And forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us...
I checked the Merriam Webster Dictionary for some definitions... the definition of the word "forgive" really took me back a step.
1) to give up resentment of or claim to requital.
2) to cease to feel resentment against (an offender).
Wait a minute, I thought. Isn't forgiveness something that happens after the offending party apologizes profusely? After some conciliatory gestures have been made? Doesn't the bad guy in this have to do something first? Send flowers?
The actions described in this definition of forgiveness are "I statements". These are actions I have to take, personally. I 'give up' or 'cease' without "something given in return, compensation, or retaliation" (that would be the definition of requital).
It is not fair for this to all be on me! Or on you...for that matter, is it? Well, rejoice. Forgiveness is not 'all on us.' The ability to forgive is a gift from God.
A gift from God? Yes.
Now I know that the first part of our statement is "forgive us our trespasses." We ask God's forgiveness for that which we should not have done, for sin that moves us away from God. We ask God's forgiveness, but truly I think God's definition of forgiveness is not the same as the Merriam Webster. I never picture God as holding resentment, or expecting requital. I picture God as love, ready and encouraging me not to sin again. So the first gift from God for me is the grace of knowing I am loved by God in spite of myself.
Now the next part is harder: "as we forgive those who trespass against us"...
There are some things that I simply cannot forgive. I can't forgive myself for some of my past. I can't forgive others who have hurt me or hurt ones l love or hurt any of God's children...
How can I show that same love to "them" as God is showing to me?
There are so many situations that I would deem unforgivable. Any harm to a child. Bullying. Abuse. Murder of all kinds. How in the world can I forgive "those" people?
I have worked at forgiveness. I try to remember that I have been just like the person I am trying to forgive! I try to give the benefit of the doubt - because there are things that I must be forgiven of, without a doubt.
I can't forgive without God's help. I don't have it in me.
And then comes the second part of the gift, Of my own accord, I would not forgive much. But God gives me the grace and the change of attitude so that I can give up the resentment, cease my worry and fear about those who offend.
And the weight is lifted.
Now, it is quite true that un-forgiveness often hurts us more than the one who initially hurt us. There are surely some exceptions to this, but for anyone who has held un-forgiveness for a long period of time, well, it is heavy. Un-forgiveness sinks like a stone in your heart, it weighs you down.
So, take the gift of forgiveness. . And you will feel the weight lifted...
My post script about forgiveness is that forgiveness comes with good, safe boundaries. You do not ever have to be in the same room again with the one who hurt you, or in the same state for that matter. You are not condoning any of the actions of the one who hurt you or the ones you love or any of God's children. When you forgive - you are freed from the weight of resentment and reminded again of just how much God loves you. And the weight is lifted.
Maybe you have our St. Paul's
Lent in a Bag - and you are wondering what do to do with the black stone in the bottom of the bag? I have a suggestion. Take the rock from the
Lent in a Bag, or any small rock maybe from your garden and place it in your hand. Consider all that you wish to be forgiven for... one big thing, a list of small things, current events, past history, you name it. You can do this over time, or in one sitting, make a list if that helps. But picture the rock as holding all those things you would like to be forgiven for. Feel the weight of the rock in your hand.
Bring that rock with you to St. Paul's on Good Friday, lay your burdens at the foot of the wooden cross in the church. Jesus has taken the burdens, the blows, the hurt, the anger, the anxiety and has absorbed that all for us. Jesus, our mediator and our rock has taken the hit. Once, for all. And we are free, forgiven, healed and loved.