Lent 4, March 27: Embody Forgiveness
I have often heard, and learned from experience, that when you don’t forgive someone, you really do it to the detriment of yourself. They hurt you, leaving a wound you wish wasn’t there. You are left feeling angry, hurt, and betrayed. These emotions become welcome friends to our hearts, and while they may give a temporary reprieve from the hurt, they eventually start wreaking havoc. Before long, they can creep in and take hold of our joy and peace.
I’ve also heard that not forgiving means that you have given the perpetrators of your pain more power over you than you could ever realize. You give them the power to affect your joy and peace. That’s a lot of power to give away.
Forgiving them seems counter-intuitive. It seems like you are relinquishing your power, your stand, your pride, and are becoming weak. But maybe the act of forgiveness is one of the most courageous, strength-requiring acts that a human can endeavor to achieve. It hurts to have been wronged. You may have been given an apology, or maybe not. But as unlikely as it seems, forgiveness is one of the routes of healing. Forgiving is taking back the power that they once had over you. It’s allowing a new day to be just that, a new day. This does not necessarily mean that you communicate that forgiveness; it may be that the best way to forgive someone who brought toxicity into your life is to create boundaries where they are no longer in your life. If you have wounds that are stealing joy and peace, may you have the courage this Lenten season to begin the personal work of forgiveness.
In the Gospel story of what has become known as the Prodigal Son/Child, we see several chances for the family members to forgive. The son must forgive himself for causing his family so much pain and loss because we see that he starts to believe that he is mistake rather than he made a mistake. The father (and probably mother!) must forgive their son for his immature and thoughtless actions. The older brother must forgive his dad for the anger he holds for having not been seen and recognized for the good work he has done for his family. There is need for forgiveness all around.
One of the most beautiful elements of this story though is not just the forgiveness but the embodiment of the forgiveness. The parents runs to the child and embraces him with no reservation. The thing that we thought would happen (the child meeting an angry parent) does not happen, and instead the child is welcomed with complete welcome and love. This is what forgiveness looks like and it is how God longs for God’s children to come home.
So if you are holding something this Lent that is no longer yours to hold, may you have the strength and courage, because you have been forgiven, to let it go, to be opened, and to take your power back.
Scripture: Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Song: Listen to No Hard Feelings by the Avett Brothers
Write or draw a prayer that embodies what forgiveness feels or looks like for you.