In order to continue on the journey to a renewed life, I have been forced to take an honest look at my past. All of my past, not just the parts I choose to remember. The parts where I am completely free from fault as well as the parts where I made poor choices.
You see there is a common thread in both parts: forgiveness. In order to be completely free, I have to be able to extend forgiveness for both. I have to forgive the ones who have wronged me as well as extend that SAME forgiveness to myself. If I am only willing to forgive one and not the other, I am only at 50%, and that math doesn’t even get me to a passing C grade. So forgiveness is necessary for all parties involved in my pain and that must include myself too.
How does one go about forgiving others when the pain is so real and raw it takes your breath away? How does one forgive self when the mistakes are so clear and crisp that no matter how many locks get added to the shame closet they are always finding ways to escape and sap the joy from the present. There is only one way to be able to forgive deep, raw, gut wrenching pain, and its through the power and might of the Holy Spirit. Our human flesh is deceitful and it longs to hang onto every hurt and even put every damaging memory on a fancy hanger in our shame closet. The enemy makes the pain seem inviting. We use anger as a protective tool to shield us from being hurt again. The problem is that never works, it only invites more pain. The burden becomes too heavy. Holding anything for too long increases the pain, not lessens it. Just picture carrying around even a 5 pound weight without putting it down. At first its light and causes no significant problems, but imagine that you never put it down. That you carry it everywhere, the shower, the kitchen, to work, shopping, in the car… pretty ridiculous and annoying and eventually even painful. Now imagine every pain or betrayal or hurt being another added 5 pound weight. Every mistake of your own another 5 pound weight. If we never release the hurts and the mistakes, by the time we are young adults, we are already walking around with wheelbarrows, trunkloads, backpacks, fanny packs, purses, and everything else to carry around burdens that we were never designed to carry. A common objection here is “ BUT the people who hurt me don’t deserve forgiveness. Or maybe even…. I don’t deserve forgiveness.” Well, who is carrying around the fanny pack??? Certainly not the person who hurt you. Put that baby down and you can finally let go of the wheelbarrow, suitcase, and even empty out the trunk. Jesus talks of carrying around burdens and He offers to make a beautiful trade with us! He said.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
Forgiveness is touchy. It makes people squirm, it makes people remember pain, it makes people bring up painful memories and the people who were part of our painful memories. It is a widely preached topic, because it is the foundation of Jesus’ message. So still the question remains, how? First, we MUST accept the free gift of grace and forgiveness of God through the power of Jesus Christ. We must be willing to bare ourselves before a loving merciful God who already knows every single thought, every pain, and every mistake anyway. He loves us dearly, preciously, and with an all consuming love that only the very One who formed our every detail could. He is ready to forgive and wash us clean. That step is vital to being able to extend and offer forgiveness to others and ourselves. We must receive and accept the gift in order to give it. We have to receive the gift and open the present. For we cannot give away something we have not yet received to give away. In the simplest terms possible, one cannot lend a dollar to a friend if one has never earned or been given a dollar in the first place! You can’t give away that which you don’t have. Jesus will pour that forgiveness into you. It is unearned and unmerited, it is a gift that is meant to be received and then given away.
Christians have received the free gift salvation through Jesus Christ, and then have also given away that gift of forgiveness to others, but some of us have forgotten a crucial part of handing the yoke to Jesus and accepting His yoke. We forget to do the hard work of forgiving ourselves. We still feel like we deserve the pain, we deserve to keep the shame closet, we must earn our own forgiveness. LIE
We must open that shame closet and let the Lord’s light shine in every single corner, in every dusty nook and cranny and over every hanger until all that is left is mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and self- love. Not self-love as the world may describe it, but self-love that comes from accepting oneself as a creation by the mighty Hand of God. Loving oneself by seeing ourselves as God sees us: royalty. We are the sons and daughters of a King seated on the most high throne. We need to rise up, put on our crown, tell our stories of loss and redemption and help others to pick up their crown too!