A few months ago I asked a friend of mine, Katherine, to write a blog on forgiveness.  Katherine is the creator of the blog Proverbs and Pacifiers (www.proverbsandpacifiers.com)    I asked her to write on a topic that frustrated me.  You see, if you were able to browse through all of my draft blog posts, you would notice a trend: forgiveness.  You might also notice that each of them were still in draft status.  I never could write exactly how I wanted to feel.  I wanted to write about forgiveness because it is something I am striving for, no matter how unrealistic and impossible it generally feels.  God used Katherine to deliver in a way that my heart needed at that moment.

As I made the trip last weekend to Officer Deckard’s funeral, I optimistically thought how much the trip was going to help me bring about more closure, as well as demonstrate support for a family who was forced to feel a hurt that no one should ever feel.  I attended visitation, the funeral, and instead of closure I felt a heavier heart.  I witnessed once more the outpouring of support, the beauty and honor that could only describe an officer’s funeral.  All around me was support and gratitude for our sacrifices; yet, in my heart, I felt burden and heaviness.  And it angered me because I should be feeling gratitude for the support and prayers.  Throughout the entire experience I kept feeling resentment towards the fact that God would allow our loved ones to be taken by such senseless actions.  And, all of the feelings I worked so hard to eradicate in the past months bombarded me.  I retreated, as I generally do when I feel overwhelmed, and I slept for over 14 hours in my hotel room.

Throughout the duration of the incredibly long waiting time in the airport, I found myself focusing on the “nevers” in my life.  The reality that my future is littered with “nevers.”  Never hugging him again, never hearing his laughter, never seeking his advice or affirmation, never knowing with absolute certainty  that I’m raising C the way J and I decided together we would, and never getting to watch him smile in pride as C grew into a man.  And the thoughts of never weighted me down.  Throughout my stay at the airport, and my flight home, I frequently found my thoughts gravitating towards forgiveness. In my mind, I was writing a letter to the person, whomever that may be, who is responsible for J’s death.  I was always writing the end of the letter,   and it always ended in statements such as, “the forgiveness I feel is for me.  It’s so I can move on, eradicating the anger and bitterness I feel.” And, I got angry with myself for even thinking about forgiveness.  Forgiveness has always come easy to me, yet, this time I couldn’t fathom how to begin. I knew I needed to, but I didn’t want to actually forgive.  To put it simply, in my mind forgiveness excused the actions, it smoothed it over, brushed it under the rug, and in a sense, it felt like dishonoring J’s memory.  And, almost in the same breath, I feel an urge to forgive, to understand that people make mistakes, and to live my life as happily as possible. There’s never a balance: never a day when I can just feel indifferent about forgiveness.  On the last flight home, I stared at the horizon, and once again the nevers overtook my mind. And I prayed that something in my heart would change, and that I could eventually be positive without a constant reminder and battle within my own heart.

Below you find the post Katherine wrote.  Thank you for your prayed over words Katherine.  I now pray that they touch others lives as much as they have my own.  I also pray that in some ways I can start the forgiveness process, however long it may take.

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“…as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13

Forgive as you’ve been forgiven.

It sounds easy. In fact, many of us are probably guilty of making it seem a little too easy.

The Bible is clear that if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). He promises to remove our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Ps 103:12). He forgets our sins and remember our iniquities no more (Is 43:25). He makes us white as snow (Is 1:18).

God then tells us to forgive others, just as we have been forgiven. Brothers, friends, enemies, no matter how many times they hurt us we are supposed to forgive…

…to let it go.

…to forget it.

…to move on.

…to wipe the slate clean.

We often paint a picture of forgiveness that’s all smiles and love and happiness. Someone apologizes, someone forgives, and then we walk off into the sunset holding hands. Now, this method might work when someone steals your pencil or cuts in line at the water fountain, but honestly, it feels painfully inadequate when it comes to the real struggles in life.

What about those times when we are cut to the core and our hearts are broken, when someone else’s actions, their words, their attitude, changes the course of our lives forever, when someone else’s sin robs us of joy and security and leaves us spinning out of control? Sometimes people apologize and sometimes they don’t, but in either case, the pain doesn’t just go away because the damage can’t always be undone.

It’s then that we learn the truth. Forgiveness is anything but neat and clean and easy.

The Cost of Our Forgiveness

The forgiveness and grace offered to us by God came at a great price. God sent his only Son to the cross of Calvary, to be beaten, mocked, and tortured. Jesus died a painful, messy, bloody death. But more than that, he allowed himself to feel the full weight of our sin and punishment. He who knew no sin became sin for us.

So we could be forgiven.

