Saturday, June 04, 2005

Stop the Pain! Part 1

"Forgiveness – the act of excusing or pardoning others in spite of their slights, shortcomings, and errors. As a theological term, forgiveness refers to God’s pardon of the sins of human beings."

At some point in our lives we’ve all been in the position of wanting forgiveness or being asked for forgiveness. Sometimes we give it, sometimes we withhold it, sometimes we receive it, and sometimes it is withheld from us.

In fact, I’d even be daring enough to say that one or two of you reading this article has had an act perpetrated against you that you find hard to forgive and just about impossible to forget. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that the perpetrator is probably lucky that the old eye-for-an-eye adage is no longer enforced, or they’d be utilizing a seeing-eye-dog, right about now.

But maybe you’ve been one of the lucky ones who made it through childhood without any major league traumatic experiences, but you just love to hold a grudge. If asked why you weren’t speaking to the grudgee, you probably couldn’t even say, because all you recall, is that somewhere, someway, somehow, and/or at some time, they hurt your feelings.

But for those of us who didn’t escape the trauma, how do you forgive the unforgivable? I mean, how do you forgive someone for taking, by force, that which you didn’t offer? How do you forgive the resultant self-hatred? How do you deal with the fact that the one who was supposed to protect you, instead violated you? How do you forgive the loss of hope? Or muffle the incessant refrain of “Why me…Lord?”

How do you forgive the husband or boyfriend who uses you as a punching bag, because he loves you, and you just keep on doing things to make him mad? How do you forgive the parents who abandoned you to the mercies of the state; The resultant bouncing around from foster home to foster home, where more often than not the foster parents cared more about the paycheck they received than your welfare?

How do you forgive the furtive gropings and invasion of your person you endured while being told it’s because I love you, but don’t tell anyone, because it’s too special to share so it’s our little secret? How do you forgive the best friend who should have had your back, but while you were working overtime to pay the bills, she was working overtime on your man?

How do you deal with these injustices?

May I suggest to you that it is possible to forgive what seems unforgivable? Am I denying the fact that you were hurt? No. Am I negating your pain? Never! But what I want to propose to you today, is that weeping may endure for a night, but joy will come in the morning! I know, beautiful prose! But what does it mean, really? I’m so glad you asked.

It means that your pain has a time limit, a season if you will, and a purpose under heaven. I’ll even go so far as to say that the catalyst for the cessation of pain is directly tied up in forgiveness. In order for you to move on to the next step, which is healing, you need to give the gift of forgiveness to the offender and most importantly, to yourself.

In my struggle to work towards forgiveness, I read and re-read Jesus’ last moments on the cross. I imagined there was some pain but I couldn’t quite empathize. The passion of Christ, I was told, which came out last year around Easter, did an excellent job of portraying His agony. I never did get to see it, because I’m a bit squeamish. But I just couldn’t let it go. After some rooting around on the web, I found this article which delineates the medical complaints of Jesus on the cross:

I don’t know about you but when I’m in pain, I’m short tempered (which means I’m less than my usual tactful self, even a little mean spirited, sort of that "misery loves company" mindset). I want to be alone, by myself. No hovering, no fussing, just thinking about no one else but me. Just a little bit short of a pity party.

After reading the true nature of Jesus’ injuries, and the fact that He refused the combination of gall and myrrh, which would have served to dull His pain, I found His fortitude and lack of vindictiveness uncommon. As I re-read the scriptures describing His last moments on the cross, I marveled at how He took time out to say “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

So, again I pose the question. How do you forgive the unforgivable? Or maybe I should ask. Is it really that hard to forgive? Or are you holding onto your hurt, out of habit? Might you just be holding on, because it’s all you’ve known for five, ten, fifteen or maybe even twenty years?

Has it become like a familiar companion? You know exactly what to expect from it. It won’t ever disappoint you; it’s there when you need it. As a reason not to try something new, or when you need a scapegoat for every thing that has ever gone wrong in your life. It’s there beside you as you watch the world go by, saying “if only”, “when I,” or “I could have.” Stunted, unmoving, crippled by your memories.

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