Forgiveness

For the last few weeks, the sermons at my church have been focused on each line of the Lord’s Prayer. We have been going through 40 Days of Prayer, and several members have been offered opportunities to write devotions, me included. I wrote my devotion on the line “Give us this day our daily bread,” which was our emphasis last week. I’m starting to think though after yesterday’s sermon, it would probably have been better if I had been able to write mine about forgiveness. Then, I remembered. I have a platform of my own so I decided to write about forgiveness today.

First, for clarity, I want to start off with the definition of forgiveness. Dictionary.com defines it as “act of forgiving; state of being forgiven.” This isn’t too clear about what forgiveness actually is so I decided to define the word “forgive”. Also, from Dictionary.com. Forgive means “to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve; to give up all claim or account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.); or to grant pardon to (a person).”

I quoted all of the definitions so it would be clear what Jesus wants us to do in the Lord’s Prayer. Here are the verses from Matthew 6 that specifically talk about this. Verses 12-15 say, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

So, there it is in black and white. God expects us to forgive others like He forgives us. It should be easy then, right? God said it, and we do it. No questions asked. No, that isn’t quite the case. At least, it’s not for me, and I’m guessing some of you find it hard too. I find it hard to forgive others because the things they do to hurt me are usually silly things. Things that would be considered childish in the adult world. So, I stuff them deep down inside. I’ve been told all my life that any hurts I have are not worth acknowledging or forgiving. In other words, making myself vulnerable was something to be avoided at all costs.

I find it’s the same way on the other end of the scale. Because I find it hard to be vulnerable in front of others, it’s hard for me to ask for forgiveness from others. Now, I’m not talking about everyday things like bumping into someone. I can ask forgiveness for those things easily. No, it’s the relationship damaging conflicts where I’m unable to stand up for what I believe in. There have been some people in my life who have given me heck for what I believe in, and we’ve said hurtful things to one another. (One of the reasons I never took debate in school.) Because I have such a hard time managing conflict, I have let the relationship dissolve. It hurts, but I haven’t been able to figure out a way where I can agree to disagree with someone and maintain the relationship. (Remember, I have been told all my life that my words didn’t and don’t matter.)

The nearest I’ve been able to come to asking for or receiving forgiveness is by writing it down, handing it to the person involved, and walking away. I know it’s the coward’s way out, but, in a small way, it’s a victory for me because I’ve been able to do what God asks for in this prayer. Does it change the relationship? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Everything I’ve heard about forgiveness say that it’s supposed to change you more than the other person. And it has changed me for good sometimes and for bad at others because I tend to withdraw. I tell myself that no one could possibly want to spend time with me because I’m such a terrible person. Like I said last week, “I know I’m hard to get along with. I know I’m prickly, and I find it hard to talk to people.” I’ve dropped out of groups because I haven’t wanted to face people. I’ve guess I’ve internalized every non-lesson I was ever taught about conflict.

Hopefully, in my words, you have found something to help you with your own forgiveness journey. Forgiveness is hard, and it’s even harder to ask for in person. When you’ve been told all your life that your feelings don’t matter and that vulnerability is a no-no, you’re not inclined to even try. I know I matter to Jesus, and you do too. He is the one who gives us the power to forgive. I just wish I knew I mattered to other people so asking in person for forgiveness wouldn’t be so hard. God’s blessings on you all today!

 

 

Praying for Our Daily Bread

Many of us learn the Lord’s Prayer early in our believing life and recite it automatically when asked to do so. I’ve recently been challenged by a sermon in which these verses were used and have been convicted to really think about the words when I pray this prayer. Western Christians have a tendency to reflect their culture, and since financial planning is a part of that culture, this is reflected in our work lives, our personal lives, and in our church lives. When we plan in this way, we tend to think that we are responsible for the work we have done and don’t give God the credit where credit is due. We also have more of a tendency to worry when things aren’t going the way we want them to. Like when the price of stock goes down or when the interest rates go down. Or when our salaries don’t meet the expenses of our lives. Or when we want to do something in our churches, and no money is available.

I listened to this minister on Sunday, and when he said that there were people in Third World countries who prayed the Lord’s Prayer asking for their food for the day, something clicked inside my head and my heart. These people weren’t saying this prayer by rote; they meant every word that they said. They did not know where their food was going to come from, and they rejoiced and thanked God when He did provide for them that day. My heart hurt when I heard this. Though I’m not rich by any stretch of the imagination, I have prayed the Lord’s Prayer by rote. I’ve been worried and anxious when we’ve gone through bad times, and there have been times when I’ve taken care of things on my own and forgotten to thank God when everything turned out all right.

It’s easy to be grateful when we have full pantries and money to pay our bills, and when we’re doing all the things our culture says we should be doing. We’re not depending on God though. We’re depending on ourselves.  And then we judge when we see someone who doesn’t have all the things we have and say that it’s their fault they don’t have a place to live or food to eat. I think I understand better now why Jesus said it was difficult for a rich person to get into heaven. We’re more “worried” about the resources we have here and how to keep them in our hands.

I’ve not made a secret of suffering from depression or anxiety in this blog. I’ve had to hang on to God a lot through the turmoil of my life over the past few years. I’ve  prayed more during the bad times than I have during the good. I don’t want to be so focused on the future anymore though. I think if I can pray the Lord’s Prayer each morning and be focused on each day as it comes, I will have an easier time with my depression and anxiety, and I will remember where my true provision comes from.

I will leave you with the Lord’s Prayer so you can pray for your daily bread as well.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” – Matthew 6:9-13