that person is mentioned or you see them; being more likely to say negative things about that person when they are mentioned; and it goes on.
I felt a pressing on my heart. A name. A person that I have not forgiven. Someone whom I had decided was not worthy of my time. Every time this person is mentioned or their name crosses my mind, all I can think of is how sick and tired I am of them. I don't want to talk to them. I don't want to be around them. For a while, I seriously considered deleting them from my Facebook and blocking them so they wouldn't notice. I told my mom that last part once, and she quickly discouraged me from doing so. She told me to just be an example to them, and be someone they can see Jesus in.
But as I listened to this sermon, I realized that there was no way I was being a good example to that person. Sure, they had hurt me. I felt justified in not forgiving them. The whole "well they hurt me, so I'm gonna find some way to hurt them" attitude. But the minister said something that I've heard many times, but as I was listening to this sermon, and allowing thoughts of the unforgiven person run through my head, it finally made sense. He said: "Not forgiving someone is like drinking a deadly poison and waiting for it to kill that person." Obviously, if you drink a deadly poison, it will kill you and only you.
The minster continued with the simplicity of forgiveness. God forgave us. Even though we have done so much to disappoint Him, He has forgiven us. Ephesians 4:31-32 says "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
God has forgiven us. Why can't we forgive each other? There is no valid reason on earth not to forgive each other.
As the sermon closed, I thought back to how my unforgiving spirit had affected others. I had grouched at a good friend who didn't even know the person I had not forgiven. Why had I grouched at them? Merely because that person had been on my mind, my hackles were raised, and the good friend had the misfortune to try and have a conversation with me. (I have since apologized for being such a grouch). But I realize now why I had been grouchy. The person I had not forgiven was on my mind, and I was bitter towards this person.
Forgiveness is a choice; an action word. Much like love.
And that's what I have done: forgiven.
Forgiveness doesn't erase everything that happened. But I'm no longer going to linger on it. God long ago forgave that person. And now, I have forgiven them.
Forgive; so that you will never have any regrets.