My torso leaned over the kitchen island. My hands clasped together while reaching for my daughter. I was ready. Whatever the confession, I was ready to welcome her with grace. But she shook her head. “I don’t want to. … It’s too hard, mom.” She looked up, made contact then looked back down.
I saw her struggle. The thought crossed my mind; I could end all this – the agony of vulnerability. The pain of having to be honest of our failures in front of another, the terror of being seen, and the anxiety of not being able to guarantee a response. But was this all worth it if in repentance she would experience the embrace of kindness? Would our hearts break and grieve the wrong together? Would this fight for her heart lead to goodness, freedom, life and beauty?
The great exchange of forgiveness happens when there is a sincere admittance and deep sorrow for the wrong followed by a request for forgiveness. And when forgiveness is extended, reconciliation is possible. The hard work of both parties would together birth something good.
So I waited. Pursued. Paused. And waited. This was worthy.
But what happens when confession is absent? Worse yet, there is denial and contempt making you feel ludicrous for naming their failure?
The exchange itself may be stalled because it is dependent on the asking but pursuing a posture of forgiveness is independent. We move toward forgiveness with Jesus’ words in mind, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3 ESV
In this post, I pick up where I left off in Forgiveness, The Great Exchange (Part 1) – how do we forgive?
We forgive by remembering.
Lewis Smedes says, “Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”
We remember by grieving. This is different than being seeped in bitterness, hatred, and shame. And it is more than sadness.
It’s acknowledging that our relationships are fraught with failures to love and honor one another. It’s weighing the devastating cost of personal and relational brokenness. It’s the sober reality that we all fall short of God’s good design for glory (Romans 3:23).
Instead of settling of things as they are (“it is what it is”) and coping with self-protective tactics, grief knocks on the door of our desires – for intimacy, to be known, accepted, and belong.
This is the opposite of minimizing, rationalizing, and justifying. Forgiveness does not make excuses.
Amy Carmichael says, “If I find myself half-carelessly taking lapses for granted, "Oh, that's what they always do." "Oh, of course she talks like that, he acts like that," then I know nothing of Calvary love.”
Forgiveness says an injury, a violation of what is good has occurred. That is precisely why forgiveness is needed. On the cross, Jesus stretched his arms wide open, ready to embrace. His eyes were filled with compassion, ready to connect. And just in case we missed it, he uses his last breaths to forgive (Luke 23:34). He moves toward us especially when we least deserve it because that’s precisely what grace does. It’s this grace and mercy that gives us courage to move toward others in forgiveness.