Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I have to forgive THOSE people?



Forgiveness. What does it even mean? I spent literally years living next door to people who despised the very ground my family walked on. And I'm ashamed to say that I did a fair bit of hating in return for the hating they showed us. It's the human reaction to such circumstances, even though it's not the heavenly reaction. For that, I will always suffer mild guilt. Is there a bridge I could have crossed to meet this family halfway? Is there something I could have said, something I could have done, some gesture that would have suddenly turned the loathing into love? I don't know.

All I do know is that forgiveness is crucial if I am going to move on from this place in my life. They're not next door anymore. A house foreclosed, mixed feelings of sorrow for their circumstances and hesitant, unbelieving relief that they were finally, after 11 years, leaving the neighborhood. No longer would I have to step out my front door and see their house. No longer would I dread that garage door going up. And no longer would I have to pretend not to hear the mock whispers of derision intent on bringing about a reaction that would warrant calling the police.

This was my life for 11 years. It's my life no longer. I step out the front door and see a "For Sale" sign on the lot. The rooms are barren, the driveway deserted, and my soul feels lighter than it has ever felt living in this neighborhood. Even in the backyard, my heart would clench at the sound of their voices, and I constantly fought the instinct to run away, to hide in the house, to never set foot in a place where I would be forced to remember they existed.

But I have done what I previously thought was impossible. I've forgiven them. For all the years of rancor and distasteful scenes, for all the bitterness in my own heart. I've forgiven them. And I pray for them. That they find peace in their new home, a fresh start, that they would be free from the same bitterness that for years managed to enslave me. Forgiveness isn't about them. It's about me. It's about both letting go and taking back at the same time. Recovering a piece of myself that was lost. A heart that was almost destroyed.

Jesus says in Matthew 6:14-15, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

This is what He says. As children of God, there are exactly two choices here. I'm not sure about everyone else, but I don't want to live with unforgiveness festering in my heart. I don't want to run the risk of displeasing my heavenly Father because I can't forgive others when He forgave me, a woman whose sins helped pin Jesus to that cross. Unforgiveness is not what Jesus wants of me and I want, above all else, to serve and obey Him, no matter how rough or steep that road might become. Because it's worth it.

God is good. He removed the constant thorn in my family's side. But He would still be good and still have a lesson to teach me if my neighbors were still next door sneering at us. He chose to take away this particular trial, for which I am forever grateful. He is good in any and all circumstances of my life . . . the pleasant and the not-so-pleasant. Perhaps this was His purpose in giving us this trial for so many years and than relieving us of that burden. So I would always remember that He was good in the midst of the trial, just as He is good outside of it. I do wish I knew whether I would have ever been able to truly forgive them without them leaving. But God did not ask it of me. All that matters is that I now have forgiveness instead of bitterness in my heart.

God is now and always will be faithful.

6 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you've been able to forgive them! Isn't it a great release? I struggled for a long time with forgiving a family who hurt me several years ago, thankfully they never lived next door to me, and I don't have to see them much. I love the quote/picture you shared the beginning! Also the quote "refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to be sick" (I can never remember who said it) helped me realize that I was only hurting myself, especially since they don't know or care that I've forgiven them... and so far as I know, they still don't think they did anything wrong. I appreciate you sharing this, Carissa!
    Thank God for His mercy and faithfulness!

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    1. Forgiveness is one of the hardest things we ever have to do as Christians, but it's one of the most important lessons we have to learn. I do feel a lot lighter than before, but it was a struggle, like you with the people who hurt you. We must all have at least one person who's harmed us in some way that the Lord reminds us to forgive, so we can move on in our lives. It's not about the other person, it's about not letting hate fester in our hearts. Like your people, our neighbors never thought they did anything wrong. They were ebullient in their self-righteousness. But it was never about them. It was about me. And I'm so grateful to the Lord for leading me to that understanding. God works in mysterious and sometimes very painful ways, using even the worst circumstances to grow us in Him. He is truly amazing!

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  2. I have witnessed so many people get eaten away emotionally by the refusal to forgive -- I'm so glad you've been able to forgive your ex-neighbors!

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    1. Yeah, it was a struggle, but one in which the Lord has been so faithful. It's only when we come out on the other side of these trials that we realize we've actually learned from them, which is why God put us through them in the first place. Amazing how he works!

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  3. Beautiful! Forgiveness is definitely a struggle, but God is faithful! Thank you for sharing this; it's a reminder and I appreciate it:)

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    1. Yes, it is a struggle, but the alternative is so ugly. We learn through so much about ourselves, others, and especially God when we forgive. This is going to be a constant process throughout the rest of my life, I have no doubt. :)

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