Have you ever had a revelation shortly after a favorable cinematic or musical experience? Perhaps the delight and insight seemed disjoint at first, but after mulling it over, you realized, ‘Hey, I can string these two together to capture a powerful metaphor?’
Well...let’s just say that’s where I am now as I write this.
First, allow me to divulge the insight…
Lately, I’ve been reading about the wounding/forgiveness relationship and how unholy tolerances of [seemingly] minor deceptions can lead to deeper heart issues. As a guide, I’ve been soaking in Terry Wardle’s Wounded: How to Find Wholeness and Inner Healing in Christ, where he not only shares testimonies of people who conquered unforgiveness, but provides a sequential, biblically-based prescription on how to defeat it as well.
His first point, in particular, caught my eye: “Do not move to forgiveness too quickly”.
Now, could Mr. Wardle have been looking for a contrarian perspective to kick things off? Perhaps.
But having pondered the point for a couple days, I believe there’s legit biblical value to be found here.
For starters, we tend to want to heal as soon as possible…which makes sense considering our innate inclination to self-preserve. Just get me a freakin’ Band-Aid and I’ll be fine, we say to ourselves.
Yeah, it may string more…yeah, it may take longer. Then again...shouldn’t we want this? To be intentional in fully processing the profundity of what/whom we’re forgiving? After all, it's not like we have anything to lose taking forgiveness seriously.
And hear me: I’m not suggesting we can’t get right in a moment with God…or that we can’t declare mercy from the onset; however, we must remember: forgiving our brother is a marathon, not a sprint…a process, not a destination. Thus, if we’re rushing forgiveness, then chances are, we’re doing it wrong.
To illustrate the fact, I call upon one of my favorite adventure movies: Apollo 13. As some of you may recall, towards the end of the film, as the crew prepares for re-entry, we’re made aware of two obstacles:
1) The lunar module will have to contend with its damaged heat shield (and breakup potential) as a result of the oxygen tank explosion.
2) The module will have to enter the earth’s atmosphere at just the right angle to avoid deflection into space (too shallow) or a total burnout (too steep).
Of course, like any decent ‘90’s action movie, the conflicts culminate into a happy ending (which I won’t “sin” in this case since it stayed true to history). But I suppose my point in referencing Apollo 13 is: forgiveness is like a spacecraft re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. If we procrastinate forgiveness (come in too shallow), we shun mercy in favor of entitlement, self-justice…even withdrawal. On the flip side, if we rush forgiveness (come in too steep), then we empower suppressed emotion and self-preservation, in turn, burning away the opportunity for vulnerability and keeping our insecurities in limbo.
So what do we do when we’re in a forgiveness pinch? Well, if we want to extend forgiveness the way God would have us, then I’d say we must find the balance between patience (strategically seeking the Lord first) and honesty.
You see…in my experiences, far too often, I see people trying to cover up the past, sweeping opportunities for reconciliation under the carpet…basically doing whatever they can to hide and avoid confrontation.
Granted, I believe it’s wise to get away with God to glean His gameplan for reconciliation; however, this doesn’t mean we make quiet time something our forgiveness can hide behind. ‘Cause at the end of the day, extending mercy must be realized internally and externally. So if we’re not willing to live grace demonstratively, then our forgiveness will remain partial at best.
Whatever the situation, forgiveness must be an evident, continuous reality in our lives. I know in this day and age, it ‘s easy to want a clear-cut, 5W1 forgiveness formula. Yet, when it comes to discerning the immediacy of our forgiveness, the best thing we can do is draw closer to God and inquire His timing.
My encouragement to you, friends, is to not rush forgiveness just because you fear the guilt of grudge-holding. Instead, why not reference God first in every challenge, make running to Him a daily habit, and relish the opportunity to empty yourself before Him…all the while, watching His grace permeate the space where unforgiveness once occupied.
After all, you gotta admit…it beats burning up or shutting down, am I right?
1) 5W = What, when, where, who, why
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