Let that sink in for a minute. The grace offered freely to us, was anything but free. It wasn’t easy. God didn’t wake up one morning and just decide to “let it go”. He didn’t just take a big magic eraser and pretend that none of it every happened.

Instead, God chose to sacrifice, to suffer and die, so that you and I could know what true love is all about. God paid a price that we will never be able to truly comprehend. The forgiveness we enjoy came at great cost to him.

So when God tells us to forgive others, it’s not a commandment he takes lightly. He knows what’s it like to be hurt by sin. The perfect people he created disobeyed him and turned their backs on him. And he knows what it’s like to forgive. He had the choice of throwing us all in hell, giving us exactly what we deserved with no hope for redemption, but instead he decided to sacrifice so that we could live in freedom and grace.

The Cost of Forgiving Others

When people hurt us our natural inclination is to be angry and bitter. We struggle with hatred and malice while our hearts cry for out for justice. Forgiveness is unnatural for our sin nature.

And choosing to walk in forgiveness is going to cost us, just like it cost Jesus. When we choose to to set aside our anger and bitterness, we are choosing a very difficult road.

Except we aren’t bearing the weight of other people’s sins. We are dealing with our own.

When you and I choose to forgive others we are humbly acknowledging that their life, their actions, their sin is no worse than our own. It’s a hard truth to stomach but we all deserve to bear the full weight of our disobedience. Not one of us is righteous. We are all bad people. (Romans 3:23)

In order for us to really forgive others, we first have to understand just how merciful God has been to us. And when our hearts are focused on the love God has given us, then we will be equipped to love and forgive others.

The love of God empowers us to daily die to ourselves. Die to our anger, our bitterness, and hatred. The Holy Spirit will slowly and often painfully cleanse us of our self-pity and our selfishness. As we daily turn our hearts toward God, we will learn to control our thoughts, to dwell on those things which are good rather than allowing ourselves to dwell on hurt and anger.

Becoming Like Christ

This is our sacrifice. We turn from our sin nature, die to ourselves, and let God daily make us more like him, full of love and forgiveness.

It’s far from easy, and it’s far from immediate.

The process of sanctification, becoming more like Christ, is a life long process that starts when we willingly confess that God’s way is better than our own. When we are hurting, it’s easy for us to focus on our pain and frustration. We cast blame on others and demand payment for their wrong doing.

But God’s way is better.

“And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” Luke 23:33-34

At the height of his pain and sacrifice on the cross, Jesus looks upon the crowds of those who scorned him and prayed for them. He was hurting. He was heartbroken. And yet, he extended forgiveness.

My prayer for you today is that you know first hand the forgiveness that Jesus offered on the cross. I pray that you have been set free from sin and been made alive in Christ.

But I also pray that no matter where your heart is, no matter how deeply it’s been broken, that you understand the joy and peace that comes by forgiving others.

It is joy, not because it is easy, but because it is right.

It is peace, not because it is simple, but because it allows us to live free from the bondage of hatred and sin.

The truth is the deeper we’ve been hurt the harder it is to forgive, and the longer it takes for that joy and peace to make themselves at home in our hearts. However, we serve a God who understands our struggle. Jesus knows very well the pain and anguish we experience from other’s sin, and he also knows just how difficult forgiveness can be.

And he promises to give us the strength we need to walk daily in his footsteps. Forgiving others just as we have been forgiven.

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16

The Cost of Forgiveness

Humanity exists in the paradoxes

When teaching AP language each year, my students always seem to struggle with truly grasping the definition of a paradox. And, to be completely honest, I generally quote them the definition, two ideas that seem contradicting at first but when further examined make sense. I give them an example, for instance, beautiful mistakes. We discuss, and we move on. And, even though I’m a die hard analysis nerd, I really never gave the idea of a paradox much thought.

That is until one of the three am conversations I so frequently have with friends. Quite often in my blogs, I refer to my paradoxical emotions. My battles between what my intellect says and what my heart feels. My existence in the gray areas of life, and my desire for more black and white. The desire for my feelings to make sense, be justified, at least in my own mind. But then, other times, I take pleasure in the gray, the emotions that seem contradictory but actually make sense. To feel anger which leads me to want to forgive. To grieve but instantaneously feel joy at a forgotten memory. To be blinded by the bad in the world, which leads to the amplification of the good. To want to forget the bad memories, but to need to remember them because they are a measurement of how far I’ve come. Constant tug and pull. Never traveling in a straight line, but zigzaging my way through a maze; backtracking down paths that I thought I’d conquered, only to relive then again. Feeling an emotion, and then immediately its opposite. Which one is real? Which is fake? How do you distinguish?

I struggle with my inability to distinguish because it, at least in my mind, is labeled as failure. Again, intellectually it’s silly, emotionally, it’s real. Surprise-paradox number five thousand and three, all within the last four and a half months. The back and forth, up and down, crying, happy, livid, forgiving – it’s exhausting. Often times it’s debilitating.

