September 12, 2023- The hard yet freeing truth of forgiveness

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It is a busy season for many of us. Between back to school, Harvest Market, and the constant navigating of challenges to health, heart and world, things likely seem a bit full these days. This may not feel like the best season—at least for some of us—to tend to the inward journeys. 

Yet Sunday’s scripture directs us toward a central and difficult tenet of the faith: forgiveness. “How many times must I forgive?” Peter asks. “Seventy times seven,” Jesus answers, implying an infinite number. What exactly forgiveness can and should look like, especially in complex situations of hurt or repeated injustice, requires great care.

Still, forgiveness is mostly about the heart of the one doing the forgiving. And for this, Steve Garnaas-Holmes has again provided some poetic food for thought as we consider the unforgiven burdens we carry. I commend his words to us. Pray them today or place them somewhere to return to as we seek release from repeated injury. 

When we’re hurt we naturally seek

to offload the wound or loss in blame,

as if the pain might stick to the fault, in someone else.

So we’ll even curse the coffee table—

“Stupid thing!”—for being there.

But of course projecting our pain doesn’t shed it;

it only buries it deeper, and in fact becomes

a way of hanging onto it.

Blame is a heavy load to carry,

the careful accounting, the accrual of debt,

care for the scaffolding of deserving,

the work of keeping the pain unfinished

because of someone else’s fault.

As much as I insist otherwise,

even when the other continues in evildoing,

refusal to forgive is never about the other but about me,

and my invisible chain to the past.

It’s a tough ask,

to lay down my burden and accept my pain,

but that’s how I get free:

accept myself as hurt, flawed, broken—

wronged, even.

So to forgive someone

is really to forgive myself.

Free to love myself, flawed as I am,

I am free to love the other, flawed as they are,

to know they too were moved by hurt they couldn’t bear.

Though I don’t condone or even trust them still,

I let go of debt. I free myself from the account.

In forgiveness I am free to love even my enemy;

only then am I truly free.

Pastor Jen