If I were your enemy, I’d use every opportunity to bring old wounds to mind, as well as the people, events, and circumstances that caused them. I’d try to ensure that your heart was hardened with anger and bitterness. Shackled through unforgiveness.
When I was in junior high, I had dreams of being a professional singer. This was during the age of Brittney, Christina and Jessica and the pinnacle of the success of the Spice Girls. I remember waking up one morning and, while I was on the way to school, telling my mom that the previous night I had a dream that I was the sixth member of the Spice Girls (don’t judge…they were cool back then). Her response was simply, “I don’t think you have the vocal talent for something like that.”
Now. My mom was right. God may have blessed me with a lot of things, but singing was not one of them. It’s something that I love to do, but I’m just not talented in that area. I’ll leave that kind of thing to the Carrie Underwoods of the world. But, that comment hurt. It bothered me and hindered me for years. I was asked to be part of the youth praise team and then later, the praise choir at our church…but the hurt from that comment when I was in the 6th grade stuck with me throughout that entire time.
There are much deeper hurts in my life than that, unfortunately. In your life as well. While I would love to say that the deepest hurt I have ever experienced was my being told that I couldn’t sing well enough to join a very obnoxious 90’s girl band…it’s just not true.
During the summer prior to my senior year of high school I lost both of my grandmothers within a 10 day window. One was much older and had been recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers. The other was only 56 and passed away from a sudden massive stroke. I would love to say that that summer didn’t have a lasting impact on me, but that would be lying. While I never allowed that unfortunate series of events to define who I was, they still impacted my life and the way that I see the world.
For a while, I was angry with God for the hurt that caused me. I blamed him for taking my grandmother’s too soon, especially my Granny who was far too young to go in my eyes. That was only the beginning of some of the deepest hurts in my life…all of which shaped who I am. Yet it took almost 10 years for me to begin to see that the hurt that I had experienced and would experience were meant to make me stronger.
Somewhere at some point everyone was brainwashed with this concept that when you come to know Christ and get “saved” that your life automatically improves and all of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things don’t happen to you anymore. And, I’ll just be frank…that’s a load of crap. One of my favorite segments of IF:Gathering a couple of weeks ago was the spot Angie Smith did about this same thing that stood out profoundly to me. Telling someone, anyone, that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle is a lie.
Letting go of the things that people have done or said to you, is hard. It is sometimes downright impossible. There are things in my life that I feel like I had to intentionally set down, surrender and let go of day in and day out. I can’t and won’t pretend like I know what kind of hurt you have in your life. I know without a shadow of a doubt that there are people out there who endure and have endured and will endure far worse than I have. Yet, all of our hurts, all of our pain, is the same to Christ. He hurts when we hurt. And he sees the pain that we endure.
But forgiveness? Even when it doesn’t feel “normal” to forgive? That is what we are called to do.
Yet your willingness-your obedience…is a tremendous test of godly surrender and humility (162).
Part of me wonders if things like this are what God was referring to in scripture when he talked about how the gate and the road were narrow that brought life (src). Living a life where you actually forgive people for the things that they do to hurt us? That’s just unheard of. People just don’t do that. We don’t let go of the past mistakes. We don’t release people from the burden of the pain that they caused us. Instead, we just continue to hold it over their head and bring it up whenever we can so that it continues to inflict pain on them.
But can I be honest about something? People who don’t forgive and release those hurts are some of the ugliest people I have ever seen. I know a few people in my life who just absolutely refuse to let go of things that have happened in the past, and it shows in multiple aspects of their lives. Their relationships with their spouse/kids, their friendships with other people, their attitude toward almost everyone that they encounter, the overall way that they live their life…there is a cloud of darkness and hatefulness that just follows them.
Jesus came to free us from that. There are things in my life that I have had to just let go of and let God deal with. Otherwise, it would continue to drive me crazy and turn me into one of those hateful, horribly rude and ugly people that I find myself praying fervently for. God knows that we hurt. He’s aware of that. At the same time, he offers us the chance to be free from that hurt.