But as exhausting and debilitating it often times is, it’s how I know I’m making progress. Thankfully, few people in my life truly understand how I feel. And as alone as that often times makes me feel, it makes me happy too. I’d never wish this upon anyone.

Humanity, progress, reflection, exist in paradoxes. Recently I watched a movie, and it began with this quote:

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him.”

You can imagine why this paradox bothered me so much. And, I began to reflect on the most difficult paradoxical emotion I’ve encountered. One I’ve failed to conquer, but frequently revisit. Losing J in such a violent way, shook my belief in humanity. Actually, it erased it for a short period of time. It actually made me seriously consider giving up teaching all together. What could I possibly do to change humanity, if hundreds of people drove off that night to save themselves -not my husband? I created a lot of enemies in my mind during the days I spent despising most humans. And, I thought of countless ways I could inflict as much pain on my enemies, as they did on me. I’d be lying if I said I never thought about the pleasure I might feel if they could just feel an ounce of the pain I feel daily. I wanted, needed to, had to find a way to defeat them.

But, I couldn’t. They didn’t give me any means by which to defeat them. In order to defeat someone, you have to be in their head, understand them, predict their moves. And, even at my worst, I just couldn’t bring myself to go there. So at least I thought…

Despite what I wanted to feel, I felt remorse for even thinking of vindication. And, over the past months I’ve tried to come to terms with never receiving an apology, and at the same time not wanting one as well. Sometimes I want to think humanity has lost all hope because it’s easier than accepting an apology I’ll never get. It’s easier than forcing myself to become a better person. But in that lies the ultimate paradox of it all…. I am defeating the enemy because I get the motive. I understand why I haven’t received an apology. Reflecting and becoming a better person isn’t for the faint at heart. It’s why so many people remain stagnant. And, I feel in some ways for the enemy, even at the same time I’m experiencing anger. I feel for the stagnant… And while this pull and tug drives me insane, it motivates me as well. It’s what keeps me walking the line J walked daily. It’s what keeps me from only thinking about sticking my toes into the black, but never crossing over. It’s what makes me empathetic….an emotion that requires humility and reflection.

I know you all probably think I’m insane for admitting to feeling for the enemy, especially when my last post didn’t reflect that at all. I debated on sharing this feeling at all because I thought you’d think I was crazy. But, my paradoxes are what make me human, and they are what cause me to grow. They are what keep me from vindication because they are my vindication. They are what encourage me to continue to teach because they are how I’ll make a difference in the world. More young people need to be taught to embrace the paradoxes in our lives, and to use them to come out on the good side.

Paradoxes are a representation of the good and the bad-how each are reliant upon one another for existence. How could we praise our Savior if we didn’t have a firm grasp of the evils He is saving us from? Not saying one must intentionally experience sin in order to appreciate His glory. But, when we do slip up, it makes us all the more glad that He understands and is merciful. He is why I can even begin to entertain the idea of understanding my enemy’s motives…

So, while my paradoxical emotions drive me insane, they are also my reminder of the person God is preparing me to become. And my reminder of the importance of recognizing them so that I can continue to walk the line with my head held high. They are what allow me to bless others in the midst of my storm….

And while I am far from able to forgive, our even truly understand, I’ll just embrace my paradoxes. I’ll ride out the conflicting emotions, and I’ll pray that each time I gain strength and more mercy and grace, so that I’ll slowly become the person He has destined for me to be.

Maybe you disagree with my feelings. Maybe you think I should be angry, our that in some way I’m betraying J by attempting to understand my enemy, or attempting to start the process of forgiveness. If so, please know you are entitled to your opinions, but you don’t live my life. I can’t continue to be angry; it eats away my being, and it causes me to never grow as a person. Being angry at him requires me to take off my teaching hat, and agree there’s bad in the world and there is nothing I can do about it. In my opinion in doing so I would not only be betraying the cause for which my husband sacrificed his life, but I would be betraying the person God created me to be. You can’t truly be a teacher and agree to give into the bad in the world. Those two can’t exist with in the same person. So, despite being robbed of the love of my life, an amazing daddy to my child, and so much more, I’m choosing to at least entertain the idea of forgiveness. Forgiveness is about me-my emotional well-being, not his. Forgiveness doesn’t justify his actions; it just allows me to be freed of SOME of the burdens he’s placed upon me. So, while you may disagree, please don’t think I’m in any way betraying J, instead, I’m attempting to be a better person, so that I can raise our child to be the man his daddy was, and so that I can become the woman who can continue to bring honor to my husband’s sacrifice, my family’s, and the families of so many others who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.