Forgiveness is something I'm pretty sure I've been getting wrong in my life. It's because I don't think I ever really understood what forgiveness actually is, what it's meant to be, how it's supposed to work.
There's this idea, I think, that when we forgive someone, we close a chapter in our lives. We offer forgiveness, and then we're just supposed to stop living like whatever happened, happened. We forgive and that's the end of it. It sets us free from bitterness, from anger, from hatred. It sets us free from always living captive to a broken moment. Because it's done, right? It's over with. We've forgiven, and this means we can move on.
That's the idea we have of forgiveness. Or at least, that's the idea I've always had of forgiveness. The trouble has been that it doesn't seem to matter how many chapters I try to close this way. It never works.
And here's why:
This kind of forgiveness requires us to give up a measure of our fullness without any hope of getting it back. When we close off these chapters of our lives, when we try to declare them done and over with, we close off the very real impact they have had on us. We can't acknowledge anymore anything even tangentially related to this because then we feel like our forgiveness is in question. We can't think about what this whole event has meant to us, what it has done to us, how it has changed us because it's supposed to be case closed. If it's not case closed, we haven't forgiven, have we? And so in all our forgiving, we keep losing pieces of ourselves. Forgiving, rather than restoring us, tears us apart.
That's not how it was meant to be.
Yesterday, I was thinking about forgiveness. And I don't think it's the closing of a chapter of our lives. It can't be, because that's not working. What I think instead is that forgiveness - real forgiveness - is the place in the chapter where we put down the pen and stop writing our own story. It's the place where we hand authorship back to God and let Him narrate the next turn. It's the place where we invite Him to start writing redemption into our lives.
What we're saying in the moment of forgiveness is: I'm done. Not "I'm done feeling this pain" or "I'm done being impacted by this." Rather, what we're saying is: I'm done trying to script this into my life. I'm done trying to write this scene so that it makes sense. I'm done trying to make these words fit. And we set down our pen.
Because some things just don't make sense in our stories. They're never going to. You can't write enough words that things like brokenness, things like betrayal, things like abandonment, things like abuse, things like hate, things like bitterness make any sense. The more we try to contrive a scene where these things work, the more we write lies into our lives. Lies we then come to believe - about ourselves, about our stories, about our God. It's why so many of us hate ourselves. It's why we're stuck thinking about our inadequacies, our insecurities. In unforgiveness (or in mock forgiveness), we've been writing these things into our stories, hoping to make sense of things, and in all things, losing every sense we have of who we are, who God is.
But forgiveness...forgiveness is revolutionary precisely for this very reason: it doesn't take any contriving. We simply set down our pen. We simply refuse to modify our story to incorporate the scenes that don't make any sense. We stop changing who we are, who God is, what this life means to accommodate the broken things that happen here. And then something incredible happens.
God picks up our pen and starts writing away. He doesn't edit anything out; that's not His style. He never says He's come to take away the pain; He only says He's come to give life. And in His writing, that is exactly what He gives. He starts working things together in a way that simply flows. He starts where the scene leaves off and takes the story in a new direction. He takes all these broken things and starts working them together for good, weaving them into our stories in a way that, mysteriously, makes sense. A way we couldn't even have imagined. A way we'd never have come up with on our own.
In doing so, He's writing redemption. He's writing our wholeness back into our stories. Will we ever be unblemished characters? No. We'll always carry the scars of the things that have happened to us. But the funny thing is those scars...become beauty marks. They become the evidence not of broken things but of better things. They tell the story of who we are, who God is....not what's happened to us.
When we try to close these chapters in our lives, we don't get this. We miss out on this redemption. It's why so many of us "forgive" and feel forever empty, forever stained. We've got this forgiveness thing wrong. Forgiveness was never meant to be the end of the story.
It's always the beginning.
Put down your pen.