Monday, August 27, 2012

Forgiveness

Guess what I did yesterday?

I WENT TO CHURCH.

I haven't been to a church since Christmas Eve...wait, no, I don't think I went to church last Christmas. I was too tired after baking dozens of Kris Kringles and drinking glasses of red wine. Both of which, by the way, are very spiritual experiences. (I'm not kidding.) And last Easter I was walking the streets of NYC with the fam, so I didn't go then, either. So I can't even call myself a ChrEaster Christian! (Good.)

In the spirit of setting personal goals, doing things for myself, and ridding my life of anxiety, during the next few weeks I'm church shopping. Just to try it on for size again, so to speak. And yesterday I was a Presbo for a day! Er, an hour.

I went to a local PCUSA church. Growing up in Pentecostal/Evangelical church circles, I must say that the worship at this church was a little tame. And I even attended the "contemporary" service! There were no raised hands, no closed eyes, no waving flags (thank God for that). But a few of the songs were good and meaty, with words I could recite with conviction and lyrics I could sing heartily to my God. And that's really what worship is all about for me. (Although I'm definitely an expressive one...just not into the flags, is all.)

After "meet and greet" time (does anyone else inwardly groan when told to greet your neighbor?), the pastor delivered his sermon. And something funny happened. I had one of "those" experiences, when the pastor's message was exactly what I needed to hear. I've heard about such experiences from others before, but I can't recall if they've ever truly happened to me. But yesterday, it was so powerful, personal, and poignant (those could be the three points of a sermon—bonus for alliteration!) that I was in tears. Some may call it coincidence that I chose this church to attend on this Sunday at this time and heard this message, but I call it divine.

He talked about forgiveness. He is in the middle of a series on The Lord's Prayer and unpacked verse 12 of Matthew 6: "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."

He talked about both sides of forgiveness. First, for the one who feels he is carrying a burden because he has wronged another.

Second, for the one who feels she is carrying a burden because she has been wronged. That's me, I thought.

The concepts are simple, really, the truth is plain: Unforgiveness causes bitterness, resentment, and malice to grow in your heart. Forgiveness is about freeing yourself from hurt, anger, and pain as much as it's about extending grace to another. God wants both—freedom for you, and grace for the other.

As the pastor expounded on this passage, I felt my heart open, hungry to hear and receive these simple truths. And the rage simmering right below the surface, the malice threatening to choke me out, the bitterness sour in my mouth, and the gnawing hurt burrowing deeper and deeper in my heart...slowly, I felt a sweet release from it all. This revelation spread like a quiet peace through my soul: I have a choice to forgive, and regardless of the choices others make, I can walk above the anger and pain and malice in grace and forgiveness and peace. This doesn't mean I allow others to continue to take advantage of me or ignore their toxicity in my life, but it does mean—as so very difficult as it is—that I allow myself to forgive.

I know forgiveness is incredibly foundational to faith. But for me, that's the beauty of Christ: seemingly simple truths that are life-changingly profound. Yesterday, today, and forever.

1 comment:

Victoria Mason said...

I'm so glad you were able to experience this and hope it continues to happen.