I’ve tried several times to write this post and each and every time I’ve tried, I get stuck. Stuck because that’s where I’ve been these last five months–stuck, paralyzed, unable to move forward.
My sticky place has caused a myriad of issues — bitterness, snappiness, irritability, melancholy, stolen joy, unkindness, worry, doubt, fear. I could go on.
The source of my stuck place?
That’s right. I have struggled with forgiving someone since early spring of this year. You may not believe me, but it’s true.
I’ve said that I forgive, only to crave justice and … an apology, of course.
I’ve read Scripture after Scripture on the subject of forgiveness. But even so, I’ve been stuck.
Here’s what I know about forgiveness. While forgiving someone is difficult, unforgiveness makes a person miserable and hinders their journey. That’s right. I know the consequences of unforgiveness, but in this circumstance, I’ve been challenged. I have been unable to let it go. And my inability to forgive has left me sticky, prickly and sometimes really iky.
Several months God showed me a physical picture of what unforgiveness can do. I was driving down the road when suddenly traffic halted. As I inched forward I saw the problem. A large tree had fallen across the road and left only a small pathway for cars to pass. One by one cars took turns finagling through the small space. My heart immediately captured a truth God had been trying to remind me of. Sin of any kind (this includes unforgiveness, Jacqueline, I heard the Lord whisper), blocks access to freedom. Yes, sin. SIn blocks access to God’s grace, mercy and love.
So as I drove on I began to pray. I asked God to help me forgive. I was honest. I told Him I had no desire to forgive much less forget and that He was going to need to help me. I asked Him for grace to forgive and forget. I asked for forgiveness for my unwillingness to forgive. And each day (no, that’s not true) each hour that my thoughts turned toward the unforgiveness and bitterness, I said, out loud, “I choose to forgive. Give me the grace to forgive, Lord, and help me mean it with my head and my heart. Pour Your grace on this place of hurt and anger and help me journey with You in freedom.”
I’d love to tell you that after my little talk in the car with God, I became unstuck and moved forward in complete freedom. But the truth is, it hasn’t been as easy as that. I’ve continued to struggle, but day by day I’m healing, forgiving and moving forward. Each day I pray, “Lord, give me grace to forgive this person. Help me remember the forgiveness you lavished on my at the Cross. Before I even knew I needed forgiveness, You forgave me and pursued me.” Every day I’ve been praying this prayer. And everyday I’ve been choosing to forgive.
Then this summer I had a break-through. One morning while praying, I asked the Lord to help me forgive–again. I asked Him to help me do something practical as a step toward forgiveness. I immediately felt the Lord impress upon my heart four simple words: “Bake her a cake.”
Simple, and in a way, a bit silly, but in baking this cake I was able to move forward in forgiveness. This gesture of baking and taking a cake forced me to intercede (I prayed for her while baking the cake.) and interact (I talked with her when I delivered the cake.).
I didn’t bring up the issue or wait, expecting her to “repent” of her wrong-doing towards me. That’s not what this encounter was about. The purpose of our interaction was a simply to allow me to extend grace and move forward.
Since that day my heart has felt more at peace, and although I never received an apology, God has helped me forgive regardless. Is the relationship completely mended and as it once was? No, it is not. But I know I have forgiven because when I think of this person now, my heart doesn’t race, I don’t feel anxious and I’m not constantly replaying the offense over and over in my mind. There is peace where bitterness and anger once resided.
So what about you? Are you struggling with forgiving someone? Are you waiting for them to apologize or take the first step in restoration? Let me encourage you to “show grace in a cake.” Pray and ask the Lord to help you extend grace, love and forgiveness in your difficult place.