Recently God has been teaching me about forgiveness. I'm not a very forgiving person because I tend to be very trusting and get hurt easily. So I hold onto the bitterness and hurt deep inside where nobody can see it. This doesn't help me to forgive. A few weeks ago I found out that a friend had lied to me. That really hurt, and I started tucking away the pain and preparing for the long haul of carrying around that bitterness. This time however, God told me I needed to forgive. "What God?!? You've got to be kidding me. This just happened this week! I'm not possibly ready to forgive yet. That takes me a long time to do." But God was persistent. So I began to pray and ask prayer for a forgiving heart. I noticed by the second week that I wasn't harboring as much hate in my heart. It wasn't coming to mind as much unless prompted by outside situations.
When I think about how I forgive normally, I think about an extended period of time. The hurt lessens over time, which is why bigger hurts have taken me sometimes years to genuinely forgive. On the one hand, I see that holding onto something for so long hurts and hinders me. On the other hand, to me, simply saying, "I forgive you," means nothing if it isn't genuine. It's just an empty phrase. But feeling forgiveness does take time for the hurt to go away.
So as I've worked through this the past three weeks I've had both highs and lows as I think about how to change my heart to forgive. God provided me an unexpected opportunity to practice the forgiveness by spending time with this friend. I didn't want to, but I felt that being there would relax the negative image that I had been building about them. With prayers surrounding me, I went with a jittery stomach. God came through for me, and I had a good time. I came away feeling a sense of relief. That first step is always the hardest, and by choosing to not miss the opportunity God gave me, I had come one step closer to forgiveness. Being with the friend gave me a chance to look them in the face and repeat to myself, "I forgive you." It made a difference. Sometimes saying something specifically that you don't yet have the heart to be genuine in saying will help you to start meaning it.
I'm still working through the whole heart attitude. I think this experience is helping me learn how to be slow to anger and quick to forgive. It would be nice to see how my character grows to be more of the woman God wants me to be.. It will be great when I come to the day that I describe my character as "forgiving" rather than the "unforgiving" label I've had attached to my character since I first realized the problem my senior year of high school.
God says to turn the other cheek and forgive seventy times seven. This is what I need to learn and more importantly, need to practice. May God guide me in his truth and show me his forgiving heart that I might work towards achieving the same attitude in my own heart.